I love the smell of bacon in the morning. Help.
March 19, 2010 11:55 AM   Subscribe

People who became vegetarian or vegan for ethical or moral reasons: how did you get over the fact that meat just tastes so good?

For a number of different reasons, I'm considering adopting a vegetarian diet. But I love the way meat tastes, and it's always been a big part of what I eat and what I cook. If you've ever made a similar transition, how did you get over liking and wanting meat, even though intellectually you'd rather not eat it?
posted by ocherdraco to Food & Drink (65 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
It's just like pudding: Don't buy it and you won't eat it. You're not an animal. You don't need it.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 11:56 AM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, initially it was teenage self-righteousness, and then I got older and it was just a regular habit. I do eat meat occasionally now, but we don't buy factory meat. I just walk on by the meat aisle.

Also, when I was an actual vegetarian, I took the opportunity to shock people by acknowledging that meat was delicious. You don't have to be repelled by it to not eat it. You just have to keep on making the choice to eat something else instead.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:00 PM on March 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

Meat tastes really good, but so do lots of other things. I think that part of the appeal of meat is a sense of entitlement that accumulates in our palate -- we sort of unconsciously "expect" meat to be there, and when it isn't, we miss it.

After some time has passed, during which you have presumably been tasting all sorts of other things more regularly, that expectation will pass. It's interesting how much of our life is spent unconsciously thinking "food = MEAT", even when we are open to enjoying all kinds of other food too.

Anyhow, my point is that it's not a mouth thing, it's a brain thing, and it will change (slowly) as your habits change.
posted by hermitosis at 12:02 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

It is by will alone you set your mind in motion kick the hot dog habit.

I'm not a vegetarian but I have gone for longer-than-average lengths of time without eating meat (broken only by laziness, not desire) and have many close vegetarian/vegan friends. It has always seemed and been explained as a like a matter of willpower and making sure to develop a vegetarian diet that isn't a constant barrage of grilled-tofu-chunks-in-lettuce. You'll miss meat - and may never stop missing it - but you power through and cook yourself delicious and varied non-meat things and keep reminding yourself of why you're doing it.

...now cheese, on the other hand, you can pry from my cold, dead esophagus.
posted by griphus at 12:03 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am not vegetarian and I have never practiced vegetarianism for more than a few days as an experiment--but the number one key to success in switching to meatless seems to be planning. If you let yourself get into situations where meat products are all that is available, or the efforts you are expending to avoid meat are disproportionate, you will run into problems. Without a natural aversion to meat (and, based on your question, I'm not seeing one) it will come down to natural temptation versus how well your careful planning keeps you out of the jaws of carnivorism. Making big lifestyle changes will be hard unless you prepare appropriately.
posted by Phyltre at 12:03 PM on March 19, 2010

For a number of different reasons, I'm considering adopting a vegetarian diet. But I love the way meat tastes, and it's always been a big part of what I eat and what I cook. If you've ever made a similar transition, how did you get over liking and wanting meat, even though intellectually you'd rather not eat it?

You get used to it. I didn't eat red meat or drink caffeine in any form for more than 12 years. I still rarely eat red meat, although that caffeine ban has gone completely out the window. :) The cravings for both grew less frequent over time, and after a while I found I didn't miss either at all. On the other hand, I never gave up chicken, eggs, milk or fish which made things easier. You might consider easing into it that way?

I love to cook, and found fun, new ways to be creative with other ingredients. Bought a few great cookbooks. I also bought a bread maker and experimented to my heart's content. Tofu in particular is a neat ingredient to play with. Think of it as an exercise in creativity. :)
posted by zarq at 12:07 PM on March 19, 2010

I have some vegetarian friends who claim that after not eating something for a while (especially if it bothers you morally) you just lose the desire to eat it.

I was a vegetarian for a few years, and in some ways that applied, but sometimes I just got obsessed with the thought of all the favorite dishes I couldn't eat. It just became forbidden fruit.

Anyway, now, I eat vegetarian 90% of the time and have meat rarely. Not expressly forbidding myself to eat it (allowing myself to get something non-vegetarian at a nice restaurant, etc) works way better for me and I don't obsess over keeping the diet.

Personally I'm of the philosophy that every bit helps, and that rarely eating meat is still a good step, but I know there are people who would disagree with me. Maybe take baby steps and see if you can eventually cut it out completely? You don't need to go 100% right away.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 12:07 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Vegetarian going on 5 years now, and after a while, you really don't miss it all that much. I do supplement my diet with alternatives such as veggie burgers and "chicken" (my favorite and most meat-like one is from the brand Quorn).

Every once in a while, I do crave meat. But knowing what I know about how it is produced and how much better it is for the environment to not eat it makes it much more bearable.

Not sure if this holds true for most vegetarians, but I think you just sort of lose the taste for it. There are times, like at a bar-be-que, when everyone is eating delicious, thick, burgers and I am eating a dinky veggie burger where I think, "God damn I wish I had a burger". However, those times are rare and I just don't really want meat that much.


