Teach me to like meat
June 2, 2011 7:21 AM   Subscribe

I've been a vegetarian my whole life, and now I'm ready to eat meat. Help me broaden my horizons! I'm particularly interested in hearing from people who have successfully trained themselves to like a new food. How did you do it?

I've unsuccessfully tried to start eating meat before, but I think it's because I jumped in with no plan. This time, I want to have a plan. Meat seriously squicks me out. I can't get over the texture, which is radically different than anything I've ever eaten before. I don't even eat fake meat. I can usually get one bite in my mouth before I freak out about the texture and quit. I am not always successful at swallowing the bite - my body just rebels and it's insta-gag time. My brain just goes to "This feels like muscle. AM I EATING MUSCLE? Ack! It's sticking to my teeth! That's wrong. Things aren't supposed to stick to your teeth! Also, this is from a body?! WHY WOULD YOU EAT THAT." And then it's all over. I've gotten to the point where I can eat a small piece of salmon about once a month, but haven't branched out into other fishes.

I know people can successfully train themselves to like new food, and I'd like to know how. Also, what meat is the least likely to set off my texture squick about it feeling like muscle? I need a plan! What food should I start with? How often do I try it? When I'm trying it, how do I try it? (One bite? Three bites? In soup or a casserole or what?)

I am unlikely to eat anything that's blatantly non-kosher, so suggestions of bacon and shellfish are not going to be terribly helpful.
posted by stoneweaver to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried starting with fake meat? A lot of great vegetarian restaurants and frozen entrees (especially those using seitan, in my experience) are able to mimic the mouth-feel and taste of meats pretty successfully. It will make it easier to get over your textural issues because you won't have the emotional baggage about eating animals alongside the increase in chewiness.

Another thought is foods like bolognese sauce and dirty rice, where ground meats are hidden within the sauce, and the bulk of the dish is the starch.
posted by Mchelly at 7:28 AM on June 2, 2011

It seems to me that you're trying to do something you don't really want to do. I mean, there are some (few, but still) things I just don't eat because they don't appeal to me, and that's that. There isn't really a reason for a grown up to force down some food that one finds icky-yuck.

Perhaps you don't buy this and want to try anyway. Well, what Mchelly says, then: "I don't even eat fake meat" is where you should start. Train yourself eating something that feels like meat, but where you're positive that it actually isn't real meat; so you train to dissociate the "chew" sensation from the "ack muscle" thoughts. If that's (ever) settled, you can try explore real meat. One small piece at a time, I'd say.
posted by Namlit at 7:32 AM on June 2, 2011

I can't answer all your questions, but to answer the texture portion: have you tried any of the more processed or ground meats?

Hot Dogs
(Cheap) Chicken Nuggets
Salisbury Steak
Lunch Meat
posted by royalsong at 7:35 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd think fish or chicken might be the easiest to get used to first, it falls apart easily and the stringy texture doesn't resemble what I'd associate with muscle-y tissue like beef. Cut it up into small pieces (like the size of a dice or smaller) when adding it to stirfrys, curries, pasta, soups, salads, etc. Get some shaved deli meat like roast turkey and put it in a sandwich, add some browned ground beef to your favorite vegetarian chili recipe.
posted by lizbunny at 7:38 AM on June 2, 2011

I trained myself to eat cilantro. I hated it, gaggingly so, couldn't even stand near it in the grocery store. But it was in many cuisines I liked, so I decided I needed to at least be able to stand it. Now I love it, eat it straight out of the garden.

I began by mixing a little into salsa. Just a touch, not even enough to really taste, diced really finely. Now, it's not like I eat salsa every day, but each time I had some chips and dip, I'd put a little more in. Then I started adding a little to chili, again, just a little, and minced very finely, so I didn't get any bites that were all like "CILANTRO!"

Probably took a year or more to get accustomed to the flavor, and another year or more to actually like it.

