Last week, my fiance and I went searching for a chicken to roast.
“All-vegetarian, cage-free, and 100% free of antibiotics,” I read from the green plastic packaging.
“Is it organic?”
“I don’t know. It’s grain-fed.”
“But is it organic??”
We bought it and brought it home. I watched over Steven’s shoulder as he pulled out the plastic bag of innards. He washed it under the faucet. He patted down the skin, looking for bits of feather (“This is a really clean chicken. It must be organic”) and peeling off bits of fat. Then he inserted pats of butter under its skin, stuffed it with cloves of garlic and halved clementines, tied its feet together, and put it into the oven. After its juices ran clear, he carved it.
“I’m giving you some of this dark meat from the wing,” he told me. “I think you’ll like it. And here’s some white.” He handed me the plate with a little pile of chicken in the corner. I served up the potatoes and green beans. And then I speared a bite of chicken on my fork and put it into my mouth.
The crucial backstory here is that I’ve been a vegetarian for over ten years.
Roast chicken tasted exactly like I remembered. I chewed. I swallowed. I said, “Huh.” I tried another bite. That texture, that taste. Nope. It hadn’t changed.
I don’t know what made me finally wonder if it was time to reassess my diet. Maybe that I always had a difficult time explaining to curious people why exactly I was a vegetarian—“I just don’t like meat very much” always feels sort of lame to say. Maybe it was one too many times feeling limited in menu options. Maybe it was wondering if my constant tiredness was caused by a lack of vitamin B12, which is only found in animal-sourced foods, or if my frequent headaches were somehow related as well. Or, maybe it the fact that my friend group jokes about my supposed love of meats to the extent that one of them actually has me in his phone as “Amy Bacon.”
Whatever the case, one day I found myself surreptitiously Googling I stopped being a vegetarian. And then I found myself saying to Steven one day, “Maybe I won’t be a vegetarian forever.” He didn’t respond, but a couple of weeks later I overheard him telling the Amy Bacon friend that he didn’t respond precisely because he didn’t want to make a big deal out of it and scare me off. (He was considering vegetarianism at one point, but no longer.) And then, when we had some friends over for a spaghetti and meatballs dinner party, I did it: I ate a meatball.
And I didn’t die.
And it tasted really, really good.
The roast chicken was the last in a series of mouthfuls that have included chicken-fried steak, beef chili, prosciutto, and bacon. Some of these have tasted better than others. None has been a conversion experience.
Still, until now I hadn’t told anyone other than Steven, who complicitly sneaks me forkfuls of his meals, that I am exploring a possible return to omnivorism. I’m kind of afraid of what the bacon people might say—of feeling judged. Which is dumb on my part. But if I didn’t have a great reason for being a vegetarian, and I don’t necessarily have a great, solid reason for stopping, it all seems kind of arbitrary.
And well, maybe it is.
I haven’t stopped believing that the way I eat has an impact on the world. And there’s a reason we spent all that time trying to figure out if the chicken was organic or not. I don’t think I will ever be much of a meat eater, but I may choose chicken sometimes—especially if I visit someone’s house and that’s what they’re serving—and I think that is okay. Even if I’m not yet at that point of decision-making. My reasons might not convince a lawyer, but they apparently have solidified enough to sway me.
We’ll see what happens.