Don't believe the lies about portabello or tofu being just like meat! They aren't. Sure, they're tasty (though I actually don't like tofu that much) but they really aren't "just like meat". That goes a long way.
posted by too bad you're not me at 12:07 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding planning as well. Never assume there will be a vegetarian option. If I am doubtful of being able to have something to eat, I'll make sure to eat a little something beforehand so I'm not starving. Depending on the situation it could be rude to make a special request, so I always make sure to take care of myself and if the situation is appropriate, I'll bring my own food. (I.e. bringing veggie burgers to a BBQ)
posted by too bad you're not me at 12:09 PM on March 19, 2010

Meat does taste good, but it's not the only thing that tastes good. I'm an intelligent being and I have access to complete nutrition without having to eat a conscious creature that died in order to end up on my plate. It's as simple as that.

I've gone back and forth with vegetarianism for most of my adult life, but what pushed me over the edge for the final time was Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals. He lays it all out, in black and white. I went into that book knowing that the fickleness of my sometimes-vegetarianism was going to be challenged, and it certainly was. Knowing the facts, there is just no way I can justify it. If you're toying with the idea, I recommend educating yourself completely on the practices of the industry that raises and slaughters our food.
posted by something something at 12:11 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Veggie going on 6 years.

Quite honestly, I was too busy experimenting with new cuisines, trying new cooking techniques, tasting new and different vegetables, focusing on food and spice quality, and making sure my diet was optimized that there wasn't anything to "get over" while I adjusted from my pure-southern-food diet. Sure, meat smells good, but do does high-octane fuel. I don't eat gasoline, either. :)
posted by TheNewWazoo at 12:12 PM on March 19, 2010

Same way I get over cake or anything else that it's better not to eat. I simply decide that the reasons for not eating the item are more important than having the taste. Basically, it's just self control. You have to ask yourself who's in charge - your brain or your body?

But if you're tempted, try visualizing the meat still on an animal that isn't quite dead yet. The more disgusting you make the mental image, the less you'll want to eat it.

I haven't eaten meat since 1980, and I honestly can't tell you the last time I even missed it. I've reached the point where it actually amazes me that anyone can stand to eat the stuff. So yeah, it does go away.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:14 PM on March 19, 2010

how did you get over liking and wanting meat, even though intellectually you'd rather not eat it?

I think that there's sometimes an overpowering assumption that food = meat + accessories, which it's pretty obvious one would need to get over quickly.There's such a massive variety of things one can eat and enjoy, so I just prefer to think that I'm making choices that don't include the subset of food called 'meat'. You're not missing something, you're just making other choices.

Or, more realistically, just do like many new vegetarians and load up on cheese.
posted by Adam_S at 12:14 PM on March 19, 2010

I never really liked meat that much, reinforced by college cooking, reached the point 15 years ago when I was including it out of habit more than taste, and decided to stop for good. (Though as a friend with French and Indian parents once joked, that might be because the English don't know how to cook it.) It meant that I could plead veggie to friends instead of grimacing at what they'd spent time and money cooking for me.

That's sort of unhelpful, but living with someone who is much more selective about meat having read The Omnivore's Dilemma, I think it points to a sensible way to approach it from the ethical side: just pay attention to when you're eating meat and not enjoying it, or relying on it because it makes meal-planning easier, and consider perhaps whether you might enjoy the meat in your diet even more if it came from suppliers who prioritise quality over quantity, even if that means paying more and buying less.
posted by holgate at 12:14 PM on March 19, 2010

I'm not vegetarian, but I like silky tofu, cheese, eggs and roasted portobello mushrooms just as much as meat. Taking away the meat isn't a big deal to me, but I'd be crushed if I ever had to give up cheese or eggs. Also, when I cook, the veggies are the main thing and the meat is just part of the dish. I love squash, peppers, onions, spinach, baby bok choy, and other flavorful things. The portobellos are an excellent substitute for a hamburger. I also quite enjoy a high-quality balsamic vinegar with bread, artichoke hearts, and olives as snack food. So try cooking veggies in new (exciting!) ways - roast peppers, stir-fry with butternut squash, carmelize onions, and pair them with delicious seasonings, nice cheeses and good bread/pasta/what have you.
posted by lizbunny at 12:20 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have been vegetarian for 10 years and I really don't miss meat at all. The only challenge is that it takes more effort and inspiration to eat meatless meals - but get yourself a couple of good cookbooks and you'll be fine. On the road, Chinese restaurants are normally a good bet, as they will frequently customize any dish with tofu (bean curd) instead of meat.

I became vegetarian after I saw a documentary which demonstrated that pigs are smarter than dogs (equivalent to a 3-year-old child). The researcher fitted pigs with goggles (to correct their tunnel vision) and adapted a joystick to be movable by a pig snout. They were amazing - working out a changing set of rules to get the reward and scoring better than many humans. They also showed a pig who had been trained to retrieve one of 10 different toys on command, eight years ago. The pig had been sent to a farm to live out its days and had had no interactions with the researcher in the meantime. When she asked it to fetch the toys, it performed 100% perfectly, every time.
This came at a time when the UK had just witnessed two pigs who had worked out what was happening, ahead of them in the slaughter house and had escaped. The brothers swam a river, burrowed under a barbed wire fence and lived on the lam for two weeks before being found. (They were retired to a farm to live out their days, as they became national heroes).
After that, I just could not eat pigs any more. Given that bacon was always my favorite, the rest just followed naturally. I was also motivated by a move to the USA, where conditions for farm animals are way less humane than in the UK (and seldom inspected). I decided that I just could not be responsible for such cruelty any more. So I stopped eating meat.
posted by Susurration at 12:21 PM on March 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

My wife became a vegetarian at a younger age for moral reasons, but having been brought up without the experience of "decent" cuts of meat (only processed/shaped/breaded stuff that barely qualifies) means that she didn't really miss it.

