The Semi-Vegetarian Traveler: When To Indulge In Your Carnivorous Exploits

dsOne day, at the age of 13, I decided to become a vegetarian. And I remained this way for the next 13 years. I became a vegetarian because of animal rights, but my reasons for staying veggie changed and evolved over the years; just as I changed and evolved over the years. And then one day it happened, I ate meat.  I was, at the time, a vegetarian with a gluten allergy. And I was on my way to go work on commercial fishing boats in the Bering Sea for NOAA. Little known fact, fishermen eat meat and gluten…and lots of it. So I had a choice, I could continue to try and make it on a boat in Alaska for the next few months without eating meat or gluten, or I could just eat the meat. And as I continued my new omnivorous lifestyle, a whole world of exploration opened up to me. Food I had never experienced in my own country became my way of continuing to travel while remaining fixed to a boat. I began to realize how important and unifying food is between people. I bonded with these fishermen as they prepared for me their favorite dishes from home. Whether home was the US, the Philippines, Mexico, or Canada, I was being given an insight into the lives of these men, through my taste buds.

juAfter 7 months on various vessels, I returned to life on land and immediately booked a month long trip to Peru. I spent 2 weeks with an indigenous community in the Amazon, and 2 weeks being a beach bum with a bottle of rum in Huanchaco. Throughout the month, regardless of where I was, I made a pact with myself…I would eat with the culture. Sometimes, like when I ate a grub from the market, it didn’t work out so well. But that didn’t matter. What mattered to me, for the first time ever, was exploring the lives of others through their food. This exploration taught me such appreciation, such thankfulness, for the meat that I was consuming. Sadly, I had never thanked my vegetables for keeping me going all these years. But now I found myself thanking these animals for what they had given me. And I began to appreciate all of the love that went into making this dish appear in front of me. Someone cared for these animals, plants fed them, someone killed them and witnessed their last breath, and someone else prepared this meal. All of this went into what I would then explore and take into myself.

Now, a year later, I still eat meat. But I do so with awareness in my consumption. I don’t eat meat every day, not from the CAFOs, not from large industry, and not without knowing that those who prepared it did so with appreciation. I eat meat to explore the intimacies of what other’s want to share with me about their lives.