The ‘Vegetarian or bust.’ post was born of a visceral reaction to the gruesome sincerity of slaughter, and a connection to my mother’s story of the headless chicken flailing about the barnyard. It was amusing because she would gloss over the butchering and bloodiness, thereby rendering it sterile and harmless.

It got me thinking about two things:

1.) This was an opportunity to connect to my mother’s experience. Since I can’t share the Amish chicken story with her–due to her advanced Alzheimer’s–sharing it with others was a small way to honor one of her memories.

2.) I’ve read that as a modern society, we are largely disconnected from our food sources. The Amish episode dealt with a young “English” woman wanting to join the order. Witnessing the slaughter of the chicken was a test. She passed the test; I would’ve flunked. Then puked.

Here’s another interesting example:

Recently on Oprah’s Next Chapter, she and her BFF Gayle King visited Paula Deen at her compound in Savannah. As you can imagine, there was a whole lotta good eatin’ that night, and in the mornin’, “we-uh gonna catch some catfeeish for breakfast, yawl.”

I give the gals a lot of credit for showing up–wearing baggy jammies, morning hair and no makeup–to handle raw liver bait and throw a line in Paula’s pond. Naturally, Oprah bagged the first and only one. (I imagine she’s so famous even that fish was dying to meet her.)

But here’s the real ‘catch’ of the day: she couldn’t handle the idea of killing and eating it. It was too personal. “It’s dying, it’s dying! Please, throw it back! Throw it back!” Cut to the gals eating biscuits while Paula deep fries catfish fillets. Which prompted Oprah to comment that she only wants to eat fish that has been neatly packaged.

Right. It no longer resembles a living thing.

I made this the other night, and I share it here because it’s delicious: Garlic Cheddar Chicken. And yes, it involves boneless, skinless chicken, which happily no longer resembles a living thing. I admit it: I’m relieved to be disconnected from the original source. What can I say? I am at one with modern living; as a toddler I was toilet-trained and have never looked back. In other words, and to quote Woody Allen, I am at two with nature.

However, I am not isolated from it, and am grateful for that. We live on roughly six acres of land that can be legally hunted in season and with permission. My husband Doug, his sons, and his best friends are deer hunters. This picture* was taken in our yard:

I took the picture. I’ll leave it at that for now.

*Doug’s friends. I hid their faces out of respect for their privacy.


Vegetarian or bust.

When I was a kid, my mother would prepare chicken dishes, but she hated to eat any of it. She explained that while visiting her grandmother in Indiana (her Grammaw Heaton), she had the dubious honor of witnessing the slaughter of their dinner. She told me that after the chicken was decapitated, it continued to run around, sort of desperately, and the vision of it haunted her. I used to laugh at that, because the idea of it was funny.

But I just saw an episode of Amish Out of Order, and there was a chicken–plump, white and beautiful–plucked (no pun intended) from her coop and thrown into a carrying cage. She was brought to a wire runner (where they apparently ripped her head off; I couldn’t watch) and in the next scene the chicken was running with no head–just a bloody neck–running in a straight line, then flopping over on its back and fluffing its wings in the dirt. I was horrified. I may never eat chicken again.

This comes on the heals of cleaning the meat off a rotisserie chicken yesterday. I’ve done it hundreds of times, but this time, I noticed its spine. And it affected me to the point that I didn’t want to continue. This was a living thing, I thought. This was a bird and now it’s meat. I was nauseous.

I could easily be a vegetarian. I’m not at this point, but I could be. So why aren’t I? I suppose I could blame my husband, a committed carnivore. But that wouldn’t be fair.

Truth be told, I’ve been slowly introducing meatless meals for about a year. And all was going well, until I realized that there were a lot of leftovers, and I was the only one eating them. So I decided to buy burgers for him and meatless burgers for me. That worked out okay, but there are only so many burgers (veggie or otherwise) that you can stand.

I tried introducing wheat berries into our lives, because I found a good recipe for Wheat berry and Black Bean Chili. Unfortunately, wheat berries require an overnight soak, followed by a long cooking process. And in the end, I was eating it far longer than anyone should have to, because my husband didn’t like it.

I guess I’m weird because I love leftovers. I was raised by a father who would eat things from the fridge that couldn’t be identified anymore. But it’s impossible to eat leftovers if no one else has eaten any of it.

What should I do?