Tag Archive for country

Going Vegetarian: A One-Week Experiment

Vegetarian Animal Meat CartoonGrow­ing up, I was a meat-eater. I never knew any different.

I am a Texan. Cows and chick­ens and pigs meant about the same thing to me as a rib­eye steak, sausage bis­cuit, ham­burger, or chicken ten­der. I knew the food I ate came from ani­mals. That’s all I needed to know. Meat (and pota­toes) is the sta­ple for every meal, even break­fast. Meat was a part of the norm of every­day life.

It wasn’t until I left Texas that I real­ized I had a name. I was a “meat-eater.”

I first became con­scious of my own iden­tity as a meat-eater in grad­u­ate school, when I was the out­sider, the “meat-eater.” Most of my friends were veg­e­tar­i­ans or veg­ans (a term I learned for the first time).

I was intrigued by these non-meat-eating peo­ple. Why would some­one choose not to eat meat?

I soon learned that they did so for a vari­ety of rea­sons: some moral, some envi­ron­men­tal, some out of con­cern for the ani­mals (And I thought I was the Chris­t­ian!), some for health rea­sons. Other chose to not eat meat because they could. They pointed out that in Amer­ica, there is oppor­tu­nity and means to live this way. They were quick to point out that not every­one in the world could choose to go with­out meat.

They didn’t seek to change my meat-eating habits; I didn’t seek to change their meat-free habits.

But, when I went out to eat with them, I watched what they ate. Lentils and hum­mus and edamame—foods I had never heard of. I asked end­less ques­tions about what foods they ate and what their favorite foods were. I even col­lected their favorite veg­e­tar­ian recipes. When I had a party at my house, I pro­vided both meat and meat-free options.

Soon, I began to try small bites off their plates. I tried food I had never tried before, food I had never even heard of one year prior. I tasted fla­vors I had never experienced.

I began to order veg­e­tar­ian entrees on occa­sion.

I even liked to eat a few meals here and there with­out meat. I tried cook­ing a few veg­e­tar­ian entrees (like a lasagna or a soup), but my hus­band was very, very resis­tant to the idea, so I only ate this way with my grad­u­ate school friends.

Then I moved back to Texas. Back to the Land of the Cow, and the Home of the Steak. Back to big stom­achs and meat, and lots and lots and lots of it. Back to where “veg­etable” equals “potato.”

I began to notice some­thing. I had changed. My rela­tion­ship to food and with food had changed. I no longer looked at food the same way. I no longer thought of ani­mals the same way. Instead of lin­ger­ing at the meat counter, I often found myself lin­ger­ing in the pro­duce sec­tion, exam­in­ing fruits or veg­eta­bles I had never cooked before, like arti­chokes, beets, but­ter­nut squash, and parsnips. I began to buy organic foods on occa­sion. I even shopped at a dif­fer­ent gro­cery store, the one that sold nuts, grains, and beans in bulk bins.

I was different.

Some viewed me as crazy. Oth­ers looked at me oddly. Oth­ers didn’t care. I was called a “hip­pie,” a “gra­nola,” and a “lib­eral.” I was dif­fer­ent from most Tex­ans (except my col­leagues at Bay­lor and other aca­d­e­mics around the state, but most of these aren’t from Texas any­way). My environmentally-friendly, health-conscious lifestyle labeled me.

I was OK with that.

Now, I often eat veg­e­tar­ian meals when I am by myself—at con­fer­ences, at work, at restau­rants in Waco. But not all the time. I don’t think there is any­thing inher­ently wrong with eat­ing meat (many veg­e­tar­i­ans and veg­ans do); I just choose to eat veg­e­tar­ian on occa­sion. Doing so has made me more con­scious, more aware of the world around me.

Now, instead of just plow­ing into the food, I thank God, gen­uinely, for the ani­mal who sac­ri­ficed his life so that I could eat him.

I linger over food, over the meat and veg­eta­bles. I savor my bites. I eat more slowly.

I think about how the food was processed and the work­ers who spent time prep­ping the ani­mal and the meat so that I could eat it “with­out get­ting my hands dirty.”

I talk with my chil­dren about where meat and veg­eta­bles and cheese and milk come from. I encour­age them to try exotic foods.

Even though I have a dif­fer­ent rela­tion­ship with food, I did not become a veg­e­tar­ian. Liv­ing in Texas, being mar­ried to a man who loves his meat, hav­ing young chil­dren, eat­ing at our weekly church potlucks, and liv­ing in a small rural town is not con­ducive to liv­ing a meat-free lifestyle. In fact, I can’t think of one sin­gle restau­rant in my town that serves a veg­e­tar­ian entrée. Sure, some of them serve sal­ads, but the entrée sal­ads all have meat (grilled chicken, shrimp, or fajita beef). Even the single-portion sal­ads often have bacon bits. Mex­i­can restau­rants serve cheese enchi­ladas, but that is not my idea of a healthy, ful­fill­ing meal.

