Saturday, September 17, 2005

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 :(


Groc said...

mmm. Interesting. I too was once a fairly strict lacto and egg eating veggie. (My one attempt at veganism lasted only a week.) Up until I starting getting migraines and had massive cravings for fish. I struggled on for a year but eventually gave into the cravings... along with the re-introduction of fish into my diet - the migraines also went. (I'm guessing the omega oils keep them at bay). I know eat a bit of chicken too, and I don't look haggard. I still don't eat red meat. So it's probably for the best for you - but anemia -uh uh, that means you might have to have a bit of red meat from time to time.

Trashbinder said...

I am sure you're not the slightest bit worried about the opinions people are likely to have on your return to a carnivorous diet.

I haven't eaten red meat for 19 years and poultry for 12 years now. It's funny how people still react a little defensively, even when I state that it's preference not protest.

I think that the important thing with our decisions in life is that they aren't ultimately set in stone, unless you choose to murder someone that is. The consequences of eating a turkey sandwich isn't going to be life-shattering.

Isn't it ironic that all of those health gurus who tell you to cut out red meat and limit your intake of meat, concentrating on fish and vegetables instead are going to look worse at 50 than those who indulge in steak.

Oh well, I've always looked like shit so it's hardly going to affect me.

Enjoy your chicken pot noodle.