Hi everyone, my name is Mike…and I’m a meat-a-holic. It’s been 18 days since my last transgression. A brief moment of weakness, with a large slice of salami pizza. Sure the pizza satiated my cravings, but the subsequent wave of guilt kinda took the edge off my high. I felt, I don’t know…dirty…for having cheated on my veggies and worse…letting the animal kingdom down.
In all my 21 years on this planet (having arrived from Beta sigma 7 in 1995), there’s 3 little words I imagined the female of many species had been waiting to hear, but that I never thought I’d pluck up the courage to say: “I am vegetarian”.
If you’ve hung out with me over the years, I’m sure you’re surprised too. You’ll know that I love a good BBQ as much as the next red-blooded male and that no animal was particularly safe from my appetites. “Luv me a good hunk of dead flesh and an ice cold beer” was my mantra for a long time. Plus, I liked nothing more than poking fun at the vegetarians I’d encountered; friend or otherwise. So it still feels kinda surreal to find myself hovering between the vegetarian and vegan states of being. Who’d’ve thunk it? Certainly not I.
I guess family, friends and even casual observers might think that I must be going thru’ some kinda mid-life crisis. But I’d prefer to think of it as: a mid-life reassessment. Sure I was suffering from a broken heart, quit my job, put most of my shit in storage and buggered off travelling. But that just gave me more space and time to think. Time to reflect on what’s important in my life. I’d walked the full length of the building at work and lamented row after row of bored people pecking away at little keyboards every day. Thinking: there’s got to be more to life than this. Feeling: like a battery chicken. Wanting: to become a free-range human.
I hadn’t considered myself particularly well travelled either. So I thought: “fuck it…I’ll go stick a few pins in the map”. I spent a little time bouncing around parts of: Italy, Florida, Puerto Rico, Mexico and every country in Central America. Just aimless drifting, I know; merely scratching the surface, for sure. But I met a variety of people from different walks, stages and geographical locations of life. I spent a lot of time reading (trashy detective novels and guidebooks); Googling and YouTube-ing (a multitude of random topics); watching documentaries (instead of regular TV); but most of all: people watching.
It was interesting to personally observe different cultures and ponder their apparent work/life balances. Plus, documentary-wise, others’ observations had a subsequently profound influence on my newly opened eyes and mind.
Prior to hopping across the pond to the States, I watched a documentary called: Fed up. Which was all about the low-fat craze and how removing fat, makes food taste like cardboard. The food industry therefore adds more salt and particularly more sugar…to make food taste more palatable again. Go check out the documentary yourself. It’ll make you more conscious of checking the labels and hopefully adjust your purchasing. Whole/real foods people!
Whilst I was in Florida, I was also gob-smacked at how consumer based the States really is. (Knowing it is not quite the same as living it; if only for a brief while). TV advertising; the dizzying choice available for every product; plus the sheer scale of retail for something as close to my heart as…alcohol. I shit you not. In my formative years in the UK, I’d pop into an off-licence. Something approximating the size of a mom’n’pop store. In America, we hit the liquor-store. This thing was f***in ginormous man! Thousands of bottles of everything you could possibly imagine: wine, tequila, whisky, rum, vodka, beer…you name it…they’ve got it.
I try to avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants or even buffets, come to that; as I invariably come away with an overloaded plate. I can’t help myself. Stick me in a liquor-store? What did you think would happen? Talk about Miami Vice! But in my defence: I’d rather drink a beer (in a glass bottle), than a Coke (in a plastic bottle). 1 Coke contains your maximum quota of sugar for the day… and the restaurants over there provide you with free refills. Mmmmm… diabetes-tastic! You guys seen that Monster drink? 64g of sugar in 1 can. That’s 2 days-worth in 1 sitting. ;o(
So anyway, I’m primed on checking my labels, avoiding sugar and leaning towards real food. Next up I was influenced by watching: Cowspiracy. (My eldest daughter, Emily, introduced me to this one). This documentary was the first thing that got me thinking vegi and not because of the moral aspects of cruelty to the animals I’d been munching on. (I read an article or saw another video based on that side of things; but can’t for the life of me remember which).
Cowspiracy was more about the environmental impact of animal farming. I won’t go into all the details here; but again I’d recommend you check it out. My knee-jerk reaction after this one was to stop (or at least minimise) my consumption of beef. “Save the rain-forests and the creatures that live there yo”!
What next, in terms of influencing new-age Mikey? Oh, yeh: Forks Over Knives. Again, this one’s not really about the effect on quality or longevity of life for other creatures. But more about quality and longevity of life for the humans that prey on them. (Meat and dairy basically). Call me selfish; but I’d like a good innings and to spread the gospel, so my friends can maximise their life-spans too. You know the drill…go check it out.
I think most, if not all, of the documentaries I watched were made by Americans, for Americans. But they’re just as applicable to most Westernised societies. And, sad to say, they’re becoming applicable to societies we influence. I also watched some environmental shorts, including the one on plastics by the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges…
Think I shared that one on Facebook.
Whilst travelling, it was sad for me to see the influence Gringos have on their Central American neighbours. Where Coke is cheaper than water and the West seems to have educated people on the joys of consumerism, but glossed over the part about the perils of a plastics-based life-style.
I witnessed 1st hand: how blind people become to the litter at their feet. I observed local families sitting on a beach, surrounded by garbage, seemingly oblivious to it (and the signs suggesting “let’s keep our beaches clean”). People throwing crap outta the window, to keep the chicken-bus clean. It was just…sad man.
I guess I’ve been spoilt, by living in SwissyLand for the past 16 years; where the streets are often as clean as the alpine air. Plus, I was on extended vacation. So I was naturally saddened to see the aesthetic of a beautiful Tulum beach (Mexico) spoiled by plastic that had washed ashore. (What are we doing to our oceans people)?
Anyways, I know this all seems very preachy; but as I said: how can I not want the best for my family, friends and indeed the planet? Part of me thinks: “what difference can 1 person, changing their lifestyle, really make”? But if we all think that way, nothing will ever change.
I’ve avoided owning a car for the last 16 years; instead favouring public transport. (Turns out, that’s the most fun way of exploring central america too). So, adjusting my diet and controlling my consumer urges, just feels like a natural progression to other areas of my life. I somehow feel more comfortable about the space I occupy on the planet. My carbon footprint, if you will. If nothing else, where Aussies have had vegemite for years now, Swissies and Brits now have vegi-Mike. ;o)
The main thing I enjoyed about meat has been the flavour of the sauces really. So flavouring veggies instead shouldn’t be too difficult. Only worry I have now, is that I wanna jet off and visit South America soon. So I’m wondering about food I haven’t prepared myself. How will I maintain my vegi-lifestyle? Suggestions on a postcard please folks…