…is through my stomach. Seriously. Whereas the majority of my family eats to live, I live to eat. If I could eat 24/7, I would – especially restaurant food and takeout. It wasn’t always that way. When I was younger, there were very few foods I liked, or at least thought I liked (I was practically double digits before I would even try a slice of pizza… weird, I know). It wasn’t until I started eating at friends’ houses that I began to try foods I didn’t think I’d like because I didn’t want to be rude to my friends’ parents. Much to my surprise, I found that in reality, there are very few foods I don’t like. But at the age of 13, after spending time petting a calf at the zoo and then coming home to lasagna, I stopped eating red meat and pork (though I hadn’t pet any pigs, I thought they were just as cute). This coming year would mark my 20th year without these meats. Five years ago, I added gelatin and poultry to the list. Once I found an edible substitute for chicken, it really wasn’t hard to maintain a pescetarian lifestyle. Except for that pesky – but delicious – chicken broth. It’s amazing how many dishes are cooked with that liquid! Cooking at home, it’s easy enough to substitute vegetable stock, but eating out (which we do a lot of around here), I constantly had to ask if the rice, soup, and even refried beans were cooked with it. There were many foods I could not enjoy outside of my own kitchen because of this dietary restriction I had put on myself, but I remained strong in my decision to abstain from consumption of this animal product.
Fast forward to last week. For five years, I had deprived myself of so many favorite foods – Mallomars, gummy bears (the vegan ones don’t quite cut it), and my beloved cheddar broccoli soup from Panera – only to discover that a pill I have been taking for the past two years has traces of gelatin in it. I felt like I had been caught accidentally looking on someone else’s paper: I didn’t mean to cheat, but I did. That night, when we were at a banquet, the waitress informed us that the rice had been made with chicken stock. Guys, the rice looked SO good. It was really the only thing on the plate that I wanted. Could I just pretend I didn’t hear that? I thought to myself, pushing the rice around the plate with my fork. And then I remembered the gelatin-laced pills. I haven’t been 100% pescetarain this entire time anyway. How important is it that I start now? Do I still hold the same beliefs about consumption that I did five years ago? As I warred with myself, all the time drooling over the rice, I finally came to the decision that a flexitarian, or semi-vegetarian, lifestyle might be a better fit for me these days – and then promptly snarfed my rice as though I were a Survivor contestant.
While I have yet to devour a Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuit or an Arby’s French dip (the only meat I’ve craved in the past five years), I did finally have a bowl of cheddar broccoli soup at Panera today. I felt no guilt, only the sweet satisfaction of my tummy being full with one of my favorite comfort foods.