Weeks ago, I forced myself to open up to a special someone, baring my soul at the peril of their criticism. His name was Paul.
It was going to be awkward, I knew this going in, but it had to be done. Years of questionable habits had just become routine in my home life. Even my beautiful wife indulged in it, maybe because she liked it too, or maybe just to make me feel better, not wanting to address the elephant in the room that had been growing over the years.
But it was time to accept responsibility for my actions, and to begin taking steps toward my own betterment, for me and for my family. This would require professional help, and of a facility equipped for my needs, so off I went.
I was still embarrassed about it all, but I was determined to change my ways. Thankfully, anonymity gave me the courage to go where I needed to. I wore a dark sweater with a hoodie draped over my head, and sunglasses concealed my eyes. I walked into the building, hoping I could find what I wanted without even having to speak to anyone, but that was too much to ask, apparently. I think they do it on purpose. To find the proper items to help lost souls such as myself, they want to make sure you consult with their members first. Maybe to keep track of item use. Or maybe it’s carefully orchestrated by the big boys in corporate in an effort to curb reform, to prevent people like me looking to wean ourselves of the habit. Maybe. Or maybe it’s just the withdrawals making me paranoid, who could be sure?
A gentleman in a pin-striped apron walked by, saw me searching around with my eyes, clearly not finding what I needed. He wore a name tag. It said Paul.
“Can I help you find something?” he asked.
I was reluctant to speak to him. I looked to my left, then my right, to see if anyone recognized me. No one seemed to, though there were many people around, busily moving about in a quest to feed their own habits. Not taking any chances, I cleared my throat, and disguised my voice.
“Uh, yeah, where do you keep the…um,” I couldn’t help but pause, wondering why I decided to go with Christian Bale’s Batman voice. I swallowed hard, and steeled myself for the question I was there to ask.
“I need…where would I find…veggie burgers?” I whispered the last two words, as if that would soften their impact.
He looked at me like one would look at edible underwear; innocent enough, but why?
“It’s, uh, they’re at the end of aisle 2, with the tofu.”
“Thanks,” I murmured, still Batman. I took long strides to the end of the second row, quickly grabbed a packet of pre-formed veggie patties without inquiring into their chemical makeup, and beelined it to the checkout lanes. I dropped a few other items into my basket along the way to hide the vegetarian burgers amid a sea of unsuspicious products: a box of MilkBone dog treats (despite my not having a dog,) 3 gummi worms, half a lemon, half a lime, and a bulk pack of universal remote controls. I kept my head down the entire time in line while I munched on a MilkBone. No one gave me a second glance.
I high-stepped it through the doors, got into my vehicle, and drove straight home, which made it fairly challenging around the corners.
But I did it.
I felt wild. My nerves were jittery from the sudden jolt of nervous adrenaline, but I had my prize. Veggie burgers. I was proud of myself, almost in tears from the significance of it. I sat in my truck for a long time, parked in my driveway, letting the tears roll down my cheeks in happy elation, listening to “Salvation” by the Cranberries. It was a wonderful moment in my life.
* * *
Okay, that was all horse-pucky. Except for the part about asking directions to the veggie burgers. And I really did buy some. And his name was Russel, not Paul.
Point is, thanks to that little adventure, I honest to Raffi had veggie burger patties sitting in my freezer, waiting to be fried up for my personal consumption. It felt weird to know they were there, getting the stink eye from the frozen packs of bacon and ground chuck with which they shared a drawer.
I like meat. I love meat. So much so that I even married a beautiful formation of the stuff, though I promised never to eat her, barring a soccer-team-stranded-in-the-Andes-and-we’re-all-out-of-chocolate kinda situation. But cooking animal flesh…the taste, the smell of it, especially on the BBQ…Gaddang! Mmm mm mmm!
Problem is, I never really realized how much of the stuff I would consume on a regular basis. That is, not until one particular stay over at my meat-wife’s aunt’s place, enjoying a nice, meatless evening meal. That evening was the catalyst which sent me on that dangerous quest for veggie burgers.
We were talking about different foodstuffs, and jokingly about how our kids won’t eat much of anything besides cereal and hotdogs. And then about the general ease of cooking meat, and how that’s usually the staple fixture in pretty much every meal at our home because it’s nice and filling and easy, with the exception of rushed weekday breakfasts, of course.
My aunt-in-law (I’m running with it) is a classy woman. And she leads a pretty clean life which includes a very balanced diet with limited meat intake, and then usually reserved only to chicken or fish. These two facts about her aren’t necessarily linked together, except to say that she has enough decorum in her not to openly show disgust at my beef and pork consuming ways.
But I could tell she thought it odd that our daily food intake included a fairly hefty amount of animal bits. Which got me thinking. Do we eat too much meat?
At this point you might be imagining me and my family at dinnertimes as a bunch of unrefined Vikings, snorting and huffing our way through greasy hams and turkey legs clutched at the bone, gulping steins of mead with our elbows on the table, and nary a napkin to be found anywhere. But we’re really not that bad. Really. It’s just that we would usually plan our meals around some kinda main course meat thingy, and go from there. Roasted chicken tomorrow? Okay, we’ll throw some broccoli around that with some rice. Ribs on Wednesday? Salad on the side with garlic bread. Pork loin on Thursday? ‘Kay, with bacon on the side. Oops, scratch that. Double bacon.
So we’ve been trying to cut that back a bit. Some for personal reasons (too much red meat be bad for you blah blah blah colon cancer blah blah blah how come I’m lactating blah blah blah) and some because I agree that the way North America currently conducts animal farming is often unethical and environmentally unsustainable. That’s a whole political debate which I am not drunk enough to get into at the moment, so don’t worry. Suffice it to say that it got me thinking of alternatives.
Like these really cool vegetable enzyme burgers gaining momentum in California from Impossible Foods, where veggie burgers even friggin’ bleed like real meat, not to mention they feel, smell and taste just like the real moo-cow versions. Impossible Foods is not yet in Canada (I'm pretty sure,) but we do currently have something similar introduced into A&W restaurants and recently onto the deli shelves at Safeways (and possibly other retailers) across the country, in the forms of vegetable-protein burger patties, sausages and beef-like crumbles for tacos and such. I’ve tried the Beyond Meat burger from A&W, comparing it side by side with their traditional beef burger, and I gotta tell ya, it’s amazing. If I didn’t know ahead of time which of the two had actually mooed in a previous stage of life I would not be able to notice a difference. How cool is that!?
I don’t want meat just because it was once an animal. Animals are gross, really, especially considering the living conditions most of those things live in at feedlots and hog or chicken farms. Not to mention injected hormones and such. Oh sure, there are definitely some quality farms out there where animals are free to frolic over meadows and step on gophers as they please and shit on clover patches just before eating them, but they’re not that plentiful. It’s just economics, really. So to that I say, “Bring on the plant burger!” Shoot, if my taste buds can’t tell the difference and it’s healthier, why not?
But jeez, they’ve got their work cut out for them if they’re planning to make a mock version of a steak. ‘Cause dang dagnabbit, dem things are damn fine every once in a while.
Stay tuned for an upcoming review of Goodfood's meal-in-a-box meal service! It was another way to find alternative meal ideas to lessen our meat intake, so come check out what we think of it, posting soon!