In 1975 I stopped eating red meat, perhaps for the wrong reason. With several lapses in commitment, I’ve been an adherent. I didn’t say I was a vegan and no animal products in my diet nor leather sandals on summer feet. Last week a Swedish Facebook friend said I was a Flexitarian. On hearing that, I remembered the television show ‘Different Strokes’ and thought “Whatcha talkin bout Willis.” Amanda reassured that flexitarianism, not that there’s anything wrong with it, is an omnivore who predominantly eats a plant based diet but also eats animal meat occasionally. That’s me, Miss Crabtree. I do eat some chicken and turkey just no red meat.
Back to the future; in 1975, I was just divorced; single again but out of the loop for five years. I hit hip book stores for contemporary guidance on dating. Every first chapter seemed to perseverate on finding commonality in early dating. I yellow highlighted commonality. Along comes a spider (annoying relative) who gives me a girl’s phone number with instructions to call. Spiders are bad news for me. Six months later, the spider continues to annoy so I finally call the girl. Walking up the 1/4 mile from the curb to the mansion, I pondered life. The castle door opens and a 6’ tall blonde blue-eyed girl (I’m 6’5 ½”) invites me into the library.
“What are we doing tonight?” she asked.
“I thought we’d go into Manhattan for a movie and dinner.”
“The movie’s good but I can only eat in two restaurants.”
“Why?” I was confused.
“I’m a vegan and there are only two places with vegan menus.”
Remembering the yellow highlighted word, commonality, I said, “I’m a vegan too.”
Noticeably, her face lit up. “You’re my first vegan date. How long have you been?”
I also like honesty in dating. “Not long,” thinking six seconds.
She lasted two dates but staying a vegan appealed to me but not my pot roasted, corned beef mother. Six months later, mother and I compromised. No red meat but poultry and fish. In social settings, I liked saying that I don’t eat red meat. It was cool and as the months transitioned to years, it felt good saying I don’t eat red meat. The longer I kept at it, the more investment it was to honestly say I don’t. And that’s the story of my 36 year journey of abstinence; nothing more than silly pride, stratospheric will power and honesty with a growing concern to health issues. There have been transgressions; I decided to go off the diet for a week every few years. I’d map out (before MapQuest) some good delis in Jersey and ingest every imaginable processed red meat concoction. A business newspaper simultaneously reported upswings in restaurant take-out business during transgressions. My second wife came from a long line of specialized brisket creators and I gently battled with new mother-in-law over my no red meat status. Was it terms of endearment when I agreed to do brisket once a year? But on July 21st 1989, I was back to a strict adherent.
Becoming more involved with environmental issues, I realized the value of being away from red meat and not supporting an industry that uses monstrous amounts of increasingly precious water for cows grazing in the grass. Caring about earth obsessively now, and realizing it’s all we got, I’ve been changing my life style. Joan Crawford in the movie ‘Mommie Dearest’ yelled to her little daughter, Christina, “No wire hangers;” they were rich and could afford fancy hangers. It was a scary movie scene; obviously impactful. The next day I told my cleaners, “No wire hangers” so that I get clean folded shirts in a recyclable bag; that’s what the green writing says. Look at the interplay; no red meat and no wire hangers as I’ve evolved into an environmentally conscious earth denizen.
Summertime 2011 and living is easy. At the Jersey shore with my good friend, a leading gastroenterologist, I asked if my not eating red meat since 1975 has left me with one of the prettiest pink colons in the northeast. I know my low cholesterol levels (130). His normally warm effusive smile turned serious. Like me, he abstained from red meat but now eats it in moderation; it doesn’t make a difference so he contends. And I contend it does. Alas, we won’t find out for another generation. Two days ago, at a Rutgers women’s basketball game, I told him about this story I’m writing about red meat and him and me. He laughed. I’m protecting his privacy and continuing a 36 year investment by signing off, “I still don’t eat red meat. Have a nice day.”