Since being together, we tend to eat more vegetarian meals together rather than cooking two separate dishes, and I have to admit that I don't miss meat as much as I thought I would. Quorn is fantastic, and when cooked properly is a good substitute for chicken or mince (beef and bacon, not so much) - but you really need to take care not to overcook it.
Similarly with tofu, which if marinated and coated/battered, works wonderfully in a stir-fry type meal.

There's lots of good vege recipe books out there to help you to enjoy proper meals, and not just suffer through endless lentil casseroles, or bland vegetables, so it's definitely worth doing some digging and research.

Saying all that, though, I do still enjoy bacon and sausages, chicken if I'm cooking for myself, or the occasional steak when I'm eating out - but I don't crave them. I suppose that I'd class myself as a sustainable conscientious omnivore rather than a part-time vegetarian :)
posted by Chunder at 12:21 PM on March 19, 2010

I became vegetarian when I was a) really young and idealistic, so it was worth the sacrifice; and b) when my mum still cooked all my meals for me. She would have made fun of me for backing down on the vegetarianism (same as she'd made fun of me for backing down on gymnastics, horse riding, any number of crushes and liking the colour pink and wanting a Buzz Lightyear) so, this was my 'planning' stage taken care of! You have the idealism: can you have someone else take over cooking duties for a couple of weeks, while you get into your stride?

These days, it's a combination of a) genuinely not remembering what meat tastes like (it's been a good fifteen years) and b) having no idea how to cook it for myself if I did want to eat it on a daily basis. Meat, of all things, strikes me as potentially deadly if I'm doing it wrong. In restaurants I believe most vegetarians learn to let their eyes slide over dishes containing meat - and what the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over.

One thing I would say - don't just make meals you would have eaten before and extract the meat. This is depressing and you'll endlessly compare them to the 'superior' meat version. Make things which are designed for vegetarian ingredients, that play to their strengths. I would even maybe advise staying away from things like Quorn (whatever the US version is) and TVP because it's pretend-meat. Introduce that later, when the cold turkey is less cold.

So, my case in short: principles which override desire; and ignorance.
posted by citands at 12:22 PM on March 19, 2010

Uh. Shoulda previewed - Chunder may well be right and YMMV on the Quorn thing. It might be a meat-methadone.
posted by citands at 12:24 PM on March 19, 2010

Vegetarian since 1995 with occasional lapses into veganism.
Like any habit, you just get used to not eating meat.
That does not stop my saliva glands from working overtime when I drive past a Kentucky Fried Chicken for some reason :)

I think you need to remember the reasons WHY you became a vegetarian and focus on those during those times.
posted by willmize at 12:31 PM on March 19, 2010

I also loved meat and still love the smell of meat. My husband is a meat eater so I smell it all the time. Five years ago I tried going vegetarian as a two week experiment. I'm still a vegetarian. I guess I was lucky because it just happened, and was incredibly easy. Part of it is that I feel healthier, I think the food is better, tastier, I get a a more varied diet this way. Ethically this way of life just fits so well with me. I have been curious once or twice and tried a small bite because it smelled so good but it always disgusted me. In fact, I was surprised that in a matter of weeks of being vegetarian meat became really gross to me. So, I enjoy the smells, when they are around, but the desire to eat any has long left.

One of the things I have noticed about other vegetarians is that people who do it just for health reasons are the people who are tortured by the absence of meat. People who do it for health, environmental, and ethical reasons usually get over missing the meat pretty fast because it's tied into their personal values.
posted by sadtomato at 12:33 PM on March 19, 2010

principles which override desire

This. I'm not a vegetarian, and I like meat a lot, but I don't eat it at home, because my wife doesn't eat meat, there's plenty of stunningly tasty meat-free food in the world, and it's a hassle to make food that only one of us eats. So in this case the principle may be partly "laziness" but it still counts.

Similarly, I love smoking cigarettes. Love it. But I don't do it any more, because it's bad for me.

Humans are smart enough to transcend their base nature. That includes not eating meat even though it tastes good.
posted by buxtonbluecat at 12:34 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

The only meat I like is chicken thighs and dark turkey meat. The rest I can do without. Now cheese, on the other hand...
posted by KokuRyu at 12:37 PM on March 19, 2010

In the short term, whatever motivated you is enough. In the long term, you just get used to it just like any other thing.
posted by chairface at 12:41 PM on March 19, 2010

It depends on what particular ethical reasons you have in mind, and how rigid they are, but lately what I have been doing (after being pesca/vegetarian for 8 years) is eating meat only if it is locally raised and butchered*. This was partly inspired by recently reading michael pollan things, and realizing that what I really wanted to avoid (for both ethical and health reasons) was industrial meat in particular. Luckily I live in a time/place where this is practical; NY should be one too. I have identified a core set of restaurants near me that I like and that serve local meat, and I won't eat meat out if I can't find out where it comes from. Another thing about going the other direction, though, is that I'm much more experienced as a vegetarian cook than a meat cook, so I still don't cook much meat (I do have good supplies of local meat, from a year-round farmer's market, one of the local grocery stores, and farms within driving distance).

