Chow Bella

The 40-Year-Old . . . Vegetarian?

While local food enthusiasts were battling the crowds and the rain at the Devoured food festival, I was happily devouring a flawless porterhouse steak at The Camelback Inn's BLT Steak. When it comes to high-end steakhouses, I've always been loyal to Mastro's, but I'm quite certain BLT Steak is as good and, likely, a hell of a lot better.

The Great Steakhouse Debate will continue as long as this town welcomes every steak-oriented restaurant in the country, but I'm not here to argue about steaks.

I'm here to say that I really want to be a vegetarian.

See also: Chow Bella's Gift Guide for the Vegetarian

Yes, you read that correctly. I enjoy a perfect cut of rare meat as much as the next guy -- probably even more -- but the older I get and the more I eat, the more I'm convinced that vegetarianism is the way to go. It's not the health benefits, though I'm sure I'd do well with less fat in my diet. In Beverly Hills Cop, Detective Rosewood famously states that "by the time the average American is 50, he has five pounds of undigested red meat in his bowels." I haven't been able to get that line out of my head since I saw the movie. Although the merits of the assertion are questionable, at best, I choose not to think about it anyway.

The bottom line is that, like many Americans, I am fundamentally in denial about how meat is produced and slaughtered, and I cannot reconcile that with my own views on kindness and compassion. I'm no PETA activist, but I do agree with the group on some points. I feel that unless I have the nerve to slaughter an animal myself, then I'm inherently hypocritical by eating meat that's slaughtered by someone else. I sometimes take spiders outside instead of killing them, so the chances of me killing a mammal are pretty slim.

I realize that suburban life renders the need to slaughter one's own food rather useless, not to mention the fact that I'm fairly certain that my homeowners association prohibits it, but I'm speaking metaphorically.

If the thought of killing an animal is abhorrent to me, am I just getting by on a technicality by letting someone else do it for me? Sadly, I believe the answer is "yes."

In fact, my mind is mostly made up that I'd like to stop eating animals. But, really, I don't know how. Since I started eating solid food, meat has been a staple on my diet, and since I learned to cook, meat has been the focal point of my efforts. I suspect that many people who are on the fence about changing their diet are like me: They like the idea of it but don't know how.

And until I figure it out, I shall remain in this moral conundrum.

The first 40 years of my life have been spent developing a taste for meats of all kinds; and I'm afraid that the next 40 years will be spent trying to retrain my palate.

Surely, I can't be the only one.

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Eric Schaefer