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.