I am very sympathetic to vegetarianism, and yet, so far, I remain an omnivore.
I have a lot of close experience with vegetarians. When I was a teenager, both my sister and brother became vegetarians. (I did not, and they have both lapsed.) My wife has been a vegetarian since 1989—I met her for the first time in 1992.) And we have raised my daughter as a vegetarian since birth—four years now.
I like that the two females in my life are both vegetarians; it seems like a higher moral plain and it is probably healthier as well. Sometimes I am also a tad frustrated by the limitations they place on our menu.
I see vegetarians in general as very focused, disciplined and ideological picky eaters. I am also picky, but I choose what I eat much more haphazardly.
The funny thing is that I am really a big eater of vegetables and I believe that I like them better than the rest of my family. I’m constantly munching raw carrots, green, red, and yellow peppers, cauliflower, celery, cabbage—you name it. You can often find me with a whole head or stalk of some plant, munching away. And I like vegetables that others shy away from, like beets and Brussels sprouts. I love salads as well. I could probably live off little more than bread, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions.
To be honest, meat kind of grosses me out. I don’t like to see chicken parts, or the thanksgiving turkey in all its glory, or a slab of uncooked beef. I detest the smell of liver cooking. As a matter of fact, I almost never cook meat, except, I guess, on our gas grill outside. I would absolutely hate to be a butcher.
Here’s a quick story. I recently went to a fancy restaurant (I’m more at home in a diner) with a bunch of other entrepreneurs, and they ordered the “tasting menu.” I immediately got worried. Sure enough, the courses we were served included frogs’ legs, pheasant, and ostrich meat. I was a terrible customer, skipping the frog, barely picking at the pheasant, and embarrassing myself by retching audibly when trying just one bite of the ostrich meat. It was just so extremely rare, so darkly red, that I simply could not deal with it.
So I am no good with exotic meat, or meat that looks too much like the beast from which it comes. But I also seem to be able to navigate the eating of another mammal without any particular remorse. I definitely like a good hamburger from time to time, or a ham sandwich, a slice of bacon, a pork chop, or a steak. And I love a hot Italian sausage with peppers and onions.
Creatures from the sea or brook are generally not for me. Growing up as I did in land-locked Colorado, I did not become accustomed to fish and seafood. (But I perplex my brother, who also steers clear of seafood, by eating tuna fish sandwiches.) I have also made a strange exception for shrimp, which I like if there’s a tasty sauce involved.
I’ll mention just one more category of food and conclude. My relationship with eggs is quite timid. I grew up observing chickens and they turned me off on their eggs. For that reason, since about four, I have avoided eggs—scrambled eggs, omelets, even French toast. But I do cook pancakes with an egg or so, eat cake and bread. So long as the egg is hard to locate in the final product, I’m good.
So where does this leave me? I eat familiar foods—things that taste good and don’t scare me off.
I admire the purity of the vegetarian, but I am where I am at the moment in the absence of high principle. I occupy a place about which there is nothing to brag, choosing what I eat by my own flexible and idiosyncratic rules.