I became at the vegetarian at the tender age of 11 because of cube steak. For those unfamiliar, it’s a cut of meat from the “round” area of a cow, or basically, its hips. It’s a tough cut, I reckon, because Wikipedia says it needs to be fiercely pounded with a meat tenderizer. What I remember of it is a chewy, beige mass that made the thought of eating dinner a horrible one. My mom was/is a good cook, don’t get me wrong. In fact, once I decided to move out at the age of 20 I requested all of my favorite foods for the months leading up, and hovered over her as she prepared them. I asked how much of an ingredient was added, or how long something should be left simmering only to get the annoying response I now understand so well, “Until it looks like this.”
About nine years later, I have developed my own version of what this looks like when it comes to the favorite dishes from my youth, including hash browns, potato salad with extra pickles, brown gravy, and a few others. And since 11 I’ve been a conscious vegetarian, only accidentally eating meat a few drunken times… “What’s in this eggroll? Nevermind I don’t even care wooo!” kind of situations that are becoming increasingly rare as alcohol has started to be more painful than fun while adding more candles to my birthday cake. And now that I’ve been leading this lifestyle for well over half of my life, and honestly, almost 2/3s of my life now, I am starting to wonder if I could ever consciously eat meat again.
I certainly love the taste of the fake meats that have improved a hundredfold and become easier to find since my youth. But I’ve also laxed my stance on some animal products. I won’t turn away soup with chicken broth now as long as there are no chunks of flesh, I get wrist-deep in the beef-drippings gravy on the poutine at the Kraken, and I even have a bottle of disgustingly pungent fish sauce in my cabinet for more authentic tasting Thai.
After seeing a tweet from Max Falkowitz about learning the term “vegan rumspringa” the thought has stuck in my head. Would I be able to take a vegetarian rumspringa? A Rumspringa is the term that the Amish use to describe the time away from the traditional Amish upbringing that they grant to their teens, so that they can experience what life is like outside of their strict and tightly shrouded community. After this period away, the teen must decide if s/he wants to stay in the lifestyle, or venture away for a life of what we call normal- electricity, gambling, booze, and using cars instead of horses to get from point A to point B. Many teens often end up choosing the opposite of what you’d expect and re-enter into the Amish lifestyle, confident in the choice that they have been able to make for themselves after experiencing what the other side is like.
I think that a vegetarian rumspringa could have the same effect for me in helping me clarify why I am doing what I’m doing because really, it’s a decision I made when I was 11. I can’t think of a single thing from when I was 11 that is still relevant to me today. I don’t keep in touch with the same people, I don’t even like the same color (it was purple then). So why am I holding on to this other than for the familiarity? Would taking a step back from it give me perspective on why or would it just cause me to run back to the open arms of the produce aisle?
I’ve pondered it from the perspective of only using very strictly humanely raised meats as an entry to the rumspringa, so that way it’s not so much a carefree meat-for-all, but that almost seems to defeat the point. So here I still sit, pondering, thinking, and maybe one day I’ll decide to turn myself out like a come-of-age Amish kid to the earthly delights that regular folks know, love, and disregard as commonplace every single day.
Other’s thoughts on the subject: