A Culinary Confession

I blame Bakesale Betty.  If the blue-haired Aussie-American Alison hadn’t lured me into her store with lamingtons and sticky date pudding I would never have succumbed to the charms of her legendary fried chicken sandwiches, which cause perfectly sane people to line up on Telegraph Avenue in North Oakland. For a sandwich. I kid you not.

It also doesn’t help that Bakesale Betty is on my way home from my editing gig and I’m often ravenous as I drive by, doing a quick scan to see if there’s 1. a line snaking down the street or 2. any parking.

If the parking gods and queue karma are on my side, I’m in and out with one of her sandwiches before you can say hello hypocrite.

Let me explain. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 17, when I gave up meat in what my mum, a good cook, viewed as just another one of my rebellious teenage acts. Despite growing up in a meat-loving land, where the backyard barbie rules, I became a greens and legumes kinda gal.

For more than a quarter of a century, I lived the veg life. To be precise, I guess I’m technically a pescatarian, as I sometimes eat seafood. Especially in my hometown, Sydney, because — news flash — fabo fish to be had Down Under peeps.

So how to explain the recent chicken sandwich obsession? What can I say? I think I’m having a middle-aged meat crisis. Some 20 years ago I introduced the man who would become the father of my child to the virtues of a vegetarian diet. Hell, I married him at Greens. My 11-year-old kid has never, ever eaten an ounce of animal flesh.  (His choice. I’m no zealot.)  My blog is called — duh — Lettuce Eat Kale. I’ve watched Food, Inc. I frequent farmers’ markets. You get the idea.

I should be a poster girl for a pro-produce life.

And yet…a couple of years ago around a certain time in my cycle I began craving protein. No worries, fish usually did the trick. Then I started to slip a bit when sharing food at ethnic restaurants around town. Chicken raised with love, care, good feed, and bucolic views began to find its way into my mouth. What the heck was happening?

I wasn’t sure, but I suspected hormones played a role. I also knew I wasn’t dealing with this particular omnivore’s dilemma on my own.  My friend Connie was a vegetarian — until she got pregnant with her first kid 16 years ago. Then it was off to the steak house for her and she’s never looked back.  My dance instructor, Amara Tabor-Smith, eschewed animal protein for decades — she didn’t like the texture — and is now tentatively getting reacquainted with meat.

I’d always assumed, along with many others I suspect, that vegetarian cookbook superstars Deborah Madison and Mollie Katzen didn’t eat meat. Not so, I discovered in the past year during chats with both chefs. Mollie describes herself as a “meat nibbler,” and Deborah’s not opposed to the occasional piece of grass-fed, local beef.

Their most recent books, Get Cooking by Mollie, and What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah, include meat recipes. Still, both women favor a diet where greens, grains, and legumes dominate the dinner plate.  Mollie supports the Meatless Monday campaign and both believe most meat eaters would do well to eat less animal and more plant foods.

Eating meat after years — or even a lifetime — of a solely plant-based diet seems to be something of a trend. For people who chose vegetarianism for ethical or environmental reasons, sourcing meat sustainably is now often a viable alternative to factory-farmed animals, and so some have decided to include it sparingly in their diet.

(Bucking this seemingly female shift, is wonder boy writer Jonathan Safran Foer, who dabbled with vegetarianism for years but fully committed after he became a pet owner. He will probably convert masses to the cause with his description of chicken fecal soup and other horrors of industrial animal slaughter in his recent book, Eating Animals.)

In this confusing time, I feel I’ve found a kindred spirit in Tara Austen Weaver, the warm and witty writer who blogs about meat and many other food matters at Tea & Cookies.  I can so relate to the mental tug-of-war that underlies her recent book The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman’s Romp through a World of Men, Meat, and Moral Crisis.  Tara didn’t have a choice in her vegetarian childhood — she was raised that way by a Northern California hippie mama.

Several years ago, she started exploring eating meat for health reasons.  Her descriptions of buying, prepping, and cooking meat resonate with me because I haven’t actually ever gone and purchased a chicken or, um, chicken bits and made dinner. That notion makes me feel nauseous, to be honest. I don’t even like looking at raw meat.