It is dif­fi­cult to eat veg­e­tar­ian in a rural Texas town.

If I lived in a big­ger city in Texas, I would have more access. But, I would still be mar­ried to my meat-loving hus­band. And I would still eat meat. In fact, other than a few Meat­less Mon­days here and there with my fam­ily, I have never gone longer than two meals with­out meat. Seri­ously. I eat meat at least once a day. I don’t want to be a veg­e­tar­ian. I still like meat and want to eat it on occasion.

So, I have decided to chal­lenge myself. I have decided to par­tic­i­pate in a week-long exper­i­ment: to see if I could go meat-free for one full week.

I am in Michi­gan this week, away from my fam­ily and eat­ing in a cafe­te­ria for almost every meal. I have seen signs that there are veg­e­tar­ian and vegan options at var­i­ous cam­pus cafe­te­rias, so I have decided that this week is a good one to do it. I will attempt to take pic­tures and blog about my expe­ri­ences each day this week (depend­ing on how much time I have; If not, I’ll do it when I get back.).

I hope you’ll join me on my journey.

It’s a Matter of Perspective

When Shane and I first moved back to Texas from Ken­tucky, we lived in Gatesville, a small town about 45 min­utes west of Waco. Shane was the preacher at a church there. I became good friends with Amy, a girl who lived with her hus­band about 5 miles out­side of the town. When we talked at church or on the phone about what we would be doing the next day, she often told me, “I have to make a trip to town tomor­row.” The first time she used this phrase, I thought she meant that she would be dri­ving to Waco. That’s what I meant when I said I was dri­ving to town. Cool! Let’s go together. To me, dri­ving into town meant a long drive to the “big city.”

Living in the Country

Image cour­tesy of freefoto.com

But I soon learned that she did not mean that at all. Instead, when she said she would be dri­ving into town, she meant that she would be dri­ving the five miles into our town, not to Waco. She lived in the coun­try and “town” for her was Gatesville. I lived inside the city lim­its (and also came from the big city), so, to me, “town” was the big­ger city of Waco.

It was a mat­ter of perspective.

Last week I posted 12 rea­sons I like liv­ing in the coun­try. A lot of peo­ple read that post, and, since then, at least five peo­ple have told me, “You know you don’t really live in the coun­try.”* They have pointed out to me that since I have city water and city sewage, I do not live in the coun­try. They also used as evi­dence the fact that I do not have well water. No, I do not live in the coun­try, they say; I live in a “rural com­mu­nity,” “a small town.” One friend at my church even com­mented that she must have me out to their house so that I can see what liv­ing in the coun­try truly means.

In some sense, I agree with them. Yes, I do live in a city. It is rural and small, but it’s still a city. We have about 7,000 peo­ple liv­ing here. I do not have to “drive into town” for gro­ceries. I have neigh­bors. I have a city address. I live on a paved street. I do not have a well. I do not have a stock tank. I do not have cows or horses or pigs. I have inter­net access and it is fast. I have good cell ser­vice. We have 4G.

No, I do not live in the coun­try in the same sense my great-grandmother Meme did while she was alive. She lived in a single-wide trailer with noth­ing else around her for miles. No gro­cery stores, gas sta­tions, or schools. Not even a Wal-Mart. She used well water. She had cats run­ning all over the place. She had a big tank in her yard that we liked to climb all over. Skunks lived under her trailer and made a major mess of things. She lived in the country.

Shane’s grand­mother also lives in the coun­try. I love going out there to the ranch. She lives in the coun­try in a way that I do not.

But, in another sense, I do live in the coun­try. Although it may not be the coun­try in the tech­ni­cal sense of the word or in the same way my great-grandmother did, I still live in the coun­try in com­par­i­son to my expe­ri­ences of city life.

As I men­tioned before on this blog, I grew up in Hous­ton. For those of you who live in or have lived in big cities, this doesn’t need much expla­na­tion. For those of you who were part of my life in Hous­ton and knew what life was like for your­self and for me, you know what a state­ment like this means. Images of city life imme­di­ately take hold, and you can imag­ine what big city life is like.

But for oth­ers who have not lived in a city or a big­ger city, say­ing that may not mean very much.

When I grad­u­ated high school and first moved to Abi­lene for col­lege, I thought I had moved to the mid­dle of nowhere. Abi­lene was con­sid­ered a “small town” to those of us who came from big­ger cities. It was. About 150,000 peo­ple. Fast for­ward sev­eral years later to Gatesville: 10,000 people.

My def­i­n­i­tion of “small town” soon shifted. Gatesville was a small town; Waco was the “big city.”

