Accidental Vegetarianism

Yesterday I was reading an article on that mentioned some unsettling shit going on in slaughterhouses in Idaho. I’ve seen videos and photos from animal rights organizations before about the horrible conditions the animals live in and while I’ve always found the information to be upsetting it has never made me want to change the way I eat.

But now, dammit, this cracked article has thrown me into some sort of weird place where I do NOT want to eat meat at all. (For those who don’t want to read the article it talks about how the slaughterhouse employees were caught on hidden video sexually assaulting the cows and instead of cracking down on the employees the state has opted to make it illegal to take undercover footage.) Today at lunch I ordered chicken and only got about three bites of it before my brain overloaded and I had to throw it out because every time I took a bite I could just hear the slimy voice of the disgusting employees talking about fucking the animals. Tonight for dinner we went to a damned steak house and I had tomato soup and a baked potato instead of the delicious steak I would normally have ordered.

For normal people they might be able to look at this situation as a gift in disguise, given that vegetarianism is generally so much healthier than the alternative, but for me this is potentially a very bad thing. I have some fairly severe texture issues with food which means that most vegetables are on the list of things I don’t eat. I have a handful of veggies I enjoy and another handful that I will eat if they are diced very small and/or cooked to a point where they have no discernable texture, but by and large vegetables are not big in my diet. I love fruit, beans, nuts, grains, dairy, etc. (though even then I have texture issues with a few things in those categories as well) but as I am a human being instead of a tropical bird eating mostly grains, fruits and nuts is probably not the healthiest way to go.

So now I either need to find a local farm where I can go see how they treat their animals, drop in randomly to make sure everything is on the up and up, and shell out 3-5 times the cost for meat or learn to function as a vegetarian and figure out how to make vegetables more palatable. So now I need some help from people who have more experience than I do with this sort of thing. Do you have a local farm you’ve visited to see how the farmers treat their animals? How did you find it? How easy was it to set up a tour? Or did you decide not to eat meat with an already limited diet? How did you make that work? How did you make vegetable dishes suck less?

Keep in mind that Cracked makes its money by highlighting extremes. (I love the site, and read it daily, and have some aspirations to writing for them myself, but I take much of what they publish with a grain of salt and some suspension of disbelief).

That said, as a professional cook (30 years experience), I’m pretty sure that a sexually-assaulted cow is still safe to eat. The … relevant bits … are not typically served to the public.

Now, chicken, on the other hand … I despise handling the raw stuff. Anything that has so many rules regarding its preparation and storage (poultry has the highest cooking-temperature requirements of any meat, and you always store raw chicken below everything else in the refrigerator so that it doesn’t drip on other foods) is highly suspicious to me.

If what they were doing to those cows upsets you, you don’t want to know what the broccoli harvesters get up to with the better looking vegetables.

My dog was shot by my neighbour = instant vegetarianism. I can’t put a piece of meat near my mouth without hearing that shot (and subsequent scream of pain). Nothing deserves to die so I can eat.

I was lucky as I have numerous vegetarian/vegan friends so leant towards eating that way already. I previously only ate from free range meat producers (there are lots of farmers markets locally) so had already cut my meat consumption and was trying to only used ethically produced meat. But now I just can’t eat it.

You can survive on a limited range of vegetables … and working out what you like in terms of textures and cooking might be a bit of a challenge but not impossible. Can you cook vegetables you don’t like much in a way to remove the texture? Eg. something like red peppers can be roasted/grilled and pureed and become a delicious spread for tortillas or bread.

I have a friend who has major food texture issues and is vegetarian … she has a lot of soups and eggs! It works for her. Hope you can find stuff you enjoy.

missed edit window … was going to add … It’s been over 18 months since she died … and I’ve really enjoyed the change and wouldn’t go back. I’ve found many new things to eat that aren’t salad.

And as I just typed that the neighbour just shot something else, luckily all my other animals are safe inside.

I just look at it as meat tenderization.

If you find a local meat locker–the kind of place where hunters take deer to be processed–they will probably also sell meat from locally raised animals that were small-batch, free-range, grass-fed, pampered by the farmer’s kids, and all that good stuff. At the locker we go to it doesn’t cost more than supermarket feedlot beef. The quality is far superior and, having followed a couple of animals that eventually ended up there, I know that a lot of them lived a nice life.

I think I’m a compassionate person and an animal lover… but so far, none of the horror-slaughterhouse videos have made the slightest dent in my nigh-insatiable appetite for meat. I make token efforts to buy meat and eggs from humanely-treated animals, but not to the point of doubling the cost or not shopping at the more convenient supermarkets.

I’m slightly worried that I’m contributing to evil in the world – but so far, those worries have not come close to challenging my omnivory.

Actually, I realized that my wife and I have been trying to go semi-veg once or twice a week (mostly for health and money reasons), so maybe it has made a slight dent.