I know, I know, I’m the worst kind of turncoat. I leave the house to get a bit of hot flesh on the side. When my son stopped by home unexpectedly the other afternoon, I found myself hiding aforementioned cluck, cluck sandwich before opening the door. Clearly, I have some conflicted feelings about my dietary changes.

So what to call myself: A lapsed vegetarian?  A vegetarian who cheats?

I thank the funny Adair Seldon of Lentil Breakdown for introducing me to the term flexitarian, which seems to fit for now, loathe as I am to saddle myself or anyone else with a label.

For the record, I seem to have no desire to move on to “harder” meats, like beef, pork, or lamb.  (An aside: Why isn’t it cow, pig, and sheep? I suspect it’s a way for many of us to remain in denial about where meat actually comes from.) Speaking of denial: No pics of meat in this post! The hypocrisy continues.

And I’ve never had any interest in eating creatures I see on hiking trails such as ducks, rabbits, quail, deer, elk, and the like. But since chicken is becoming a somewhat regular fix (once or twice a month), I’ve learned never to say never.

My vegetarianism stemmed in part, from my inability to kill an animal, hence my healthy respect for folks like Novella Carpenter, who don’t flinch at taking responsibility for ending the life of an animal they’ve raised for food. I feel cowardly in the carnivore arena by comparison.

Penning this post has probably blown my chances of ever writing for Vegetarian Times or VegNews (though I do think this topic is one such mags would do well to cover.)

But you won’t find meat recipes on this blog, although I’m sure some veggies will unsubscribe in disgust at my wishy-washy vegetarianism.

That would be a shame. Because I am still the girl who obsesses about eating greens. Nothing makes me happier than a meal packed with produce. I am, to borrow a term Mollie Katzen used in a recent Civil Eats story, very much a pro-vegetable person, a vegetabilist.

And I view healthy eating in much the same way I see sexuality.  In my mind, most humans are basically bisexual, it just depends where on the spectrum you fall in terms of how you define your sexual orientation.

Similarly, we’re probably all on an omnivore continuum, with some of us falling firmly on the carnivorous end and others of us way down on the other end of the line very much in vegetarian or even vegan territory.

In the end, come dinner time, it’s a personal choice what we put on our plate and the justifications we make with ourselves and our sometimes contradictory culinary choices are our own to live with as we figure out our place on the food chain and what our bodies need to stay well.

I welcome your thoughts below.


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51 Responses to “A Culinary Confession”

  1. Almost Slowfood Says:

    Such a thoughtful post, Sarah! I’ve always eaten meat and never considered becoming a vegetarian. That being said, I’ve sworn off factory farmed meats and do my best to buy local, humanely raised and pasture-fed meats. In general, I’ve completely changed my eating habits over the last few years. Becoming educated about where our food comes from has changed me.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      So you might consider yourself a locavore then, almost slowfood? Me too…except of course, there’s the occasional purchase of a food from a far away land when cravings call.

  2. Alexandra Says:

    I get what you’re talking about. We eat mostly veggies at our house, but sometimes I get a real craving for a thick steak, my parents’ favorite meal, their favorite comfort food. I don’t act on the craving, especially after watching Food, Inc., but I think it’s alright to “cheat” once in a while. (Your description of the fried chicken sandwich made me really curious so I clicked through to Andrew’s post and it does look yummy!)

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Food, Inc. could convert some die-hard carnivores to a plant-based diet, I reckon.
      I certainly couldn’t knowingly eat a factory-farmed animal after seeing that flick.

  3. marthaandme Says:

    I think there are a lot of people like you and I think it’s great you wrote about this. I respect those who choose not to eat meat, but in general find that moderation is a good way to go with a lot of things, for me at least.

  4. Frugal Kiwi Says:

    We are what you could call flexitarians. We eat a lot of vegetarian meals, but still eat meat. I’ve often pondered if I was the one who had to kill the animal if I would eat meat. I suspect the answer is yes although it wouldn’t be easy and I’m not sure I could kill a large animal like a cow.

