Bacon: the Gateway to Other Meats
I have a theory. If you like bacon, you probably won’t succeed for very long as a vegetarian. See, my theory is this. Bacon is the gateway to other meats. You may disagree. You may know people who only eat fish or chicken. But my theory is that the “other white meat” is the open door. For bacon is the hardest to give up and the easiest to slip back into. The unique smell. The tasty crispiness. Bacon is the reason I could never be vegetarian. Just the thought of giving up bacon triggers a craving. Bacon is a pleasure for me. And the fake stuff, it just doesn’t do it.
I grew up eating pheasant McNuggets and moose burger so it seemed a ridiculous pairing when, in high school, my first crush was on an out-of-state Utah transplant — cosmopolitan, sophisticated and worldly … at least I thought. In order to make her sound even more exotic, I told people she was from New York. Technically she was, but not the allure of NYC, no she was from Rochester.
Still, for Roosevelt, that was pretty impressive and I took on the task of figuring out how to get the fiercely independent and beautiful Julie to become my best friend. Her first trip to my house was a disaster. She was unimpressed by Bucky the Bighorn, the taxidermied trophy, mounted on the living room wall whose glass eyes seemed to follow occupants around the room. She was equally disgusted by the fact that our dog lived outside (how dare we treat an animal like that?) and we didn’t refer to him as our pet even, but as my father’s hunting dog.
“Hunting is just inhumane,” she told my father while eating a chicken sandwich from a local fast food restaurant.
“The only opponents of hunting I will listen to for very long are vegetarians,” my dad replied. “It is hypocritical to judge me for harvesting my own meal when you get your dead animals in euphemized Styrofoam packages from the grocery store.”
That day Julie became a vegetarian and the spats between she and my father truly began.
Years later, Julie ate crow. Well, not literally, but bacon. See, her beliefs had changed since high school. She credited my dad for challenging her. She still cared about animals and their rights, and takes issue with slaughterhouses and inhumane treatment; but she saw for herself a value in killing the meat you eat and in raising animals yourself so you knew what they were fed, how they lived and died. She saw a problem with the packaging of meat for grocery getters to consume without any acknowledgement that what they’re eating was once a living, breathing creature. She and my father had their truce. He offered her some farm-raised bacon. She accepted.
When I worked at Adams State College, I met Teri. She was a socially conscious, health conscious, environmentally conscious college leader with energy, enthusiasm and leadership. She had been (mainly) vegetarian for years. Unable to resist the BLT sandwich, she could never truly live the veggie life. Sometimes months would pass. Sometimes years, but eventually bacon would win. Like the smoker who intended just one smoke one night while out with friends, soon it was a pack a day and the process of trying to quit began again. Bacon became an obsession until she gave into it. Then she would go months again without a fix.
When Riley was three years old, his day-care brought in a special guest to entertain the children. Riley insisted that Goldie the Chicken recognized her name and performed tricks. We’re not sure what kind of tricks Goldie performed; our three-year-old was quite evasive. But I imagined her pecking the floor, jumping up and down, and using her head to nudge a ball through a hoop. Maybe I’m giving Goldie too much credit. I don’t know. I do know that after the performance the classes gathered for lunch — chicken nuggets. Apparently my child was the only one to put together that chicken, as in Goldie, equaled chicken, as in nugget. His vegetarianism began that day. About six weeks later his commitment to vegetarianism was challenged by Sunday brunch. The bacon smelled too good. He became a vegetarian except for bacon. Eventually he was a vegetarian except for bacon, chicken, hot dogs, sausage and pizza. Basically he didn’t eat beef for awhile. Eventually that too blew over.
Sure, complete and absolute vegetarianism exists. Folks can live and eat this way their entire lives. And many do, but for some of us, bacon is a bitch.
Currently we have a friend who’s been staying with us for a few months. He’s vegetarian too. Mainly vegan except for some dairy he’ll eat foods we prepare. The biggest challenge to sharing space with a vegetarian is that our kitchen is a one-butt kitchen. If you know me at all, you know that my butt can fill up a two-butt kitchen so you can see where this is going. Kim and I shimmy past each other as we prep dinner or clean up. We move out of the way to open the oven, fridge or dishwasher. The kitchen is so tight there’s no way to clean as you go. And in the midst of our shimmying back and forth stands Will prepping vegetables and tofu. I hope he gets more joy out of his diet than I would. If boredom could kill, I’d be dead on his diet in a week. I keep thinking how much easier dinner would be if he ate dead animals. For my part, I keep offering him bacon. Q