* also i will usually try just about any animal product if it is unusual/weird enough. But I have no ethical justification for this of any kind, except that it doesn't lead to much more consumption.
posted by advil at 12:45 PM on March 19, 2010

by and large, you get over it. since being vegetarian (10 years for this stint, started going back and forth about 16 years ago), i find that i crave the foods my body needs. so, some days i crave a triple cheeseburger with double bacon - when that happens, i make sure my next few meals are protein heavy. the craving all but goes away.

a lot of the advice in this thread is sound, but i'll say as a southern raised girl, i was used to a certain amount of umami in my dishes that learning new cuisines and experimenting with flavors just couldn't get me to. my little secret? steak/chop sauce and brisket sauce (sold in the marinade sections) are often vegetarian. and those fake meats that everyone maligns? you can totally make them into little umami bombs. for instance, for soy burgers, cook them in a dry skillet to get all the ice off of them, add butter (real butter, see through the bullshit of margarine), get the butter melted and coating both sides. by now, some of the water has cooked out of the burger - add brisket sauce (or something with liquid smoke in it), cook until a little browned on both sides - add bbq sauce (stubbs is the only way to go, in my mind), again cook until a little crispy - add to a warmed bun with a little cheese. they, of course, don't taste like meat, but i found that i didn't miss meat, i missed hickory and mesquite and pepper.

also: go to red bamboo. their "chicken" is better than their "fish".
posted by nadawi at 1:00 PM on March 19, 2010 [5 favorites]

I've been (mostly) vegetarian for about 10 years, and have never looked back. Although I loved rare steak, burgers, and bacon growing up, I haven't craved them at all since then. These days I do eat small amounts of fish and free range chicken a few times per year, though that has more to do with the relationship I'm currently in than anything else. I doubt I'd ever want to eat it regularly, and don't enjoy things like bison or venison at all - the texture just doesn't seem like food anymore.

For me, the things that helped with the transition were:
- I like to cook, and became vegetarian fairly young when I was learning to cook. Now, the idea of handling raw meat seems absurdly expensive and time-consuming compared with cooking beans and tofu.
- I enjoy cuisines that include a large number of traditionally meatless dishes, or which generally rely on meat as a flavor enhancer rather than the focal point (Indian, Mexican, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, Thai, Japanese).

My advice would be try it out, and in particular, get a few good vegetarian cookbooks, especially the Veganomicon and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. If you find yourself craving meat, go ahead and eat it occasionally. You'll probably find you miss it much less than you think you will, but even a low-meat diet will do a lot of good health-wise, both for you and the planet.
posted by susanvance at 1:02 PM on March 19, 2010

I second getting a few good cookbooks. I learned to cook so many new interesting things that also taste great that I came to appreciate all the new things I could eat instead of focussing on the things I missed.
posted by davar at 1:12 PM on March 19, 2010

Last year I shifted my diet from eating meat pretty much every day, through a six-month period of not eating it at all, to now eating meat a couple times a month.

During the period where I wasn't eating meat at all, I found that fish and dairy, along with beans, pretty much completely met my need for savory/proteiny type food. I was actually shocked by how little I missed it.

Most of my transient meat cravings disappear when I ask myself "Do I need an animal to die so I can eat this? What kind of life and death has this animal had on my behalf?"

And when the answers are YES and DECENT -- then I eat the meat, enjoy the hell out of it, and feel no guilt at all.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:12 PM on March 19, 2010

I've had to mostly give up dairy. I miss cheese, but I no longer shop for it or keep it in the house most of the time. If I could eat cheese, I'd enjoy it, but I live in a world where the grocery store is full of variety, and I can find lots of yummy things to eat.
posted by theora55 at 1:13 PM on March 19, 2010

heroin is a blast (so I'm told), yet we manage to avoid it.

(sorry, that was in jest)

There are several meat substitutes, that while not nearly as tasty can at least take the edge off (actually the Morningstar Farms meatless bacon is pretty decent taste wise). Additionally, there is a branch of ethical eating that advocates for less and sustainable meat. If you just can't crack the jones for a steak go buy a grass fed, organic, family farm piece of meat. it'll cost quite a lot.
posted by edgeways at 1:15 PM on March 19, 2010

I should add that one experience that helped shift my diet was helping to slaughter and butcher a buffalo.