  5. Ruth Pennebaker Says:

    I know exactly what you mean, Sarah. I eat very little meat, but don’t think I could ever be a vegetarian.

  6. Jane Boursaw Says:

    I’m not one way or the other (veggie or carnivore), but it seems like when I eat more plant-based foods, I tend to not want the meats. Maybe my psyche is trying to tell me something, who knows. And I’ll pretty much eat bacon any time 24/7.

  7. Sheryl Says:

    I stopped eating red meat years ago, after I had mono and somehow lost the taste for it. Then, when I was in college, I ate it for a bit, then stopped again.
    I haven’t eaten it in probably 30 years don’t miss it at all, but do enjoy my fish and chicken. My little niece asked me how I could eat chicken but not duck and I told her that “anything that looks like a pet and will take food out of my hand is off limits!”

    Great, thoughtful post, Sarah, one that should inspire no guilt-eating for many!

  8. The Writer's [Inner] Journey Says:

    “Flexitarian.” Brilliant.
    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I’ve tried and tried to be a vegetarian, mostly for ethical reasons, but every so often my body craves animal protein. I wish it didn’t.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      hey meredith, your buddy above you, sheryl, grants you — and everyone else — a guilt-free eating pass. enjoy!

  9. Deborah Madison Says:

    Thoughtful piece, Sarah.

    One little clarification, the meat recipes in What We Eat When We Eat Alone came from the people interviewed. I doubt I would ever think to make a flank steak stuffed with bacon, mushrooms and cheese. But then, the book wasn’t about me, it was about others and what they do.

    People change and I think that’s okay. We’re very hard on ourselves, though, and I wish we weren’t. There’s a lot of changing to do on all fronts and it just takes time. I have come to know that I’m an omnivore, yet I eat vegetarian most of the time. I love it. I prefer it.

    But there are times when I crave the non-vegetable and I’ve learned to listen to that. As a cooking teacher I used to hear people say quite often, things like, “I’ve been vegetarian for 22 years but I keep dreaming about turkey! What should I do?” Maybe it’s time to eat turkey and find out.

    More than one rancher has said to me that vegetarians are their most avid buyers, because they appreciate the way in which the animals are raised, treated, and yes, slaughtered, though they probably don’t say that. Until they found that fit, they were abstaining from industrial meat. Some of the change is coming from the fact that there is now a better way.

    I’ve often thought that grace is what connects our gratitude to the horror of slaughter for truly, nothing wants to die. That somehow needs to be acknowledged no matter what we call ourselves. I suspect it’s more important than we think.

    Keep on going, Sarah! It’s salad for me, tonight.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Thanks Deborah, and I’m glad you corrected the record on the recipes in your latest book.

      I didn’t mean to leave the impression that some of the meatier (or more unusual solo suppers, for that matter) would be dishes you’d serve up at home.

      And thanks, too, for your additional comments. I suspect they resonate with many readers, I know they did with me.

      And now, I must go make dinner, a vegetarian feast, as it so happens!

  10. Mollie Katzen Says:

    Sarah, this is as thoughtful and beautifully stated a post as ever —consistent with your other good & important writing, for which many of us are so appreciative.

    As we all know, food choices can be fraught and are ultimately so personal, they can become, via their very complexity, a wedge between us, rather than the profound bond among us that is our unique human heritage.

    I especially love your phrase “omnivorous continuum.” We’re all on it, whether we realize it or not. We need to get past the line in the sand with “animal eaters” on one side and “leaf eaters” on the other – and not see this as a game of “which side are you on”.

    Rather, we need to enter and maintain a big-tent conversation toward our common goal of sustainability, regardless of our food choices and tastes. Thanks for doing your part to further this discussion.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Mollie, you are too kind, thank you for your warm words.

      I love your point about food being a profound bond — not a wedge — between us. Amen to that, sister, and pass the platter!