Bolognese and dirty rice are great suggestions, exactly what I would suggest. Stick with ground beef and chicken, maybe turkey or sausage, but not big slabs of lamb for a while.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:38 AM on June 2, 2011

After a couple years of vegetarianism, I eased back into meat by starting with fish -- specifically, the first meat I ate was a broiled baby coho salmon. Very mild & tender. Also, maybe try some casseroles with chicken, like King Ranch chicken or something, where the meat is shredded and a very minor part of the flavor?
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:40 AM on June 2, 2011

What about a salt beef sandwich with only a slice or two in it?
posted by Segundus at 7:41 AM on June 2, 2011

If you're not used to cooked meat, you could take the opportunity to go raw. I believe it's healthier. You will need to look into quality grass fed or wild sources for that, and best to avoid pork on the whole. Have a look into it if you go for that.

I agree easing in gently will be best.
posted by Not Supplied at 7:42 AM on June 2, 2011

Mild whitefish, like tilapia, has basically no meaty texture at all. Very soft and flaky.
posted by something something at 7:44 AM on June 2, 2011

OP, why do you want to add meat? Your reasoning may help us come up with suggestions for you.
posted by pupstocks at 7:46 AM on June 2, 2011

Do you have a Trader Joe's near you? Start with some of their chicken sausages. They have a ton of different flavors, and they're usually loaded with non-meat additions like bits of bell pepper or herbs. The meat texture is unnoticeable because it's processed into a sausage form, and there's enough other stuff going on in there to distract you from the meatiness of it. (There are other brands of chicken sausage out there, but I can only vouch for the TJ's ones.)

Shredding meat (chicken, fish) for tacos is also really delicious. It'll be less "HEY, I'M A BLOCK OF ANIMAL" and more of a flavored protein delivery system. Are shrimp and scallops kosher? They have more of a "meaty" texture than fish, without being made of, like, cow or something.

Start slow and have fun! Animals can be very yummy.
posted by phunniemee at 7:48 AM on June 2, 2011

I recently became a poultry-eater after being vegetarian for about 15 years (still slowly working my way toward eating beef). The only thing that really works for me is NOT to dissociate my eating actions from the fact that I am eating meat, and the meat is an animal that was once alive.

I very, very consciously think about it in these terms: this animal I am eating was alive and wasn't tortured in a factory (yeah, I don't just buy the cheapest grocery store meats, for a lot of reasons, and I would encourage anyone else to do the same whenever possible for them). I am a human and my body is made/evolved to be eating this meat, and the meat is nourishing my own muscles and cells and brain and other parts of me so much better than [the vast number of foods that people eat that just break down into sugars in your body and don't give you any actual nutrition]. I kind of also think about thanking the animal in my own little silent way, for being alive and being there for me to eat.

I don't know if all this just sounds really stupid to you, but to me, the "uh this is an animal and I shouldn't be eating it" thought/feeling was really strong, and still is sometimes. I kind of think about it now and am just acknowledging and grateful, and that helps me a lot.
posted by so_gracefully at 7:49 AM on June 2, 2011 [7 favorites]

If you're eating beef, veal, lamb, pork or, in some cases chicken or turkey, how you cut your meat into bite sized pieces may make a big difference in how you "experience" chewing it. Generally, such meats have a noticeable "grain" resulting from the fact that mostly, meat is muscle, made up of mostly long fibers of connective tissue which can contract to produce movement. The object for you, as a meat eater, is to identify the "grain" in the meat you are eating, and to cut thin, bite sized pieces to put in your mouth, across, not with, the grain. Essentially, in cutting like this, you are subdividing the fibers, with each cut and mouthful, into much shorter, easier to chew fiber fragments, which your canine and bi-cuspid teeth will also more efficiently tear apart, than if you're trying to chew relatively longer sections of whole fibers, with uncut connective tissue.
posted by paulsc at 7:54 AM on June 2, 2011

My mother was vegetarian for the longest time, but because she kept becoming anemic the doctors recommended she started eating meat again. She had the same problem you do and hated the texture (it is why she became a vegetarian in the first place).

