The significance of a chicken sandwich
In 1990 two significant things happened to me. I moved away from home to Preston to be a student, and I became a vegetarian. It was very popular then - a lot of my friends did it (not that that had any bearing on my decision), the late teens are a wonderful time of idealism and trying new things.
I've remained vegetarian for the 15 years since then. It hasn't always been easy - explaining it to others, particularly older people who don't get it, holidays abroad where there is little choice, or being stuck with a very few options sometimes in restaurants, often feeling listless or incredibly hungry. I take vitamin supplements and protein supplements regularly. I do eat a lot of quorn and beans and spinach and eggs, but sometimes it is hard to eat a balanced diet. I have always been underweight and have a couple of other health problems, which I suspect are due to anemia.
Several people had commented that I've looked tired and stressed recently (which I'd put down to moving to Bristol), so I booked in to have a facial at one of the many beauty salons in Clifton (I am becoming a Clifton housewife - too much time and money on my hands.) The beauty lady instantly sussed that I was a vegetarian and told me "You can tell long-term vegetarians when they get to their 50s because they've aged much more than non-vegetarians and they look less vital." Quite a few of my long-term vegetarian friends, like me, have big dark circles under their eyes and look worn out. I'm still in my early 30s, and am starting to notice the ageing process. Still, I exercise, don't smoke or drink and don't have late nights, so perhaps that cancels out the lack of regular protein in my diet.
Anyway, what tipped the balance wasn't the fact that I'll look like a wizened old hag in 10 years, but that from next week I will be doing a lot of commuting back up to Lancaster weekly for my job. I don't eat well at the best of times, and that's when I have access to a kitchen, supermarkets and a fella who likes to cook for me. While in Lancaster I'll be living in much reduced circumstances and relying on the local Spar for all my food. It's going to be a case of sandwiches, pot noodles and fruit for 3 days a week. And I have a feeling that whatever health problems I have, are soon going to be exacerbated.
Sooooo, yesterday I gave in. For the first time in 15 years I had a chicken sandwich, a turkey sandwich and fish and chips. I don't think I could face beef, bacon or lamb. And I feel guilty and hypocritical (at least I never once made anyone feel guilty for eating meat). But it's got to the point where my health has to come first. Oddly, eating meat didn't make me feel squeamish or sick. Once I decide something, I can be very business-like and just get on with it. It's odd how the taste of those foods brought back forgotten memories - when you don't eat meat you consciously avoid it - I haven't really touched a turkey slice in years. The feel and taste of it reminded me somehow of my Aunt Ethel and eating at her house, back in the 1970s. My fella (who does eat meat but has always been supportive) is more shocked than me about it, and has said he won't comment on my decision for a few days.
What's also odd, is that this change in eating habits has also co-occurred with another major move. The idealism of my late teens and 20s has given way to something much more pragmatic in my 30s. Oh well. It was nice while it lasted :(