      Call me an optimist but I do think things are shifting and that many “animal eaters” and “leaf eaters” may be open to the very dialogue you suggest.

      Would others agree?

  11. MyKidsEatSquid Says:

    Interesting to hear a vegetarian’s confession–I’m still waiting for an in-depth explanation about just what makes this sandwich so special. I saw the pic in the link, but I’d love to hear your view. Waiting for more with watering taste buds…

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Fair enough. What is it exactly about this sandwich? It’s the breading, to be sure, and the big ol’ white roll from Acme bakery and the slaw with a hit of heat courtesy of jalapenos. And, frankly, it’s massive, so it appeals when hunger pangs strike. It usually takes me two meals to eat the whole shebang.

      But, it also must be said, it’s the fleshiness of the chicken as well that has me coming back for more. Does that satisfy your curiosity?

      Since I know this sandwich has something of a cult following, if you’ve had the opportunity to taste Bakesale Betty’s most popular lunchtime offering, feel free to share your own reasons for rating this roll so highly (or not, as the case may be, I know there are souls out there who don’t get this sandwich’s popularity.)

  12. Susan Says:

    I won’t judge you, Sarah. I try to keep vegetarian and have for 15+ years, but there is often meat in places it should not be, so I’ve adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on chicken stock. Otherwise I’d be that annoying dinner guest or picky restaurant diner who drives waiters and hostesses crazy! And I don’t want my dietary decisions to be a burden on other people, so I’m really more of a flexitarian. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Some people go meatless one (or a few) days a week and even that can have a positive impact on their health and on lowering the overall consumption of meat, in my opinion.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      thanks, susan, for not chastising me over chicken, or anything else, for that matter. i like your style, food wise, though i could just as easily understand a vegetarian who felt completely comfortable asking those questions that may drive others crazy (i’ve been that person too!).

  13. ellen Says:

    I’ve saved an article with the recipe for Betty’s sandwich, but haven’t dared to make it (except the coleslaw, which is exceptional.) The “nutritional values” are a little scary. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/08/01/FD5KRA8B62.DTL

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      thanks, ellen, i think. though your comment about the “nutritional values” has made me a little afraid to look.

  14. Lentil Breakdown Says:

    Thanks for the link, Sarah. Nice post. I have really been grappling with this subject lately. I’ve only eaten chicken twice in the last five or six weeks (and no other meat) and I haven’t missed it.

    But when I go out to eat with others, I see it becomes a big deal to be a vegetarian, and I don’t want to become the high-maintenance friend. I have also become consumed by all the conscious choices I have to make as a consumer, from buying plastic, buying local, is it sustainable, organic, yada yada. It’s exhausting! I feel a blog post coming on!

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Hi Lentil Breakdown, Nice to see you here and I look forward to that pending post.

      One question though: Why do we veg heads worry so much about being the so-called high-maintenance friend? Last I looked it is easier to pull a carrot out of a produce garden than it is to kill a cow. So why do we see ourselves in this light?


  15. Kyle Cornforth Says:

    Sarah, I loved this post! I would not be surprised if a few other closet chicken sandwich eaters come out of the shadows and reveal themselves after reading this. That sandwich is so delicious I have been known to drag my family kicking and screaming from the house on a perfectly peaceful Saturday to get one.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      I’d ship one to you in Thailand, Kyle, but somehow I don’t think it would arrive intact. Now I know what’s high on your to-do list when you head home.

  16. robin Says:

    Sarah, you speak for plenty of people who grapple with their food choices. As a long time ovo-lacto, now occasional pescatarian, I also find myself wanting to be honest, even when I am out in the food world making both veg and meat food for people. Unlike you, I don’t think I will ever eat chicken, but I suppose never say never.

    The thorny issues that we face in shopping can be complex, beyond the meat issue, and it is a testament to your conscience that you have so much thought behind your choice.

    The typical person just eats what is there, and it is an unexamined life. Enjoy your food, first and foremost, and keep eating real food. Thanks for weighing in.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Robin, thank you for your insightful comments — and for the timely reminder to both enjoy food — first and foremost — and keep eating real.

