"You never hear anybody talk about mad tofu disease."
That quote is from John Robbins, vegan author and son of Baskin-Robbins cofounder Irv Robbins. His book Diet For A New America had lain buried for years under several books and magazine on top of a bookshelf in my library. That is until last night, when I dug it out to take to my bedside table for night reading.
A couple of years ago I wrote the post Confessions Of A Semi-Vegetarian, wherein I gave a few thoughts about the ethics of meat eating. There is a long connection between vegetarianism and religion which I respect. That isn't the most compelling reason to go vegetarian, in my opinion, but certainly forswearing the eating of anything that has a face does have a certain feel-goodiness that goes along with it. I guess I think of the spiritual dimension as perhaps an additional benefit of vegetarianism. But as I noted in my former post, it's just something we humans can't seem to agree about.
The truth is, my family was so poor as I was a child growing up that we were mostly vegetarians because of financial considerations. Beans and potatoes and cornbread were our main dinner staples. There was the occasional hamburger from a restaurant as a convenience food, but that was rare. Most of the meat we ate came in the form of cold cuts, like bologna, that was again a matter of convenience. Once or twice a twice a month, if the budget allowed, we would have a fried chicken for Sunday dinner and "bacon ends" (the scraps left over from the real stuff that was sold by our local grocer on the cheap) for a special Sunday-before-we-head-to-church breakfast. But mostly it was pancakes, toast, or oatmeal for breakfast and beans and cornbread for dinner. We never had steak because we couldn't afford it. I never developed a taste for it and to this day never have that occasional craving for a "good, thick" steak that I hear so many of many talk about.
So vegetarianism isn't that hard for me. My favorite meal is still some good home-cooked pinto beans (or black-eyed peas, or white beans, etc.) along with a wedge of buttered cornbread, served with sliced onions and tomatoes. Give me that and you have a happy man. And I still love my oatmeal! The meat I eat is again mostly a matter of convenience. I do crave a juicy (read: greasy) hamburger every now and then, but when I eat one I'm always disturbed by the thought of the health effects it is having on me as I digest it. But there are acceptable vegetarian-based burger patties available at the grocery store that would take care of that. They are more expensive than ground beef or turkey are, but there also isn't that nasty, greasy mess to deal while cooking them. Even some fast food joints are offering these alternatives now. So really I haven't a good excuse for being only a semi-vegetarian.
Two recent news items have led me to the conclusion that I need to seriously rethink the way I eat. The first was an expose in Mother Jones on the meat industry titled What's Even Grosser Than Pink Slime? The second are all the reports surrounding the discovery of a dairy cow out in California that was infected with "mad cow disease." Please take time to read the Mother Jones story and tell me if it leaves you unmoved.
When I think about how easily and inexpensively I can avoid such concerns by switching to grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, there is nothing left to consider but my habit - for that is truly all it is - of eating certain animal meats. I don't plan on becoming a nut about the issue. Maybe I will move towards becoming a semi-semi vegetarian.