The first meat she could eat without problem was bacon because it has such a strong taste and she had loved the smell of it for years, she would dice it up really small and fry it up so it was nice and crispy. Not the healthiest choice but it got her over the hurdle, then she moved onto soft flakey fish.

She finally got onto red meats if they had been slow cooked until they just fell apart and didn't have bones in them. So I used to make lots of slow cooked Italian beef for her, all the other flavours of garlic and herbs helped hide what she called the "meaty" taste and the meat was super soft and easier for her to chew.

It has taken her about 3 years and now she can eat steaks if not over cooked, but will cut them up super small and still can't eat any fat on meat at all and hates chicken or poultry.

Oh and she found pates a good way to eat meat, even though she hates chicken she loves chicken liver pate because it doesn't "feel" like meat , but that could also be because I stick a heap of brandy in mine when I make it.
posted by wwax at 8:11 AM on June 2, 2011

what about eating broths/soups to get a "taste" of meat without necessarily eating chunks/pieces of it? i was vegan for 10 years, and the transition to soup was pretty easy for me. chicken broth with lots of veggies. stews with beef broth and lots of veggies. slowly moving into chicken soup with small pieces of chicken hidden in the veggies and noodles, etc.?
posted by anya32 at 8:13 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

What exactly makes you think you're ready for meat? From what you say, it squicks you out, you don't like the texture or the taste... Is it for health reasons? I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for 10 years, and I stopped at that point because my diet was more habitual than meaningful -- I realized my reasons for being a vegetarian were no longer a focus. I started with tuna, which was easy for me -- I grew up on tuna sandwiches and always liked them. After that worked, I made a point to try all sorts of different foods I'd never been exposed to before: alligator, frog legs, mussels, local game, etc. That said, if you're not ready, you're not ready. And that's ok too.
posted by mochapickle at 8:14 AM on June 2, 2011

You should march into a good sushi joint and have some salmon sushi pieces.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:31 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go to a ritzy steakhouse, order something really tender and expensive. Have a friend come with you and do the same. Eat how they eat, and enjoy. Make certain that this fine evening isn't your first meat eating experience, or I believe that you will be sick. That wouldn't help.
posted by JesseBikman at 8:33 AM on June 2, 2011

You might try cold cuts - sliced turkey or roast beef in a sandwich with other things. Because the slices are so thin, the texture isn't so prominent. Raw tuna in sushi also seems to have a different, less muscle-y texture.

You could also try making salmon croquettes- my mother makes them from canned salmon. Although I can't stand the taste or smell of fish, personally, if I'm remembering correctly the texture is probably less muscle-y.

Also - it sound like dark meat (chicken thighs) might be better here than white meat. Dark meat is more moist/greasy/slippery where white meat can sort of be more dry/stringy/obviously muscle. But that's only if you like the taste a lot - as a former vegetarian who's still a bit choosy about what I eat meat-wise, I don't want my chicken to be moist or to taste that strongly like chicken.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:36 AM on June 2, 2011

Also, please don't eat raw meat, as one previous commentor has suggested. You need to cook out any pathogens in order for it to not make you sick. Also, it's really hard to eat raw meat because of how small our teeth are.
posted by JesseBikman at 8:37 AM on June 2, 2011

Try ground meat in casseroles, quiches, and chili. Also try a beef stew made in a slow cooker, so the meat is cooked to the point of falling off the bone. Perhaps starting off with meat you don't have to chew as much will help.