  17. Donna Hull Says:

    I’m not a vegetarian, but when spring arrives and fresh produce appears, I crave veggies and fruits. And, if you are a vegetarian, it’s ok to cheat every so often. Just do it in the healthiest way you can. Enjoyed this post.

  18. Kerry Says:

    I doubt you’ll lose any regular readers over this thoughtful post.
    I think it’s interesting, too, all the varied reason people choose to eat in the ways they do. Thanks for continuing the conversation on that.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Hi Kerry, thanks for the vote of confidence. And I agree, the how and why and when people choose to eat what they do is fascinating, really.

  19. Jennifer Margulis Says:

    Like your friend, I was a vegetarian for 20 years until I started gestating and lactating. Eating red meat actually gives me energy and makes me feel healthier though I still feel more aligned with vegetarian values. Glad you came out of the closet. I think a lot of us can relate!

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      You and my friend Connie should compare notes, Jennifer. And, yes, it does feel good to come clean about my food choices. Though when I told my son — over the dinner table, no less — he left the room and slammed the door!

      Ah, to be so young and so sure of everything you so staunchly believe in.

  20. becky Says:

    I’m an 18-year vegetarian (36-year old woman) coming back into the meat world. I stopped eating meat because I didn’t want the antibiotics, hormones, factory farmed meat. I wanted to know where it came from and how it got to be on my plate, and free-range organic was not available back then. I got involved in the farmers’ markets about 6 years ago and started seriously considering starting to eat meat again then. I knew the farms the meat came from. I could walk in the pastures where the animals grazed and fed. But still, the mental hurdle seemed insurmountable.

    I am re-entering the meat world slowly. First with some wild caught salmon. Then with some locally sourced rockfish. I’m actually enjoying it, though still finding that mental hurdle to be an obstacle. But, if it looks good, if it sounds good, I’ll try a bite.

    I have been a vegetarian so long that I don’t worry about being high maintenance anymore. I can always find something veggie on the menu. However, I haven’t told family or many of my friends that I’m re-entering the meat world because I don’t want to say, “Well, I do eat meat now, but I won’t eat the meat you bought.” To me, that feels much more confrontational and, well, judgmental than just saying I’m a veggie.

    It is interesting how we apologize for our choices, how others want to judge our choices, how our choices change with time. It’s such a personal thing, and yet we’re all connected by this great food system. And, in this age of the rise of responsibly raised and responsibly sourced meat and fish, it’s not as simple as a yes or no anymore.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Welcome Becky, and thank you for such a thoughtful response, full of such good points. I can relate to many of them.

      One of the weird things about coming out of the closet on the eating chicken front is I don’t want anyone to start trying to force feed me meat when I don’t want it, especially, as you say, when you don’t know where it’s coming from or how it was raised. And I’ve been afraid that folks might try and lure me over to the dark side of organ and offal meat. Or wax on about the wonders of bacon.

      But, honestly, most people I know are too busy with their own lives to focus on my food obsessions. One of the beauties of getting older is we all realize that there are more, ah, gray areas in life and most everyone I know just wants to see me healthy and happy, and I feel likewise.

      One of my diehard veg friends sent me an email saying this post made her laugh out loud and she loves me anyway, regardless of what I eat.

      Just what I needed to hear. Let’s save the judging for Judge Judy. I happened to catch this program in Australia, of all places, while sitting in a 24-hour medical center waiting to hear if my son’s toe was broken. But that’s another story….Still, have you seen that show? Incredible! Who knew. The kids were riveted. That gal with a gavel is one tough cookie.

    • amandamaria Says:

      Thank you for this fantastic post and all the great, thoughtful replies. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone!

      I’m a long-time vegetarian and have supported friends and family through their own transitions to a more meat-free diet. However, now I am wrestling with the desire to extend my palate into the broadening sustainable meat category. I’ve had bites here and there at restaurants which source trustworthy beef or at the houses of foodie friends I know have made conscious choices about what they are preparing.