It's not that I stopped eating meat out of squeamishness -- in fact the experience was fascinating, educational, and very worthwhile. But it opened my eyes what has to happen for me to eat meat.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:20 PM on March 19, 2010

Remember that the question isn't even how pleasurable it is to eat meat; it's just about the extent to which that pleasure exceeds eating other things, including fake meat. (Do Tofurky slices on a sandwich or sauteed Quorn chick'n cutlets taste exactly like real turkey and chicken? I'm sure they don't, but they still taste really good.) You have to consider the fun of eating meat minus the fun of eating other kinds of foods. You're balancing that against cruelty to animals, environmental concerns, etc. So, I understand your instinct to want to indulge in your exact favorite kinds of consumption, but I put this on the same moral level as the multimillionaire who wants to be taxed as little as possible: it's unsurprising based on human nature, but it's not ethically justified if that immensely privileged person could help reduce actual suffering by giving up a tiny amount of pleasure.

On the positive side, I find vegetables more interesting. Mark Bittman points out in his book How to Cook Everything (not the vegetarian one) that a lot of different kinds of meats are hard to tell apart from each other, whereas most vegetables taste unique. That reminded me of one of the many reasons I'm glad I'm a vegetarian. I love how asparagus tastes exactly like asparagus and nothing else. It doesn't taste like meat, and most people don't like it as much as meat, but it's still good. Same with carrots, artichokes, so many others. Eggplants and portabello mushrooms have a meatier flavor even though you wouldn't confuse them with meat. The two photo illustrations here sum up how I feel: meat is drab, not as lively and varied as vegetables. I know there's a tradeoff and I'm missing out on something -- otherwise the case for being a vegetarian would be even easier. But I still think the case is pretty easy.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:28 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a vegetarian for ethical reasons, and have been for more than 6 years.

I liked meat a lot, and view my forbearance as a point of pride -- but it's just not hard. How do I do it? Some thoughts:

-- I've always lived in places where delicious vegetarian options are plentiful. New York is one of the best places to eat in the world, but you can probably do well in any major US city, and in the crunchier parts of small-town America.

-- All of my friends know I'm vegetarian, and many of them respect me for it (even if they themselves eat meat). I'm very attached to the image of myself as principled and so on, and I want to preserve it. This is hypocritical in some sense, but I think it's justified because it helps me do the right thing.

-- Watch some gruesome videos. That one of chickens getting their noses sheared off is pretty good. Nothing wrong with a little aversion therapy. (Or is that the opposite of aversion therapy? Either way.)

-- Habit.

I find myself missing meat the most when I'm really hungry -- whatever food is psychologically available, I vividly imagine it tasting delicious. But this problem is easy to solve: just make vegetarian food more available. Stock your pantry vegetarian -- easy to do. Have a vegetarian snack.
posted by grobstein at 1:36 PM on March 19, 2010

I find (for the most part) that it's not really the meat that tastes so great, it's the seasonings that go on it. When meat is the focal point of the meal, the cook tends to spend the most time prepping it and making sure it' seasoned and cooked to perfection, leaving the other dishes (or "sides") as an afterthought. If you learn to cook vegetables well, they can be just as tasty as meat dishes. I agree that meat tastes good, and it certainly an element in the cooking palette that doesn't have a perfect replacement, but it is not the tastiest thing there is.

Bacon tastes great because it's fatty and salty and crispy and smoked. I don't really truck with those leathery, cartoonish veggie bacon substitutes, but last night for dinner I had a sandwich with tempeh fried up in oil with plenty of salt and smoked paprika, and it hits a lot of the same triggers for me.
posted by contraption at 1:47 PM on March 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Simple - I think about the food I put in my mouth. Healthy living tasty green veggies vs putrid rotting flesh covered in seasonings to disguise the whole death factor...uhh...I'll take the veggies thanks.
posted by satori_movement at 1:54 PM on March 19, 2010

I'm haven't completely succeeded at being a full time vegetarian, but I've come to realize that in many foods I like, the taste I like isn't the meat (garlicky stir-fries, Indian curries, pasta dishes), it's the sauce the meat's prepared in. Makes it easier to swap in a meat substitute or just leave it out. Grobstein's comment about vegetarian snacks I find dangerous as I can really pack on the pounds if I let myself indulge in too many nuts, cheeses, and dried fruits to make up for the lack of animal fat in the diet.
posted by aught at 1:54 PM on March 19, 2010

I may never have been in the same place you are. I grew up eating meat; I enjoyed it, but I was never ZOMG meat-eating is an important part of my life!

By the time I stopped eating meat (about twenty years ago), I'd been eating less and less of it for at least a year. I didn't really miss it, and the idea of eating flesh rapidly grew increasingly distasteful. If it were suddenly vat-grown in a context of the whole world being committed to sustainable development, removing any environmental or animal welfare issues, I'd still have no enthusiasm for it.

The only thing I miss about being an omnivore is never getting asked really stupid questions about my diet.
posted by Zed at 2:18 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a vegetarian going on 5 or 6 years - I've lost track - who never really got over liking and occasionally wanting meat. This might have to do with being raised on a lot of wild meat, but a good venison steak still appeals to my taste buds, even if I'm choosing not to eat it.

For some vegetarians meat becomes repulsive over time, and other people just lose the taste for it entirely. Some vegetarians or minimal meat-eaters I know never much liked meat to begin with. But some people just get accustomed to meat as something they don't eat, and the fact that they might like the taste becomes irrelevant.

