What is “Meat,” and Other Labels: A Preface to Today’s Recipe

Later today, I will be posting a recipe from the other night. Let me preface this by saying that this post will contain pictures of chicken, so if you’re vegan or that isn’t your thing, I respect that and want to give you a heads up. Let me also take this time to clarify something- I am not vegan, nor have I claimed to be vegan. I have stated that many of my meals are vegan or easily made vegan, as I do not eat any of the tricky animal byproducts that sneak their way into many meals (butter, milk, cream, eggs, cheese, etc). I have also stated that I do not eat “meat”- this is not a claim of veganism. Let’s get nerdy and technical for a moment and consult our dictionary (cue throat clearing as I push my glasses up to the bridge of my nose and lick my index finger). Merriam-Webster defines “meat” as “animal tissue considered especially as food; flesh of a mammal as opposed to fowl or fish.” Again, Collins dictionary concurs with this distinction between mammals and fowl/fish.

cow pig chicken fish carrot

So why do I list myself as “meat-free”? Perhaps because I use “meat” to describe beef, pork, and other mammals, while distinguishing the animal proteins I do eat by the terms “poultry” and “fish.” And perhaps because saying “meat-free” is a lot easier than saying “I don’t eat steak, ground beef, red meat, veal, moomoos, pork, ham, oinks, lamb, brisket, sheep, goat” in a short tagline. I do, however, go into more detail about what I do and don’t eat in my “about me” section, where I simplify/joke that if it has more than two legs, I don’t eat it. So, no, I am not vegan because I do eat chicken and the occasional turkey or fish (note: not “seafood”- I don’t eat shellfish, shrimp, etc). Perhaps I should change my tagline to mammal-free”- it’s certainly catchier. Some of you might be preparing to lambast me for my apparent “hypocrisy,” but know that I eat the way that I do not to fit nicely under a label or tagline, but to avoid foods that I have shown allergic and inflammatory responses to through blood and scratch testing. While it might not “make sense” to you, it makes sense to my body… and isn’t that all that matters?

I have never claimed that the way I eat is “the right way” to eat, or that another person’s way is “the wrong way” to eat. If what you eat and how you eat has given you results- makes you feel great and look great, gives your body fuel, makes your body lean and toned- then go for it! I think why so many people struggle with nutrition and why we, as a nation (and, now, as a planet), struggle with something as simple as food is because we are always trying to label everything. Low-fat. Low-carb. Vegan. Vegetarian. Gluten-free. Raw. Paleo. Pescatarian. Fruitarian. My God, I feel like I’m in the high school cafeteria trying to decide which clique’s table with whom to sit. None of it matters! No one is “right”! I was so fed up with it, that I threw my proverbial tray up in the air and started my own table, my own niche, brought my own bag lunch. I despise labels, I always have. I don’t call myself “gluten-free” or “vegan” or “dairy-free.” If someone inquires about my diet (note: I never initiate this conversation), I will respond “Oh, I don’t eat X because I have an allergy or sensitivity.” I don’t label myself. I was the girl in catholic school who opted for the stereotypical plaid skirt as opposed to the boring skort so I could pair it with knee high socks and a smear of black eyeliner, because don’t you dare try to put me in a box. You are fabulous, you are your own person. If you believe that, no one can ever take it away from you.

fad-diets

If you feel healthy, prepare your own meals, love your food and put love in it, feel pride in your food and your ingredients, get all your necessary nutrients, eat all your fruits and vegetables, and avoid processed and fast food, then you are welcome at my table any day of the week. You eat cheese, or beef, or whatever else? I don’t, but that’s still fine. I won’t chastise you, berate you, give you disgusted looks, or comment on how your food makes me “want to hurl.” In fact, many of the blogs I follow are not gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or what have you, but I can still appreciate the food, the care, the effort, the pride, and the love. For example, alifemoment posted a delicious stuffed zucchini recipe that contained beef and cheese. While I don’t eat these ingredients, I still think her recipe looks and sounds amazing! I don’t scroll through an interesting recipe until I find an offending ingredient and exclaim “Ew. Vom. Gross. Next!” Where is the fun in that? The challenge? I’m a critical thinker (thanks liberal arts college), an analyzer, and a problem-solver. I never think, “Ugh I can’t eat this;” instead, I think, “how can I make this my own?” My brain starts humming, my nutrition neurons start firing, and I think “hm, I could replace the beef with a ground chicken or tempeh, the cheddar cheese with Daiya or just leave it all out together. Hm, maybe I could toss in some gluten free breadcrumbs to thicken it up in place of the egg.”

Recipes are simply guidelines, a spark of inspiration and imagination, an idea of a taste combination. There is no recipe for life– a concoction of ingredients, people, places, and things that will make you happy and fill you up. There are no rules for a happy, healthy life. No one has come up with the universal “right” answer because there isn’t one. The key in life is to find the right answer for you the right food, the right exercise, the right people, the right career. The answer doesn’t exist in the world, but an answer does- an answer crafted just for your special, singular self… you just have to find it. Others can help- their diets, recipes, and advice can guide you, but you have to take the final step. People are always searching for the elusive unicorn, the answer for all. Unicorns do exist, but we’re just so busy trying to box everything into defined labels that we miss the bigger picture. You are a damn majestic unicorn– you eat your magical unicorn hay, shake your fabulous rainbow tail, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Rainbow Unicorn

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