      Becky, it’s comforting to hear your experience of not telling your family. I’m taking a similar approach. After years of being called a “picky” or “quirky” eater, I’m tired of constantly explaining my food choices.

      And it goes the other way, when I mentioned to my friend I was going to eat some meat, she got so excited, “we can have barbecues all summer!” Do I then explain to her I would only eat organic, free range (and grass finished), certified humane and not the plastic-wrapped, sitting on the freezer shelf at Trader Joe’s food-like substance she was likely to throw on the grill?

      It’s sad to let go of something that has been a part of my life for so long. But so exciting to embark on a new range of flavors! Flexitarian it is!

  21. JCN Says:

    Very interesting post and comments following it. I’d made a 2010 food resolution to follw the 80/20 flexitarian rule this year – making sure only 20% of my diet includes meat – only to be diagnosed with fairly severe anemia and a digestion that doesn’t tolerate iron supplements well. So I am actually finding I am eating small amounts of red meat even more frequently than I previously did (which wasn’t often; at most once a month.) Has anyone had any success with Vit B shots in dealing with anemia?

    Also – regarding your question about why the animals are cow, pig and sheep but the foods are beef, pork and mutton …. it all goes back to the history of the waves of invasion into England. The animal names are mainly from the Saxon languages and were used by the Anglo-Saxons. After the Normans invaded from France, they differentiated their superior status over the conquered Anglo-Saxons by using food names deriving from the old French. Hence pork from porc, and beef – bouef; and of course mutton – mouton. Not sure why chicken didn’t become poulet … but of course, we still call it poultry.

    It was a social badge of honour to use these terms when they appeared on your dinner plate! Or so I have been told.

  22. Sarah Henry Says:

    This is what I love about my readers: They know more than I do. Thanks, Julie, for the history primer. Fascinating stuff and now it all makes total sense to me.

    As for your anemia, arggh, major bummer it can be so fatigue-inducing.

    This might sound so basic but I’m wondering if you could tolerate a multivitamin with iron better than straight iron supplements?

    I ask because I never did too well with those iron tablets they give you after giving blood — who does? — they kinda mess with the natural order of your digestive tract. But a few years back when I had a blood count taken my doc said something like “you’ve got a great red cell count, do you eat lots of steak?”

    Which was pretty funny, considering. I do eat a lot of leafy greens but I also pop a multiv w/iron for insurance. Just a thought. Hope you feel better soon.

  23. Anna Chan, The Lemon Lady Says:

    It’s late. I’ll come back and read more! I want to read every single comment. It’s a great conversation going on here. I know where to find good writing and thoughtful commentary.

  24. Kris Says:

    We are meat eaters here in this household, thought I try to serve meatless dinners 50% of the time. I’ve managed to find a source for local, grass-fed beef but not local chicken, so I find that I’m using beef in recipes more than usual. I don’t like the idea of factory farmed chicken/animals, so I’d just as soon skip it altogether, even if it is a lower fat choice.

  25. Alisa Bowman Says:

    Loved the “middle aged meat crisis” line.

  26. Christine at Origami Mommy Says:

    Our family eats meat, but I have gone through vegetarian phases in my life and seem to be entering one again. This was very thought provoking. I am positive you are not alone!

    I like what Mollie says about needing to get past the line in the sand and have a larger conversation about sustainability. Lots for me to mull over on my long plane trip back to the US today.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Christine, I agree, the old debate pitting omnivores vs. vegetarians is obsolete. The bigger picture these days is, as you note, sustainability. Here’s to a continued conversation.

  27. Oakland finally gets a Sunday Streets! Plus, highlights of this week’s blogoaksphere. : A Better Oakland Says:

    […] come to grips with an addiction to Bakesale Betty’s fried chicken sandwiches? Sarah from Lettuce Eat Kale explains. (Okay, this is technically a Berkeley based blog, but I just really loved this […]

  28. A.E. Says:

    I hope I don’t come across with that confrontational-internet-comment-tone, but only an adamant tone. If you really feel that you need more nutrition in your diet, a chicken sandwich is not the best option. Genuine health has little to do with veg*nism v. omnivorous eating, and more to do with what what your foods are doing for you/to you. Regardless of the choice you make about eating animals, you should avoid grains, potatoes, and sugar. Starches like these actually bind to proteins in your body and destroy them. So whatever you choose, if it’s really in the name of health and sustainability, know that the starches above fall into neither of those categories and will make your meat or no meat choices almost irrelevant to your health.

