My mouth watered at every juicy piece that slid on my plate. The butter danced across the top for that extra fatty taste, with garlic potatoes on the side along with some bread.
I fell in love with meat in my early teens and began to appreciate the culinary preparation for all different steaks, chicken and lamb chops. I became infatuated with how to season them to the perfect taste.
I grew up in a household where my mother cooked our steak well-done. When I learned you could turn down that grill temperature to achieve that medium-rare, bloody-red goodness, I submerged into a carnivorous extravaganza: hamburgers, meatball sandwiches, grilled chicken sandwiches, beef tacos, Italian beef, filet mignon, flank steak and bone marrow, to name some of my favorites.
For my 16th birthday, my parents took me to a steakhouse where I ordered a 24-ounce porterhouse steak. I polished it off, picking at the bones like a vulture looking for that last scrumptious crumb.
Towards the beginning of college, I began to realize the excessive amount of red meat I was eating. My family would routinely refer to me as a “meat and potatoes kind of guy,” while doctors noted the lack of fruits and vegetables in my diet.
The thought of red meat started to creep into my mind and scare me. I could not keep this up for the rest of my life. I could not be 40 or 50 years old and ordering shish kabobs at restaurants or cooking steak and eggs more than once or twice a month.
It could affect my digestive system or my health in the long term. I spontaneously and thoughtlessly decided that I would stop eating meat, or at least red meat, by age 24.
There was no plan, no strategy to achieve my goal. I could just eat healthy meat, such as chicken or turkey. It would be a gradual process. That is, until I went to a corn maze and walked into the petting zoo this past weekend.
I was looking at the chickens. To preface: I have always thought of chickens as the animal that functions in human civilization to produce eggs and feed humans. They’re farm animals, of course.
There, in the coop, was one chicken on its side digging into the hay, and it reminded me of my dog jumping on my bed and scratching at the blankets in a digging motion to find a comfortable position.
The chicken was just trying to get comfortable, and at that moment, I had a foreign feeling of empathy for it. The chicken was going to get eaten, and it didn’t sit well with me.
I ignored the depressing thought until I turned around and saw a momma cow with her calf. The calf was small and soft and had a cute black and white complexion. My heart sunk.
That night, I regretfully went into my fridge to thaw out my one pound of ground beef to prepare some hamburgers and quesadillas for the week. I had finally perfected a stovetop smash-burger (you have to flatten the patty with the spatula and cup; add a little salt to make the taste pop), but when I ate what I had prepared, I felt dissatisfied.
Maybe I put too much salt on it. Or maybe I thought about that bloody-red goodness and the calf I had seen earlier. It was a conflicting moment. I yearned for some broccoli or spinach.
The process to end my meat craze became more than a health decision, but instead, a struggle between my taste buds and my conscious. At first, it was just red meat, and now, I find myself considering dropping meat entirely.
Vegetarianism was never fully in my consideration. It’s an entirely new diet. I often wonder how I can properly fill myself on a plant-based diet, especially since I need to eat four meals a day. What a first-world challenge to undertake.
On the bright side, I could explore the wonders of cooking with vegetables and how much energy I could have after eating them instead of eating meat.
Maybe by 24 I’ll be writing about how much I love lentils and seasoned spiralized zucchini, all while possibly saving some cute farm animals in the process.