I was in high school during the fat-free food craze. My friends ate soft pretzels and TCBY yogurt. My dad loved Snackwell’s cookies and my mom felt healthy because she had switched from Pepsi to Diet Pepsi. I was a petite sub 100-pound girl who played tennis every day and I gave no consideration to what I ate.
During my junior year of high school, my parent’s New Year’s Resolution was to go on a fat-free diet and I went along for the ride. For a month, we mostly ate soup and saltines, and I was just happy to have home cooked meals. After a month, we regrouped and chatted about our experience. My dad loved eating cookies in the name of health, my mom was finished with any dieting and I really liked that I hadn’t eaten any animals. So I continued as a vegetarian.
But I was a bad vegetarian. At McDonald’s I would get a cheeseburger without the burger. Cheese hoagies, pasta with red sauce, pizza, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese were all my staples. After 3 years, I woke up one day craving eggs, a strong craving for something I don’t really like. And it was my mom who said “maybe your body is trying to tell you something.”
So after 3 years as a vegetarian, I stopped and dug into some chicken salad. I enjoyed it, but every time I would eat meat I knew it wasn’t right. I had an internal struggle between eating poorly as a vegetarian and eating poorly as an omnivore. I was also afraid to really consider what I was eating. I would never eat meat on the bone and it was my husband who told me “meat” was “muscle.” Gross, I couldn’t believe it, but what I did I think it was? I was in such denial.
Then at age 32, I prepared the ultimate Thanksgiving turkey. I spent days massaging, salting, stuffing and tying up this poor bird and after that meal I haven’t eaten meat since. I had been intimate with that dead turkey. I felt guilty and to stop eating meat was an easy and logical decision. I was able to keep my distance from dead animals when the meat came shaped as a patty and shrink-wrapped or already cooked, I didn’t even have to touch it. But after preparing a turkey like a professional I couldn’t hide, it was too much, too close. And this time I was able to take charge of my cooking and eating and become a great vegetarian. I’ve taken my love of cooking and have focused it on amazing vegetables. I can now proudly and confidently feed myself and my vegetarian family.