    Also, whether “raised with love, care, good feed, and bucolic views” or not, no animal (as we know via empathy) appreciates, accepts, or is willing to be killed and eaten. Without a fence to keep it within your reach, any animal who even remotely suspects it is about to be hurt or killed will try to run, and it used to be up to us to chase them for our own survival. To forget this authentic relationship when trying to make a choice based on ethics is a core issue.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Hi A.E.,

      No problems with your tone from this quarter and I’m glad you weighed in with a perspective that hasn’t yet been raised on this thread.

      Though I’m not sure where you get your nutritional information regarding whole grains, which is at odds with my understanding of their value in a healthy diet.

      Regardless, many folks with strong feelings regarding the ethics of killing animals for food will appreciate your viewpoint.

      • A.E. Says:

        Hi Sarah,

        Grains and other starches are in almost all cases inflammatory foods. They cause cellular inflammation in the body (which contributes to aging and disease).

        Grain production is very hard on the land and is responsible for much of the loss of our topsoil. But it’s BIG business in our country, and so naturally, we all grew up thinking grains were good, and now that “whole grains” are great. This might be a helpful resource:


        We all know that sugar (apart from fruit) is toxic to the body (largely because it’s so inflammatory). But grains and potatoes do much the same thing. They cause insulin spikes and resistance, and contribute to protein degradation. When you replace them with fruits and veggies and eat lots of protein and fat, you see a huge difference in your mood, skin, and body (vegans and non-vegans alike).

        Now I’m not saying I don’t eat a potato or a vegan Pepples donut now and then, but I realize that it’s not actually food and it’s going to have consequences in my body. Check out Dr. Perricone’s books as well! He’s a great resource too.

  29. Sarah Henry Says:

    Well, I could sure stand “to see a huge difference in my mood, skin, and body,” right about now. I don’t mean to sound flippant. I am, in fact, serious.

    Thanks for passing along these resources, A.E., I’ll check ’em out.

  30. michelle Says:


    Thank you for your post. It’s been resonating in my thoughts for days. It struck me on several different levels.

    I come from an extremely conservative, fundamentalist family w/ a heavily meat oriented diet. Moving to the Bay Area 14 years ago was part of a long journey to find balance in the many areas of my life – political, social, health (mental and physical!), etc……It’s proven, for the most part, to be a really good move and I’m so happy to be here.

    On the food front, I find myself swinging back and forth from a nearly vegetarian diet to one where I have some lump of flesh three or four times a week. I hereby ‘out’ myself as a confirmed flexitarian!

    I really liked your comparison of the fluidity of sexuality and the ever-shifting needs and desires of nurturing and feeding one’s body.

    Over the weekend it seemed to me that the conversation could be pushed even further to include the current political climate. (Okay, now everyone is going to stop reading and think that I’m a real nut but I’m just sayin’…)

    There is such extremism and divisiveness on all levels whether it’s Veggie vs. Flesh Eaters, so called traditional ‘Family Values’ vs. Alternative Family Models, Left vs. Right…and it percolates all the way through our lives down to just what does your sandwich consist of??

    What I liked so much in your post was the fact that you addressed the issue of tolerance. Not only of others, but for ourselves.

    Thank you.

    • Sarah Henry Says:

      Hey Michelle,

      Thanks for weighing in — and for being brave enough to touch on the sexuality analogy — I thought no one was gonna want to go there publicly. I’m glad you did.

      And I’m the last person to call someone else a nut for steering a conversation in new and unexpected directions. Clearly.

      Here’s to tolerance at the table, in the bedroom, and when we talk — to others and to ourselves!

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