As far as training yourself to like a new food, it's mind over matter (unless you have picky eaters syndrome). Insert into mouth, chew, swallow. Repeat over the course of days, then weeks... you can get used to anything. Read some books about paleolithic eating to change your mindset.
posted by sunnychef88 at 8:42 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I (ultimately unsuccessfully) tried to start eating meat again, I had similar problems. I do eat fake meat and and I do eat fish, but haven't been able to make myself eat land animals, and ended up deciding that there wasn't really a compelling reason to do so. Foods that were easiest for me were very highly spiced dishes with small pieces of lean chicken in them: thai curries and soups, italian sausages, and, well, that's about it. You could probably use this approach with other types of meat as well: just make sure you don't have to be in charge of cutting it up and that its flavor won't overwhelm the rest of the dish. If you've been a vegetarian for long and have as strong a reaction as you've described above, I'm sure you're like me in that one bit of spaghetti bolognese will instantly identify itself as being made with meat, and these will too, but less stridently. Chicken was definitely the easiest meat for me, and I might even be able to continue eating it now if I had a strong health-related reason to do so.

And really don't eat raw meat. It's a terrible idea in general, and will definitely provoke your gag reaction; just being near raw meat does it for me. Which reminds me: do this in situations where someone else is preparing the food. Trying to cook meat yourself will only make this process harder. Way, way harder.
posted by dizziest at 8:43 AM on June 2, 2011

In a similiar vein of trying ground meat, would you consider something like huevos con chorizo?

As for learning to like previously hated foods, I suggest you change the texture of what you are eating. For the longest time I was creeped out by large pieces of raw onions. Over time however I found that sauteed onions are pretty good and from there I learned to like very thinly sliced raw onion. The various ways we have to cook things all can create vast different textures and mouth sensations so disliking one way of preparing a food doesn't mean you aren't going to like some other variation of that food.
posted by mmascolino at 8:44 AM on June 2, 2011

wwax's comment also reminded me that the "texture" you perceive in chewing meat can be a combination of several things. The first is the age and size of the animal, as older animals will have a more developed musculature, with larger, stronger muscle fibers, and more and stronger connective tissue. So, sticking to veal and lamb, early on, might help a lot with texture issues. Another texture factor is cooking. As meat cooks, the heat of cooking starts the connective tissue contracting, and the meat will initially get a bit tougher, and have more pronounced grain; this is why a lot of people like meat "rare," or uncooked. After a long enough period of slow, low heat cooking, the connective tissue (collagen) in the meat fibers may begin to break down chemically, and the meat will become less tough and chewy; this is what happens to pot roast, and it can be yummy. Cooking beyond this point generally turns meat to a mushy, gelatinous goo, which is the base for some special dishes, like meat puddings.

Some prepared meats, like hot dogs, bologna, and sausages, are mechanically shredded and cooked, so there is no noticeable, identifiable meat grain in the final product. You might try such products at first, as you develop a taste for meat.

Following on with the understanding of how meat changes in cooking, the collagen in meat can also change by mechanical processes, including chewing. For most vegetarian foods, continued chewing breaks down the food mechanically, in proportion to the time and effort spent chewing. For meat which has not had its collagen fully broken down chemically, by cooking, or mechanically, by pre-processing in grinders, chewing can cause a relinking of the collagen fibers in your mouth. Further chewing, especially on the flat surfaces of your molars, which most vegetarians habitually use for most chewing, only makes the protein strands link more. The result is a ball of hard to swallow, tough, tasteless collagen fiber.

You don't really need to chew meat much. Most of the flavor meat has will be delivered within a few seconds of beginning to chew, and your chewing of meat should mostly be done on the canine and bi-cuspid teeth, which are more efficient at tearing, than on your crushing molar surfaces. While your saliva does contain enzymes that can begin the catalyzing of vegetable starches to sugar, there's nothing much in saliva that begins to digest meat. Almost 100% of meat digestion happens in the acid environment of the stomach (as the 18th century experiments of Beaumount, Spallanzini and others demonstrated), and so, if you can safely swallow a piece of meat, you'll likely digest it just fine. So while your experience of chewing vegetarian foods is generally that more chewing is better, and better for digestion, that experience is working against your enjoyment of meat.