In terms of transitioning, lots of good advice already. Take it slow. Don't quit all at once; ease it out of your diet. Find good recipes. Learn how to cook one-pot meals. (And learn how to cool differently in general, with a focus on veggies and legumes.) The rest just comes with time.
posted by nicoleincanada at 2:26 PM on March 19, 2010

For me, getting to really know how horribly most meat animals are treated did the trick -- in fact that's why I finally became vegetarian, when I was forced to confront what it was I was actually eating. Visit a factory farm, or find some documentaries on the subject, or even just some pictures. You'll never want to eat meat again.

That said, I still crave chicken sometimes, even after being veg for 10 years. Luckily, there are some decent meat analogs these days -- that helps.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:26 PM on March 19, 2010

Time. It slowly disappears as an option as you get used to not having it.

Also, I agree with others who have said that even just eating less meat is a good start and cuts down on consumption.
posted by cestmoi15 at 2:31 PM on March 19, 2010

Vegetarian for about ten years now, kinda accidentally. There were ethical concerns but I couldn't imagine not eating meat. Then I moved in with an indiscriminate glutton, and could experiment with different foods. If I spent time and money making something, it wasn't wasted, because he would happily eat it. One day I realized I hadn't eaten any meat in a couple of days, and thought, "That was actually pretty good. Let's see if I can do that again today." And then "Let's try another week" and so on. And soon it was long enough to call myself vegetarian.

I think it helped that I have (had?) a mild soy allergy and so mostly avoided the fake meats. They don't taste the same no matter what anyone says, and would revive the memory of what it should taste like and make you miss meat.

Now the amount of grease that's in meat usually disgusts me, although sometimes I still get a grease deficiency and have to have something deep fried.
posted by dilettante at 2:34 PM on March 19, 2010

Depending on why you want to go veg, you can do more good by buying ethical meat. I only eat meat if I know where it came from and can support local farmers with my purchase. This way, I get to fulfill my meat cravings and I don't feel guilty about the mistreatment of animals.
posted by youcancallmeal at 2:47 PM on March 19, 2010

You just do it. I've been vege for nigh on 25 years, and happily cook meat and smell it and it smells good! But it's not food.
posted by goo at 3:01 PM on March 19, 2010

I don't count as vegetarian, because I only eat meat at restaurants and other people's houses. Everything eaten or made at home is vegetarian. It doesn't stop the cravings, but when you know it won't be so long until you eat some meat - even if it may not exactly be the bbq pork pizza you crave - takes the edge off for me.
posted by smoke at 3:09 PM on March 19, 2010

I love beef. I haven't ate it in many years. I acknowledge that I love the taste of beef. But for me it is a moral issue. Babies might taste really good too.
posted by fifilaru at 3:10 PM on March 19, 2010

You can read David Foster Wallace's essay about his trip to the Maine Lobster Festival, Consider the Lobster, online.

A few excerpts:
Watching the fresh-caught lobsters pile over one another, wave their hobbled claws impotently, huddle in the rear corners, or scrabble frantically back from the glass as you approach, it is difficult not to sense that they’re unhappy, or frightened, even if it’s some rudimentary version of these feelings… and, again, why does rudimentariness even enter into it? Why is a primitive, inarticulate form of suffering less urgent or uncomfortable for the person who’s helping to inflict it by paying for the food it results in? I’m not trying to give you a PETA-like screed here.

Lobsters don’t have much in the way of eyesight or hearing, but they do have an exquisite tactile sense, one facilitated by hundreds of thousands of tiny hairs that protrude through their carapace. And lobsters do have nociceptors,17 as well as invertebrate versions of the prostaglandins and major neurotransmitters via which our own brains register pain.

Lobsters do not, on the other hand, appear to have the equipment for making or absorbing natural opioids like endorphins and enkephalins, which are what more advanced nervous systems use to try to handle intense pain.

A detail so obvious that most recipes don’t even bother to mention it is that each lobster is supposed to be alive when you put it in the kettle....However stuporous the lobster is from the trip home, for instance, it tends to come alarmingly to life when placed in boiling water. If you’re tilting it from a container into the steaming kettle, the lobster will sometimes try to cling to the container’s sides or even to hook its claws over the kettle’s rim like a person trying to keep from going over the edge of a roof. And worse is when the lobster’s fully immersed. Even if you cover the kettle and turn away, you can usually hear the cover rattling and clanking as the lobster tries to push it off. Or the creature’s claws scraping the sides of the kettle as it thrashes around. The lobster, in other words, behaves very much as you or I would behave if we were plunged into boiling water (with the obvious exception of screaming).

According to marine zoologists, it usually takes lobsters between 35 and 45 seconds to die in boiling water.

After all the abstract intellection, there remain the facts of the frantically clanking lid, the pathetic clinging to the edge of the pot.
Consider the lobster.
posted by tzikeh at 3:43 PM on March 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

Seconding this comment about reading Foer's Eating Animals. I went back and forth for years, read FFN, read O'sD, the usual pop-culture food literature. But put the issue in the hands of an accomplished storyteller instead of a reporter or an academic, and the imagery you need to bake it into your brain is vividly clear.

