You're a vegetarian but you cook meat. Aren't you a hypocrite? How can you live with yourself?
I've struggled with these same questions throughout the years. The conclusion that I came to is that life, despite my best intentions, is simply not black-and-white.
Is there any meat that you refuse to cook?
Yes--and this is where the hypocrite comes in. Because of the way calves are raised for meat, I don't cook veal. I also have a hard time plunging a live lobster into a pot of water. And of course, I will never cook my namesake, the Rabbit. T.Rex is off the menu, too!
Just the FAQs!
Being a vegetarian that cooks meat is a bit controversial and weird.
I totally understand this.
So, with honesty, grace, and a bit of humor, here are the answers to questions I've been asked since I became a vegetarian more than two decades ago.
You don't eat meat but you cook it...aren't you a hypocrite?
Answering this question for myself is sometimes still a struggle. Some days, I can cook a piece of chicken that's been butchered, cleaned, and wrapped in plastic and feel no connection to it because it seems so abstract. Other days, if a wild turkey passes through my yard, my husband gets a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch instead of a turkey and provolone one.
But I do continue to cook meat. I look at the big picture and try to account for as many things as possible. Being a vegetarian is my choice but it doesn't mean it should be everyone's. If someone is going to eat meat, I consider what the best option is at the moment for their health, for the animals that are going to be eaten, and for the environment.
What I mean by best option is that while I fully understand the way animals raised for meat,
milk, or eggs do not always conform to a standard of care that I personally like, if I can at least buy animal products that are cage-free, grass-fed, pasture-raised, sustainable, local, non-GMO, and organic, then at the moment, it's a good start. If the chicken breast I cook comes from a bird that was able to roam around and eat grasshoppers, then it has to be much better overall than a processed hamburger from a fast food joint. For the moment, this has to be good enough. If it's not, then I'll drive myself and others crazy.
So, am I a hypocrite? Of course I am. But, I'm also not. Life is not a black-or-white neatly packaged thing--especially in the realm of food. I'm not alone in this. I know several vegetarians who cook meat for their families, a vegan who eats eggs and dairy if the only vegetarian option contains them, and even a vegetarian chef who serves a variety of meat dishes to her patrons.
What it comes down to is this: we all have to eat something and we each have to eat what nourishes our bodies. What puts this in perspective is a recent catering gig. I catered a surprise birthday party for a woman with 35 different types of food allergies and restrictions. No gluten, no unfermented soy, no onions, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, red meat, cow's milk, no cane or beet sugar, no mushrooms, no celery, no... What she could have, however, was salmon, halibut, turkey, chicken, goat's cheese, and eggs. Although she is healthy and in-tune with what her body needs, she has also spent decades frustrated with food. Imagine not being able to go to restaurants or to dinner at someone else's house? I may be a vegetarian, but it was an honor and a gift to create a flavorful, unique menu--that included meat--for someone who had lost her enthusiasm for eating.
Are there any animals you won't cook?
Yes! And this is where the hypocrite comes in. I don't personally kill the creatures I cook--like plunging a live lobster into boiling water. I refuse to cook veal and foie gras. Of course, I would never cook my namesake, the Rabbit. And if dinosaurs are reborn through cloning, T. Rex is off the menu, too. Then again, if a T. Rex looks at me like I'm a tasty snack, then I'm not going down without a fight. If I win, forget about it: dinosaur burgers for everyone!
Do you ever cheat and eat meat?
Nine months after I became a vegetarian, I had a really bad day--like an old Blues tune bad day. To comfort myself, I went to a diner, ate a big plate of corned beef hash, and was sick for several days. My digestive system totally rebelled. Since then, I haven't eaten red meat or birds.
I do, however, have a nemesis. Many vegetarians say that bacon is their undoing. For me, it's calamari. I eat it once or twice a year. I've also had octopus and a few bites of fish and seafood during the last two decades. Why? Because in these moments, I can feel my body literally craving this kind of protein. I have to go with what my body needs in the moment. I will say that if I eat these creatures without having this craving, they taste gross.
As a cook, there is also the issue of tasting. If I'm testing a sauce or gravy that has meat in it for seasoning, I'll dip in a spoon and have a lick. But tasting an actual piece of meat? No.
I rely on the buds of the people I'm cooking for; they seem more than happy to oblige!
How do you feel about hunting & fishing?
I live in Michigan where the hunting and fishing culture is alive and well. In fact, for the first 12 years of my life, that culture was part of my upbringing. With my father, I saw many a dead bird, fish, and animal. I even cleaned and ate them. It's not an easy thing to be that intimate with how meat gets to the plate. But I wouldn't trade those experiences. They contributed to a wicked gallows sense of humor but also a lot of compassion for animals and the people who eat them. I understand hunting and fishing for food.
I've heard many hunters talk about the sacredness of hunting, of the exchange of one's life for another, and ultimately, the gratitude they feel, even taking the time to thank the animal for its sacrifice. There is something beautiful in this ritual. So, how could I ever judge a person who has consciously and respectfully taken the life of an animal in order to feed herself or her family? I can't.
Does that mean I could ever hunt and fish? Of course I want to yell, "No way!" But, I can't be sure, can I? If I was starving, and wanted to continue living, maybe I could. Like my husband says, "There are no veggie patties in the forest."
Come on, you can't be such a "Peace & Love--Each to Their Own"
kind of hippie chick.
Isn't there anything that bothers you about food?
I really do believe in meeting people where they're at. If you eat burgers made from cow or soy, how can I judge you for your food choices? I don't know your history with food. Maybe you have something to teach me. Maybe I can teach you something. As long as you and I at least try to connect through food, we can probably connect in other ways.
Having said that, there are things that bother me when it comes to food. I'm human. My issues, however, stem from one source: a lack of respect towards food.
Lack of respect can wear many faces. While it's fun to be gluttonous once in a while--like a second piece of chocolate cake--gluttony is difficult for me because I usually witness it in tandem with wholesale waste. Without getting into specifics, let's just say, I'm not a good person to take to a buffet.
I also don't dig a lot of chain restaurants. The food is often mass-produced, reheated in a microwave, expensive, and frankly, we all deserve better.
When ego meets food--when it is grown, raised, approached, processed, or handled without love--I become really crabby. You can find that ego in corporate behavior or in personal. Like a chef who throws customers out of her restaurant when they ask for ketchup; or your Aunt Edna who tells everyone at Thanksgiving she could've cooked it better; or the food fanatic who is perpetually offended by how everyone else eats and then tries to humiliate them.
But other than this long list, I am a "Peace & Love--Each to Their Own" kind of hippie chick!
What's with the logo?
Don't you know that rabbits aren't that big and a T.Rex would crush the table?
Of course, I know this. But the way the logo is drawn reflects two things: I'm not a graphic artist and it encompasses what T. Rex & the Rabbit Foods is all about.
After brainstorming with my husband--and I give him 90% credit for the idea--I wanted to show that while food is very important, what is even more important is our relationships with each other. The logo, therefore, is a positive rebellion against every moment food is used to divide us from each other. So, that's why the T. Rex and the Rabbit are out of proportion to the food...
That, and because I'm not a graphic artist!