Serious meat eaters chew only enough to tear the meat into safe swallowing chunks. They cut meat carefully, to chew efficiently, and enjoy the "explosion" of intense flavor meat gives in the first few seconds of chewing. They often swallow with something good to drink, like wine or beer, to help "wash down" the meat, clear the palate for the next bite, and provide extra lubrication to the throat and esophagus in swallowing.
posted by paulsc at 8:45 AM on June 2, 2011

Could you start with stocks or other meat-oriented products that most of us who've grown up omnivorous tend to forget about? Next time you make a soup or stew or risotto, use chicken or beef stock. That way you'll get used to the rich savory mouthfeel without the OMG ITS AN ANIMAL thing.

I'd also recommend using meat fats as your base cooking oil when you sautee, but you mention keeping kosher so the easiest way of doing that (bacon grease) is out. Do you have access to schmaltz? Or do you find that too disgusting?

I agree about cold cuts. Especially high end "salumeria" and "charcuterie" type stuff - you know, prosciutto, salame, bresaola, and the like. Then again, a lot of this sort of thing is pork oriented, so do your research.

(Confession: I'm a former vegetarian who backslid for the love of sweet, sweet pork. So I might not be the best person to take kosher advice from.)
posted by Sara C. at 8:51 AM on June 2, 2011

I was a vegetarian for many years, and i still won't eat beef (I just can't do it), but I can do chicken and fish on occasion. It's just the type of meat that doesn't make my body feel like throwing up. I guess I'm saying you just need to keep experimenting and see what your body can handle, or at least expand seasonings to see what works for you to make the food appetizing.

Tried Turkey Dogs?

good luck.
posted by zombieApoc at 8:57 AM on June 2, 2011

I successfully became an omnivore after 27 years of vegetarianism.

As folks have already mentioned, try processed meat like hamburgers and chicken sausage. Don't try to cook it yourself (that was the most difficult step for me). And because you're so easily squicked out, I wonder if you could try eating food that has chicken or beef broth in it, so there are no texture issues at all. One hurdle at a time.
posted by Specklet at 8:58 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm another person recommending cold cuts. Do you like sandwiches? Find a good deli and get a turkey sandwich that has lots of other stuff on it: you're favorite condiments and lots of veggies. Thinly sliced deli meat is delicious but you won't have to deal with the toughness/texture/chewing issues you experience with big pieces of meat like steaks or filets. Turkey is a pretty mild flavored meat to start with, work your way up to ham and roast beef, then pastrami!!! Yum!

Also on the whole processed meat spectrum (definitely go with sausages and hamburger as suggested), what about chicken nuggets or chicken patties? You can get pretty decent frozen ones at nicer grocery stores, I bet there's organic brands out there as well. Even fake meat chicken nuggets are delicious and could ease you into the meat texture universe.

Ooh, or how about delicious fried egg rolls (they often have ground pork or poultry) from a chinese restaurant? Or Thai spring rolls with chicken. Or lasagna with ground meat in it. Dishes where the meat is in small pieces and incorporated with lots of other textures so the overall chewing sensation is not "BIG CHUNK OF MEAT".
posted by dahliachewswell at 9:11 AM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm skeeved by meat myself and was vegetarian for a few years in large part because I just wanted to avoid having to deal with meat and being skeeved out by it.

I disagree with everyone saying "go raw." On the contrary, I have found that the MORE cooked meat is, the easier it is for me to deal with the texture. Likewise, ground meats freak me out. They have an entirely different texture thing going on, and it isn't good.

Cold cuts are promising because they have a uniform texture and are usually so salty and briny that you can't really tell what they should taste like anyway. I'd try turkey/chicken cold cuts.
posted by jph at 9:17 AM on June 2, 2011

How about trying something like pepperonis on a pizza?