Basically, despite how good that bbq pork tastes (and trust me it does, every time i have lapsed from vegetarianism it's been justified by the absolute deliciousness of the substance involved), understanding that it needs to be cooked thoroughly because it's soaked through with feces and chlorine as part of the primordial ooze of the worst pandemic that will hit the world in 100 years, understanding that that 1 fish you just ate came at the cost of about 10 lbs of other animals getting dragged, smashed, either suffocating or left to die in a pile, well that helps your brain resolve the issue.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 3:46 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

ok, a few more things I want to add.

If you're athletic, that's going to be the hardest part. I truly did look forward to that 3000 calorie primal meat devouring party at the end of a good day of riding. So instead you have to plan ahead, like other commenters mentioned. Find some veg options that really hit the spot when you're looking for post-exercise comfort food. Potatoes in ghee (ancient organics is the best) works really well. Runner's World, Bicycling Magazine, etc. all often have great vegetarian recipes worth clipping and saving for this exact purpose. Bread will not cut it.

Experiment and come up with the most ridiculous, delicious, vegetarian comfort food you can make. Perfect it. We're talking mac & cheese with onions and breadcrumbs, sag paneer with tofu instead of cheese, whatever it is that hits the spot. Make a bunch of it. Freeze it. This will come in handy when you hit that moment of thinking "shit i really do not want to deal with cooking" and ponder the easy way out.

Which leads me to recommend Manjula's Kitchen, where you can learn to cook some insanely good veggie dishes.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 4:00 PM on March 19, 2010

I'm vegan. Meat is delicious. Don't deny it. But just don't eat it. Eat other things!
posted by beerbajay at 4:04 PM on March 19, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all of this, everyone. I will be pondering...
posted by ocherdraco at 4:35 PM on March 19, 2010

Veg for 12 years, now. Whenever I walk past the meat aisle of a grocery store, I picture the meat screaming. That does it for me. What you put in your mouth died screaming in fear and agony. Do you really want to eat screams?
posted by clarkstonian at 5:01 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know you asked the opinions of vegetarians and I still consider myself mostly vegetarian because we only eat meat once a month (we proclaim it "Meat of the Month"). Some months I even forget to pick a meat and if we don't even feel like it that month, we'll skip it. But I've found that having that once-a-month meat puts off any cravings that I have for meat on other days. There are some meats we don't eat for personal reasons.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:13 PM on March 19, 2010

Vegetarian since 1990. Honestly, I never liked meat very much to begin with and have no desire to eat it. Over the years since I gave it up it's become so "not food" to me that to watch someone eating meat is like seeing someone eating a styrofoam cup - like "Wow, you eat that? That's something!"
posted by jocelmeow at 5:20 PM on March 19, 2010

Vegetarian for almost two decades now. I realized a couple years back that chicken smells likes farts. Red meat smells worse. It took me a long time to get here, but I truly find meat repulsive.
posted by Sara Anne at 6:11 PM on March 19, 2010

I'm not vegan anymore, but it's not because the food didn't taste good. I love meat, but really it's not the meat I love, it's the FAT. Start exploring the wondrous dishes that can be made from coconut and avocado. I LOVE thai young coconuts, particularly mixed with bananas and made into ice cream. Avocado also makes some surprisingly good desserts. It's nice in a smoothie or ice cream. Of course there are nuts too.

Butter or ghee are of course obvious choices if you are just vegetarian.

Mmm fat.
posted by melissam at 6:12 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was vegetarian for a year for moral reasons. I LOVE meat, but I didn't miss it because there are a lot of other things that taste good. Tofu is a pretty good meat replacement in a lot of dishes. I don't think I could have survived vegan, though; lots of awesome-tasting things that I could still eat, like pizza or pasta, had cheese on them, plus eggs were an important source of protein for me.

I had to quit being a vegetarian because I gained 40 pounds in that year, though, even though I was eating fewer calories than before. I have to eat low-carb pretty constantly or I gain a ton of weight, and even things like beans are too high carb to be an adequate protein replacement for me. My blood work got really messed up by the whole thing. Low-carb and vegetarian is difficult to do, too; I couldn't handle the lack of variety and it didn't work well anyway. Some people handle being vegan or vegetarian fine, but for me, the health blows moved it out of the realm of its being a moral imperative to something that's just morally laudable; even whole grains screw up my blood sugar. I just make an effort to avoid meat from the factory farm system and get it from places where the animals are treated more humanely instead, now, and I try to get "certified humane" eggs but they're really hard to find so often I just have to settle for free-range organic. All dairy products I buy are organic, and that's a huge improvement in taste, too. It's more expensive but it's worth supporting, plus the meat tastes better than factory farm meat. You might consider that as a possibility.
posted by Nattie at 6:29 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

"You're not an animal."
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 2:56 PM on March 19
Yes, you are. But you're an omnivore, not a carnivore, and therefore don't need meat. Like many other posters here, I never much liked it anyway, and didn't miss it at all when I gave it up around 1984. I do like the taste of chicken, but a bit of reflection about what I know of the chicken industry is pretty effective in preventing me from eating it. If you really want to stop eating commercial meat, spend some time learning about how it is raised, processed, and killed. It is, without trying to sound apocalyptic, unbelievably horrifying. At the very least, go out and hunt your own. My motto is, "don't eat it unless you're willing to kill it."
posted by crazylegs at 6:34 PM on March 19, 2010

I've been vegetarian for more than 20 years.

