Chew on this

Vegetarian tackles fear of eating meat


Bridget Kingston, Features Editor

I have never eaten a steak in my life, up until this past week, that is. I’ve had some rational as well as irrational fears of eating meat for as long as I can remember. Pair that fact with one too many documentaries on animal cruelty and horrors of the meat industry, and you get my current level of meat consumption- nonexistent.

However, low energy and scattered focus have been a few of the annoyances I’ve been dealing with lately, and I knew the lack of substantial protein in my diet was playing a huge role. Being an effective, healthy vegetarian requires a lot of time and effort; from thoughtfully planning meals to spending time making them beforehand. Previously this was never a problem, as I had plenty of time and energy to put forth into creating an interesting, healthy diet for myself. Then college and life happened and I just have not been able to give my body the proper nourishment it needs.

So for one week, I decided to challenge my beliefs, however rational or irrational they may be, and reintroduce meat into my diet. There have been other times in the past that I’ve introduced meat back into my diet, but I’ve usually just stuck to the bare minimum- turkey or chicken, made only in the comfort and safety of my own home by my own mother.

After deciding to take a break from my yearlong vegetarian streak, I figured I might as well get the most out this opportunity and go as full out as possible. Of course, it would be utterly senseless of me to all of sudden shock my body with heaps of foreign meat every day. This week was intended to expand my mind and my taste buds, not land me in the hospital with a vile case of food poisoning. So with the intention of getting some much needed protein into my body at reasonable doses, I dug into the week without my usual restrictions and concerns, and thoroughly surprised myself along the way.

Obstacle one: The Cheeseburger. I got an Angus beef burger with white cheddar cheese and the whole rest of the works. It was absolutely delicious. I can’t deny it. I’ve eaten a burger or two in the past, so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. All was going well until I realized the center was still slightly pink- a huge issue for me. The whole idea that I have trouble stomaching the fact that I am eating an animal is only magnified when I think the meat is undercooked. I asked for it to be well done; charred if we’re going to get specific. This is one of my most prominent irrational fears of meat, because people eat rare meat all the time and turn out just fine. So I decided to stick it out and quiet my mind as opposed to running out the door in disbelief of what I just ate. I survived, and I got to eat a yummy burger out of it.  

Unexpected obstacle two: Beef Tendons. Yes, you read that correctly. I just happened to stumble upon an authentic Chinese food market and decided to get a bowl of beef tendon soup, because why not. Just the sight of fat on meat makes me cringe, so the fact that I was able to nonchalantly stomach beef tendons is beyond me. Granted I did only eat a few bites of the actual tendon, and not without a few moments of hesitation. I think my mind was already so much more relaxed and open after the cheeseburger incident that I was up for anything. The only thing you need to know about beef tendons is that they’re slimy, squishy, and have the consistency of what one could imagine chunky cartilage filled Jell-O to have. If I was able to get past the texture I definitely would’ve been able to eat more, as they had a surprisingly pleasant taste.

Obstacle three: Steak. This was the big one for me, having never eaten it before. The very things that people seem to love about steak, the thickness, the juiciness, the richness, are the very ideas that have kept me running in the other direction all this time. There’s really nothing too appealing about a big slab of meat to me, but I knew if there was ever a time to try it, this week was it. Unfortunately, all of my predispositions reigned true. I was only able to muster a few bites; the flavor was so unfamiliarly rich and intense. Why my taste buds enjoyed beef tendons more than a high quality rib-eye steak truly is over my head.

Will steak become a regular aspect of my diet? No. Will I ever eat beef tendons again? I highly doubt it. I was, however, able to let go of my fears and misconceptions about meat and open my mind (and my mouth) to the possibility of discovering interesting, new food. In all honesty I will probably end up sticking with home cooked chicken for now. At least I have a better idea of what’s out there and what I could have potentially missed out on. Instead of saying I’ve never eaten steak before, I can now say I’ve eaten beef tendons.