When you're starting out, if meat is the central thing, I can see how it'd be hard. If it's toppings on a pizza, filling in a lasagna or casserole, or just present in a stew, you could get the taste of it without having to deal with your texture issues.
posted by King Bee at 9:37 AM on June 2, 2011

posted by zadcat at 9:51 AM on June 2, 2011

Nthing going with some nice sausages. After that try some really crispy bacon on for size. Graduate to a bacon cheeseburger (if you like cheese) and then try something like a steak sandwich. After that try some actual steak or some pork chops. Soon you'll be gnawing meat off the bone just after killing the cow.

To me the most sublime meat is a thick tenderloin steak cooked so that JesseBikman wouldn't eat it. I prefer my beef undercooked to the point that many people would consider it raw. I cannot go out to a restaurant and get a good steak, except in France, because they always cook it too much. I blame sous-vide cooking as oddly the thick steaks usually come out with a uniform doneness through them and I prefer a good sear and raw inside.
posted by koolkat at 9:59 AM on June 2, 2011

This is going to sound weird, but go to Mcdonalds and get some chicken nuggets. They meat...kinda. Everything is way processed, so no texture to worry about, plus anything deep fryed and diped in sauce tastes like everything deep fryed diped in sauce. Good luck and welcome to the wonderful world of eating meat.
posted by Felex at 10:32 AM on June 2, 2011

I was a born and raised vegetarian and started eating meat in college. I grew up with horror stories of factory farms, in a religious setting that preached that all souls were equivalent and that eating meat would result into an eventual reincarnation into the form of a similar tortured animal, so I can definitely relate to the ethical problems of a plate of beef. I'd tried chicken in high school at a Chinese restaurant, and found it so repulsive that I never thought about eating meat again (I can still vividly recall the particular kind of gross-out I got going past a McDonald's) until I started hanging out with a really excellent cook who'd learned most of her craft from her Cuban grandparents. My first positive encounter with meat was at a barbecue, where she made me a wonderful marinated portabllo mushroom sandwich and then casually suggested I try a little bit of the organic ground beef patty she'd put on the grill. It was amazing - it had none of the stink and muscle-y texture that repulsed me about meat, and contrasted delightfully with the mushroom in its texture and the different way that it soaked up the flavors of the charcoal smoke. I only had a bite, but after that I began to understand the appeal of meat and the way it provided a different medium for familiar flavors. It also helped that my introduction to meat happened through a friend who had wonderful stories to accompany her dishes - my first bite of arroz con pollo came associated with the stories of her growing up in her suburban household in Miami with a gigantic family and the personalities of her eccentric relatives. From burger to chicken and rice to bacon, at some point the visceral reaction of disgust and the strength of my taboo against eating meat began to weaken and now I enjoy well-prepared meat about once a week or so.

So, that's what worked for me - tiny bites, a good friend that was a guide that wanted to share a part of her culinary experience, and a bit of time. I think the overall positive associations that were built in a pleasant environment and shared around the new food made a huge difference; it felt like a gift, not an unpleasant task. I don't think buying food, in a restaurant setting or otherwise, would have been nearly as effective in changing my diet. So I guess my advice would be to find a good friend that wants to cook for you and share some favorite dishes. Bonus points if she can regale you with childhood memories of happy kitchens. For me, it was really about changing my childhood associations of eating meat (which were connected with trauma and rules and pictures of sad chickens) into something that was more of a net positive.
posted by ajarbaday at 11:00 AM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

If texture is the biggest obstacle how about something like fishcakes? Suggesting fishcakes because you have successfully eaten salmon. Nice quality fishcakes will contain fish and fish flavours but the texture will be completely different to a piece of fish.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:00 AM on June 2, 2011

I agree with ajarbaday - you really ought to start with something good. Sure, pepperoni pizza and McDonald's chicken nuggets don't taste much like meat, but they don't taste very good, either. You might be able to stomach the non-meaty texture, but it won't leave you with a very good impression with why meat is something you ought to learn to like.
posted by Sara C. at 11:13 AM on June 2, 2011

Here's what I started on to reintegrate meat into my diet:
Chili with ground turkey meat
Sandwiches with small amounts of chicken/turkey & lots of veg
Lasagne/red sauce made with ground turkey
Basically, I started with poultry because it has little flavor and can be "hidden" in other foods.

