Friday, September 13, 2013

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Ugh… My wife is a vegetarian! (Why does my husband eat so much meat?) Part II


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 If you have not read Ugh… My wife is a vegetarian! (Why does my husband eat so much meat?) Part I, you can do so by clicking here.

Clint: Carnivore
Despite my tempting. Despite my remorseful tone. She stuck with it. Until I found her weakness. Bacon.

I love bacon. My grandmother raised me, and when I was a kid, she’d make me bacon sandwiches. She’d toast some bread, butter it, and then add about seven or eight strips of bacon. While this sounds like an exaggeration, it is not. She didn’t have a problem with it, and neither did I. Sometimes, when I ate my bacon sandwiches, I’d feel a pain in my chest. At the time I didn’t pay it much attention, but now I wonder if it was my heart slowing.

Six months after Mel gave up meat, I started to regularly cook bacon the way Mel likes it best: slowly cooked, crispy, and golden brown. This is in contrast to the way I like it…burnt. One evening, as I was making bacon and eggs, Mel walked into the kitchen and said, “That smells really good.”
I smiled at her, and held the plate forward. I felt sinister, evil, capable of doing anything to get my meat back. I looked her in the eyes as she reached for a strip of bacon, and I smiled slyly, and thought to myself, eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Genesis 3:5 (King James Version)

Mel took a strip of bacon and popped it in her mouth. And as she did, I opened my mouth and my eyes. My face seemed to say, Got ya! But I didn’t say it. Nor did I point at the bacon and remind her that she was a vegetarian. I held my comments, hopeful that she’d take another strip. And she did. Mel chewed, slowly, savoring the moment. Then she gave me a crooked sinful smile that leaned to the one side. 

I got really excited. I assumed that it was over. I thought about her amazing orange chicken recipe. I thought about her chicken fried steak that was so tender and juicy. I thought about coming home from work and smelling hamburgers on the grill, chicken tenders on the stovetop, and roast beef in the crock-pot. I thought about all the wonders of Mel’s cooking, and how the last six months had been hell without all these wonderful entrees. 
Mel turned her back to me, leaving the kitchen, her jaw chomping down on a strip of bacon. She’d never looked so sexy.
She ate bacon a few more times, chomping it down, slyly, the satisfaction on her face gave me hope that we could go back to our normal, meat eating lives. But it never happened. The only meat I ever saw her eat was bacon. Our dinners were still vegetarian. 
One evening, as she was preparing a quinoa casserole, I said, “Vegetarians don’t eat bacon. You know that…right? Don’t you think it is time to stop living a lie?”
Mel turned, placed her hand on her hip, and tilted her head to the side. This is a stance that she only gives me when I have said something outrageously incorrect and she is going to savor this opportunity to set me straight. 

“Maybe I’m not a vegetarian anymore,” she said. She paused for a moment and my heart leaped. I said a little prayer in my mind, thanking God for his intervention. 
“I’ve decided to be a flexitarian,” she raised her eyebrows as I placed my face in my hands. 
“What the hell is a flexitarian?” I asked. “Can you eat sirloin?” 
She told me that it is semi-vegetarianism and it means that she can have a little meat. We went back and forth for a bit, me listing cuts of meat and her telling me that she still won’t eat them. Eventually we narrowed down the list. 
“I will eat bacon, sometimes.”
“Naturally,” I said.
“And I will have ham or turkey on Christmas and Thanksgiving.” 
“That’s it?” I asked.
She nodded. 

At first I was pissed. In my head, I called her a hypocrite! I thought about how she needed to be black and white on this. She either was or she was not. But then, a crazy thing happened. The more I thought about it, the more reasonable it sounded. She was really living within her restrictions, and only bending her standards occasionally. And I hated that I thought that way. I hated that the way she was sticking to her guns was making me respect her more. 
A few weeks after Mel and I talked about her change to being a flexitarian, I went out for Mexican food with my boss. It was a place I’d never been before, so I studied the menu for a while, looking for a beef burrito or a chicken taco, when my eyes landed on the bean burritos. It sounded really good. Really simple. They made me think of Mel. It was in that moment that I realized I’d started to look at things a little differently. I stopped assuming that a meal needed meat to be a meal. 
It’s been over a year, and Mel is still a flexitarian. And, indirectly, I have become one too. I only eat meat once a day. Sometimes I don’t eat meat at all. And sometimes Mel still makes me chicken enchiladas or a bacon burger like she used too. And I suppose, it has made these moments extra special, because I know that she is not making them for anyone but me. It feels like a thoughtful gift that was presented just because she loves me, kind of like when I bring her flowers when she’s had a long day. 
I didn’t write this essay to support the equal treatment of animals. And I didn’t write it to show my support of a whole foods diet, although I will say that Mel’s back pain has stopped after cutting meat from her diet. I wrote it to understand why I felt the need to eat so much meat, and to better understand why it was so difficult for me to give it up. But as I have written, I think I learned that this essay is about marital change. The person I married was a meat eater, and thinking back, if she had been a vegetarian when we meet I honestly think it would have been a deal breaker. I don’t know if I could have married her. Writing about Mel becoming a vegetarian has really showed how my marriage has change. How we have grown together, rather than grown apart. 
Although I complain about not eating as much meat, and I joke with my friends about how difficult it is to not have beef or chicken with most meals, it is all just a show. A mask I put on for conversation so my guy friends will still assume that I am one of them.

You also might enjoy Confessions Of A Stay At Home Dad.

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Clint Edwards is a tutor coordinator at Oregon State University. He is also the former co-host of the Weekly Reader on KMSU and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University. His writing has been listed as notable by Best American Essays, and has been published in The Baltimore Review, and through The University of North Dakota, Boston College, Emerson College, The University of South Carolina, and Minnesota State University. 


Steve Anderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Anderson said...

In all fairness, bacon is really more of a spice than a meat. It's something that can be added to a veggie OR meat dish, for enhanced flavor.

(Mel should take you out to Nearly Normal's or Laughing Planet for lunch sometime.)

Clint said...

Steve: But what about when you have more bacon than veggies, like I often do?

Are these places in Corvallis?