Why I Stopped Eating Meat, Part One

This post could also be entitled “symptoms of being a youngest sibling.” Remember about a week ago when I introduced you to my family? Well, as you may have inferred from the introductions and photos, I’m the youngest of four girls!

From left to right: my sister Kelsey, myself, my sister Megan, and my sister Lindy. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be just like my older sisters, especially when I was younger. While I’m sure they were just as nerdy and homeschooled as I was, in my eyes they were the most beautiful, smartest, and coolest girls I could conceive of. If they cut their hair, mine was immediately too long. Their current pastime was the only thing I wanted to do, and whatever room they were in immediately became a desirable fortress.

I’m sure having a mini-me that constantly imitated them and followed them around was irritating, but for the most part they included their annoying lil’ sis.

Why do I tell you this? Well, because my sister Kelsey is the original reason I stopped eating meat. She went vegetarian, and shortly thereafter I swore off meat as well. February 2008, I decided to go vegetarian for a year, whatever that meant. I’d abstain to see what it was like, and I completely expected to be eating meat once the year was up.

This from the girl whose favorite foods were Wendy’s hamburgers and beef-laden tater tot casserole. From the ages of 8 until 13, when we got fast food (a somewhat rare occasion) I would knock back two junior hamburgers, ketchup, mustard, and extra pickles, an order of chicken nuggets, french fries, and a root beer or frostie if my mom would let me. I cringe to think of the type of food I ate, but I was growing up on a farm and growing fast! I needed a lot of fuel, with my mom’s home cooked meals supplemented by . . . “food” that I thought was delicious.

Since I did grow up on a farm of sorts, I grew up eating lots of fresh vegetables and good food, and knew my way around a kitchen. I could cook and follow a recipe and I enjoyed cooking, but it wasn’t always a priority. Once I stopped eating meat, I started to increase my time in the kitchen, cooking and experimenting with different combinations.

It was after, and not before, I became a vegetarian that I started reading books like Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. I began to discover a whole wealth of literature about our food system and its flaws, and the health, environmental, and social benefits of ascribing to a vegetarian diet. Once the year was up, I never looked back–I knew I wasn’t going to eat main stream meat ever again. Now, sustainable food is my passion and what I’m studying in school.

I guess it’s good that I’m a copycat who wants to emulate her big sisters so much. Even better that I have strong female role models that I can emulate and know that I’m aspiring to something wonderful. Without my big sis Kelsey’s influence, I probably never would have discovered my interests in what I am now pursuing as a vocation. So there it is: no breaking, philosophical moment that made me decide to stop, only a little sister wanting to be like the person she’d always looked up to.

She just graduated with a degree in Nutrition, and secretly (or not so secretly) I still want to be like my big sis. She’s my go to source now for nutritional wisdom, and a continuing inspiration to find out about the effect food has on my body.

Who has had the biggest influence on you?

 

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