How we regard life is a mat­ter of per­spec­tive. Where we’ve come from. Where we’ve been.

Our per­spec­tive shapes what we see. Our per­spec­tive lim­its what we see.

Only when we inter­act with oth­ers who come from dif­fer­ent places than we do, who have dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences, who believe dif­fer­ent things, can we truly under­stand how lim­ited, sit­u­ated, and incom­plete our per­spec­tive is.

Only when we get to know oth­ers can we truly grow in our own per­spec­tives.

*My hus­band was one of the peo­ple who told me that I am wrong, that, no, we do not live in the coun­try. I think this is inter­est­ing because, like me, he lived in big cities for most of his life. I think it’s even more inter­est­ing because he has  referred to where we live as the wilder­ness.

We Were Swinging

Some fam­ily vis­ited us this week­end. City folks. My mom and younger sis­ter Kellee and her adorable daugh­ter Olivia.

Olivia at 17 months

Sweet Olivia

My mom is from Hous­ton and my sis­ter is from Dal­las. We live about halfway in between the two cities, so they met in the mid­dle at my house for the week­end. We enjoyed our­selves. We didn’t “do” much–not as much as we would have had we gone to one of their homes, or to my other sis­ter Kim’s house in Austin. There, we prob­a­bly would have taken the kids some­where to do some activ­ity (i.e., a museum, a splash pad, a well-known park, a great restau­rant, the movies, shop­ping). The activ­ity would have been a lot of fun, but it would prob­a­bly have cost a lot of money and we would have been on-the-go the whole time.

In this small town, we don’t have as much access to these kinds of expe­ri­ences. Sure, we could have dri­ven to Waco, which is about an hour away, but Kellee’s house is only an hour and fif­teen min­utes away. Why would we do that? And our small town does have some entic­ing places to eat as well as a won­der­ful state park just a few miles away.

But, they didn’t really come here to spend more time in the car. They came here know­ing we prob­a­bly wouldn’t do very much. They came to rest. To relax. To take things slow. To get away. To enjoy the slow pace.

And it was the sim­plic­ity of our week­end that they seemed to enjoy the most. This says a lot com­ing from my mom who likes to be busy and “doing” things. She is con­stantly on the go and likes it that way. But not this week­end. She was the one who kept insist­ing that we just take things slow.

Fri­day night, we did have one event. We went to Elizabeth’s t-ball game. She played the best game of her (3-year!) career, and it was a lot of fun.

Elizabeth at t-ball game

My mom with Levi

Nana with Levi

Sat­ur­day morn­ing, we watched the kids swim in the kid­die pool and play on the jun­gle gym.

My mom, Kellee, and I sat in one of our porch swings for much of the day, drink­ing our Sonic drinks and talking.

Kellee and Olivia

My sis­ter Kellee and niece OliviaLevi (9 months) play­ing in the pool

Swinging awaySat­ur­day after­noon we walked over to our church to attend a Fish Fry. None of us really knew what to expect and, to be hon­est, we were a bit skep­ti­cal of how the food would taste or what it would be like.

I guess some peo­ple from my church are read­ing my blog because one woman was very sur­prised that I had never attended one before because “it isn’t a coun­try thing; it’s a lake thing.” My fam­ily went camp­ing two to three times a year when I was younger, and we would fish. We caught perch and cat­fish, but we always threw it back. Even if we were to catch some­thing worth eat­ing, my dad didn’t have the sup­plies to clean and fry the fish, so we always threw it back.

But there’s just some­thing about fresh fish. It is scrump­tious. The fish we ate was breaded with flour and coated with a deli­cious mix of spices. It was flaky, yet crispy and so very tasty. We also ate our fill of hush­pup­pies (which Pey­ton kept call­ing “cheese balls” because they were so soft in the mid­dle), cole slaw, potato salad, baked beans, and all kinds of desserts. I hope I can attend many more fish fries while I’m in the coun­try (And it was really nice not to have to cook it but to enjoy some­one else cook­ing for me for a change!).

After the fish fry, we went back home, put the kids to bed and sat in the back­yard on the swing for the rest of the evening. The breeze rus­tled the trees. The birds tweeted and chirped. Our dog Shiloh ran around and licked our feet (they did not like that). It was even cool enough that my mom wore a light­weight jacket. We enjoyed the smell of the night air and the cooler weather, know­ing it would not last much longer. Sum­mer heat and humid­ity would be com­ing soon.

And we kept swing­ing. Even long after it got dark. We were swing­ing, back and forth. Enjoy­ing the quiet of the country.

This was a relax­ing week­end for us all. It was peace­ful, rest­ful, and sim­ple. If you were to ask us what we did all week­end, I would say, “We were swing­ing.” I was glad that my fam­ily got to expe­ri­ence a lit­tle bit of my life, to see why this city girl likes the coun­try.