Some tasty vegetarian foods to take your mind off it:

haloumi cheese, fried in a pan with a little olive oil until golden brown, with a sauce of orange/mango juice and purple onion drizzled over the top. The haloumi has a beautiful crisp, squeaky texture.

gado gado, which is boiled eggs chopped in quarters, fried tofu, cashews toasted in a fry pan, English spinach (not silverbeet), steamed green beans, steamed pumpkin and steamed broccolli with a rich peanut sauce over the top. Gado Gado sauce recipe here. Again, the tofu has a beautiful crisp texture.

spicy lentil pie with wholemeal pastry

tofu in peanut satay sauce

Jarlsberg cheese with fresh truss tomates from a farmers market and fresh crusty Italian bread.

Eventually, you will go off the smell of meat, and you won't think "Yum" you'll think "Eeew."
posted by Oceanesque at 6:53 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

There are pretty good answers here. It's good to remember that everyone's path is different. I woke up one day 12 years ago and thought "Ugh, I can't do this anymore" and haven't had meat since. I've found that lots of folks who get there for ethical reasons don't "relapse" as there's no temptation. It's like a switch just flipped for me, at least. Maybe you'll get to that spot, maybe you won't, but it's great that you're thinking about this and even if you cut down a bit or something I sincerely appreciate the good it will do.

Watch out with the meat analogs, for sure - they're generally loaded with sodium and weirdness. (Be careful with Quorn products - there have been cases of people having violent allergic reactions.) The Gardein brand stuff seems high-quality, and is a component of Tal Ronnen's recent cookbook, which in addition to Isa Moskowitz's stuff, I recommend without hesitation. Homemade seitan can be freaking awesome, and (like good old tofu) doesn't need to pretend to be meat. It's been a real kick learning how much the smells and tastes of classic dishes depend upon the spices, marinades and cooking techniques and not the actual protein being used.

Also: vegetables are completely awesome.

Good luck.
posted by mintcake! at 8:43 PM on March 19, 2010

lhude sing cuccu: You're not an animal.

I just wanted to point out that this is inaccurate. Technically, you are an animal. You happen to be an animal that comes from a line of omnivores, but it's important to note that your particular species seems to be unusual in that it has free will and can and should make choices like this. It is precisely that freedom that allows you to let your beliefs guide your actions. It just irks me to hear this "you are not an animal" sort of thing because I find this erroneous belief at the root of most of our misunderstandings about, and alienation from the natural world. Nature is red in tooth and claw. You are also a part of that natural world. All of us animals have a stake in that natural world.

Making choices about what you eat is an important expression of what you believe, but don't do it based on a false understanding of science and nature. Do it understanding that it is based in your beliefs. Completely legitimate and important beliefs. It seems to me that you're much more likely to succeed if you understand that it is a belief-based commitment rather than one that makes you less of an animal, or somehow less primitive.
posted by Toekneesan at 9:10 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

ottereroticist, regarding your experience with the bison, I'd urge you to read this response to a botched slaughter in consideration of your experience in the class you took. If I read the article you linked and the blogger I'm citing correctly, this is a decidedly negative response from someone who grows meat critters to the specific class you attended. For the sake of you, other readers, and google, I could be waaaaayyyy off. But, if you'd like opinions on the humane slaughter of poultry, I'll happily burn your or anyone's ear off.

To the OP, things that scratch my meat itch are charry and carmelized. And they've got a good amount of fat content. If I were craving meat and got something made of avocado and seared onions, well, that's what I was looking for. Noms. Many noms.
posted by stet at 2:01 AM on March 20, 2010

In the your-mileage-may-vary dept., I like a lot of fake meat products, consider it a feature that they don't really reproduce the experience of eating real meat (only once I encountered one that so much felt like real meat that it grossed me out), and it doesn't in the slightest tempt me to resume eating real meat.

I've never had Quorn, which sounds a little scary, and I wouldn't want them to be central to my diet, as they're heavily processed food, but some of them are tasty.
posted by Zed at 3:29 AM on March 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

I got over it while biting into a hamburger and looking at my baby brother's fat, cute round face. It was a really fatty hamburger, and as I chewed I got to thought about how cows are animals, so are people, this was a fatty burger, that was my fatty brother, and I started wondering how he would taste if we ground him up and grilled him and put him on a bun. I started thinking about the sinews, muscles and nerves in my brother's body, and the similarities and differences between his animal form and the animal forms of other species, and how - despite our many differences - we are more alike, in many ways, than we are different. Especially when we're reduced to the physical substance of ourselves. Grind it up and season it well, and meat is meat, and you can't tell by looking at it who or what it came from. Then I ran to the bathroom and said goodbye to the eaten portion of my hamburger, and never ate meat again.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 6:13 PM on March 26, 2010

« Older Nose job for a big nose?   |   practicing mindfulness Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.