You can also hook up with the local 4H or other educational group [FFA?] and make a deal with one of the kids raising a cow - you can buy it after the project is ‘done’ and send it to a small custom abbatoire, whomever the local farmers use. You can check with your local food co-op and ask about hooking up with someone who does locally raised and slaughtered critters. We do our own poultry so I have a source for birds and eggs, but this disconcerting news that apparently the FDA is OK with sending US raised chickens over to China for processing disturbs me - I won’t voluntarily source anything I eat from China. Figuring the sourcing for some stuff previously bought is a pain, but doable.

Tell me about your texture issues and maybe I can offer some advice. :slight_smile:

Being vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean you have to eat more vegetables. You can replace meat to some extent with the beans and dairy products you say you like. You can also use meat analogues such as soya or Quorn. Eggs are great too.

If you’re concerned about the cost of guilt-free meat you could perhaps not cut meat out completely, but cut it down so the overall cost doesn’t rise too much. I don’t know what your diet is, but most meat-eaters in the west could probably eat a lot less meat.

ETA: This might not be so easy in restaurants - I’m a vegetarian who can’t stand mushrooms, and for many restaurants their vegetarian option is a single dish full of them.

The “need” or desire for meat is mostly habit, and like anything we’ve become habituated to, can be unlearned over time.

Also note that mock meat products are improving by leaps and bounds these days, and might relieve some or all of your texture issues. In particular, I usually recommend starting with the mock breakfast sausages and patties. these are highly spiced with exactly the same spices used in traditional sausages. It’s the spices you taste, the spices you like – nobody buys Jimmy Dean sausages to savor the lips, intestines, and other byproducts.

I agree that Cracked does highlight extremes. That said, I’ve heard of quite a lot of slaughterhouse abuse. It’s obviously not the same people doing it over and over again; and it’s unlikely that slaughterhouses are getting all the perverts and sadists accidentally. I’d argue that working in a slaughterhouse probably has deleterious effects on peoples’ psychology over time. I’d expect some variation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at the very least.

It’s not surprising that the authorities (who seem so happy to monitor US with cameras these days) want to prevent people from filming. There’s a reason slaughterhouses don’t have glass walls – no normal person wants to see that shit. The urge to shut down the other side of the conversation by force occurs on the national level as well.

I echo the others who have said it’s not impossible to make a change in your diet and lifestyle, and there is help out there. But even if you don’t ultimately do so, thank you for giving some thought to the impact of your choices.

No, but we do love the pork flavor, which is the main component in pork sausage, and vastly different from any vegetarian option.

When I go meatless, I pretty much avoid the meat look-alike dishes. I just think the options for good meatless dishes are infinite without having to use tofurkey and the like.

Thanks for the advice, everyone!

The crunchy texture of most vegetables is a big problem for me. For example, I love fresh green beans but instead of steaming them for the recommended 3-4 minutes I have to steam them for 8-9 minutes to get them to an acceptable texture. And with some vegetables it isn’t even enough to cook them until the crunch goes away because then the crunch is replaced with a slimey texture instead (I’m looking at you, onions!) For things like onions, mushrooms, peppers, and other things where the texture really doesn’t work for me either way I tend to dice them very small and cook them into other things so I can still get the flavor without all the texture problems. There are even foods I really like and seek out that I have texture issues with, like yogurt and pudding where I tend to crush up graham crackers or something into them to get rid of the “glop” feeling they have.

If you prefer your green beans steamed 9 minutes go ahead and do it. Although I’m fond of crunch in many things I, too, prefer my green beans softer as opposed to crunchier. A LOT of people prefer them softer rather than harder. Eat them the way your prefer, not the way someone else does.

Meh. For me, the pork flavor is good, but not necessarily any better than olive oil’s flavor. The Gimme Lean fake sausage used to be my go-to sausage substitute when I was vegetarian, but before I ate it, I’d mix a bunch of olive oil and spices into it to give it some real flavor.

That’s what he’s trying to avoid.

Yeah, a lot of people don’t like crisp green beans. Don’t sweat it!

I’d recommend looking through some vegetarian cookbooks or websites in the Main Dish section. You can get a lot of hearty soups and stews that rely a lot on beans instead of loads of vegetables. Eggplant Parmesan is another dish that seems very un-vegetarian-like. And Ratatouille is another good dish, but they way I make it I load it up with zuccini and summer squash, which might be too squishy or slimy for you.

Try this soup. Everyone I give the recipe falls in love with it. (Don’t be put off by the presence of an apple.)

Curried Lentil, Squash and Apple Stew

Infused with curry spices and chock-full of wilted spinach, butternut squash and sweet chunks of apple, this unique lentil stew is fragrant and flavorful beyond belief.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 cup dried lentils
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups peeled butternut squash (1/2-inch cubes)
1 large unpeeled apple, diced
5 ounces baby spinach

  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat, and sauté onion and carrot until almost soft. Add garlic, ginger, curry and salt, and let cook a few more minutes until fragrant.

  2. Stir in lentils, broth and tomato paste. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Add squash and apple, cover and simmer for another 25 minutes, or until vegetables and lentils are tender. Remove lid and stir in spinach until wilted. Add salt to taste and serve.

Yield: 6 servings.

Maybe you would be happier getting therapy so that you can ignore what happened at the slaughterhouses and go back to eating meat?