It took a very long time to transition from rather bland-tasting poultry into stronger flavors like salmon and lamb. I've only been eating read meats for 2 years but now I love a good sirloin cooked medium-rare. And I'm surprised at how awesome lamb is. Lamb was always forbidden in my house because my dad found it too gamey.

I agree with what's already been said about quality. Most restaurant/fast food burgers still smell repugnant to me, but when we make our own fresh lamburgers at home it's a different story. Don't bother with the processed stuff.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:05 PM on June 2, 2011

Wow! Thanks for the great suggestions, everyone. I'm thinking the chicken sausage and fish cakes are an excellent place to start. I'm not into the ultraprocessed non-foods like chicken nuggets, but I bet I can find some good cold cuts without too much added in. Probably at Trader Joe's next to the sausage. Do sausages come fully cooked (like cold cuts) or does it vary?
posted by stoneweaver at 4:59 PM on June 2, 2011

Sausages in little vaccu-sealed packages that are stocked next to lunchmeat and hotdogs are (almost always, make sure to double check the label) fully cooked and just need to be heated. Sausages that come in a plastic-wrapped styrofoam tray that are stocked next to the chicken breasts and steaks are raw and need to be cooked thoroughly before being eaten.
posted by phunniemee at 5:10 PM on June 2, 2011

Your best bet for cold cuts are to go to a deli, or the deli counter in the supermarket, rather than the Lunch Meat section. I think nowadays there are some "deli style" pre-packaged things, but that big block of pre-sliced thick cut ham? You do not want that. That was the sort of thing that made me think I hated ham for most of my life.
posted by Sara C. at 5:36 AM on June 3, 2011

I was a vegetarian for about fifteen years. I've been adding more and more fish and poultry to my diet over the last couple of years.

Definitely try sushi and sashimi. Forget any fears you might have that it'll be fishy or slimy or gross—it absolutely isn't. It has a very fine, delicate flavor and texture—it practically melts in your mouth. Salmon and tuna are good places to start. Mmm—fatty tuna rolls. Heaven! Warning: you may become addicted.

(Sushi/sashimi was the first animal flesh I started eating. It's still my favorite. If you try it, and you find that you like it as much as I do, try tuna tartare as well—it's also made from raw tuna, and I could happily eat it three meals a day for the rest of my life. You tend to find it at pricier restaurants—but if you can find a source of very fresh, sushi-grade tuna, you can make it at home. Ceviche is good, too.)

(I wouldn't suggest eating any other meat raw, though. Raw fish is quite a different thing than, say, raw beef.)

Chicken salad sandwiches from sandwich shops were my poultry gateway. Lately, though, I've found myself eating a lot of turkey sandwiches (cold cuts—shaved, not sliced). Turkey from the grocery strore deli, some good crusty bread, spicy mustard, black pepper, a slice of cheese, and a couple of pickles—a quick, easy, inexpensive, and relatively healthy lunch.

I also really like fish tacos. It sounds utterly foul, but it's not at all what you think. It's a taco only in the sense that a tortilla is involved. The fish is not ground up like the beef in crappy Americanized tacos.

The bottom line: experiment, and take baby steps. Starting with a big hunk of rare beef on the bone probably isn't going to end well. Instead, eat small amounts of less scary stuff: deli cold cuts, a chicken salad sandwich (Panera Bread has a great one), a piece of sushi from a friend's plate, a cup of chicken soup with crackers. Once you're used to that, the next steps could be grilled chicken breast, some nice oven-cooked tilapia (a cheap and mild-flavored fish—top with butter, dill, lemon juice, and/or black pepper)—anything that catches your interest. The worst that'll happen is that something will be gross, and you'll have to spit it out.
posted by ixohoxi at 3:48 PM on June 3, 2011

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