Thursday, November 8, 2018

Being Flexible

For the past few weeks, I’ve been flirting with the notion of vegetarianism. The reasons for this are varied, strangely arbitrary and have nothing to do with animal rights (when did they write a Constitution?), the environment, health, religion or any other misplaced conviction. In fact, the reasons are so random, insignificant and seemingly unrelated that even I don’t know how they combined to cause such a radical (for me) decision. I suppose it didn’t hurt that I have lived with vegetarians for much of my adult life, but I can’t say that figured into my decision any more than reading a book about WWII spies* did. Suffice it to say, the drip-drip-drip of life events finally converged into a rippling wave that slowly pushed me toward the Island of Alternative Eating and left me stranded on its shore.

That's not food, that's what food eats.
My plan is to become what I like to call a Hypocritical Vegetarian (a Hypocritarian?), which means I will only eat animals that A) are too tasty to ignore, and B) suffer the misfortune of not having a suitable meat substitute available. Fish are especially lacking in this area. There is no substitute for tuna in a tuna-fish sandwich, nor do breaded tofu sticks measure up in any meaningful way to what Capt’n Birds Eye serves up. Also, I have yet to find a plant-based turkey, so I’m afraid Tom-turkey will be visiting my dining table this Thanksgiving, along with a bit of Percy-pig in the stuffing.

But I’m comfortable with that. Vegetarianism isn’t something you can nail down. You don’t pound a stake into the ground, point to it and say, “This is where vegetarianism lives.” Vegetarianism is a continuum, and anyone further along that continuum is free to look over their shoulder and call anyone behind them a hypocrite. I think that’s a waste of time, because while they are doing that, the people further along the continuum are looking over their shoulders and calling them hypocrites.

For the record, my wife is the only person I know—and I hasten to add there are certainly many more, I just don’t know them—who is a non-hypocritical vegetarian. This is because, unlike many vegetarians, she doesn’t avoid meat for any social, spiritual or metaphysical reason, she just doesn’t like meat. So, to be pedantic, she’s not really a vegetarian; she’s just a picky eater.

I, on the other hand, am quite fond of meat, but I am willing to give it up, to a degree, based on a collage of esoteric reasons that I don’t pretend to understand. It’s been an interesting journey so far, a time of trial and error and surprising discoveries — some good, some not so good. (Have you ever tried vegan pepperoni? Don’t.) But overall, I was pleased, especially with the idea that I had invented my own, personal style of vegetarianism, until I discovered that I hadn’t.

Apparently, what I am doing is so popular, it has its own name — Flexitarian — which is defined as “people who eat a plant-based diet with the occasional inclusion of meat.” (Or, to put it another way, people who aren’t vegetarians.)

Flexitarianism is not new, it is merely experiencing an inconvenient resurgence in popularity; otherwise, I would have remained happily ignorant of it. In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted Flexitarian as the year’s most useful word. Had I known this a few weeks ago, I would never have considered putting a toe on the vegetarian continuum; I hate the idea that I jumped on a bandwagon. I wanted to be a lone, hypocritical voice, crying in the vegewilderness. Instead, I’m just another guy pretending to be a vegetarian while the people ahead of us on the continuum look over their shoulders and scowl. It’s disappointing to discover that I have to share the scorn.

I remain pleasantly surprised, however, to find there are people on the continuum who are behind me. People I could scowl over my shoulder at, if I was of that ilk. Apparently, you can just give up steak and call yourself a Pollo-pescetarian. And if you give up chicken in the bargain, you become a Pescetarian, which is sorta where I am, with occasional forays into Pollo-territory. Then there are vegetarians who don’t consume dairy products, who can scowl at us all, and those who eschew eggs, who can scowl at them. Now you are getting into Vegan territory, but that is no more nailed down than vegetarianism is. Do you eat honey? What about plants that are sustained by slave-bees, who are trucked to orchards and fields and forced to pollinate, then rounded up and trucked to another location. So Veganitis is as woolly a condition as Pollo-Pesce-eggavoidance is.

Incidentally, the way to determine if someone is a vegetarian or a vegan is this: You can have a conversation with a vegetarian, even go for a meal with them. You’ll have a lovely chat and part never knowing they are a vegetarian. But if you meet a vegan, you can’t spend 15 second with them without them telling you about it. You might think their lifestyle a little odd, but trust me, they are simply the lid on an economy-sized package of nut-burgers.

No, it's you
Beyond vegans are fruitarians, who only eat fruit (not sustained by slave-bees, I assume). And beyond them are Breatharians, who believe you can survive on sunlight and water alone. Even Breatharians are divided into camps, where one group believes you don’t need the water, just the sunlight. The way to tell these two apart is: the non-water ones die within a few days, the water and sunlight ones can last weeks.

Obviously, I have no intention of exploring those extremes of the continuum, I’m comfortable back here, near the beginning (but not at the beginning) and unperturbed about being labeled a hyprcitarian.

Just don’t call me a Flexitarian.

* In this book, which was an account of a true story, a young man joined the Nazis for the purpose of spying on them and manages to tap into a very valuable stream of information. His girlfriend, who is helping him, gets mistaken for a Nazi sympathizer by Partisans and the young man has to stand by and watch her get put up against a wall and shot because, if he tried to intervene, he would have given himself away, wherein he would have found himself up against the wall, and the information necessary for the Allied war effort would stop. Nothing whatsoever to do with vegetarianism, but it provided one of the many threads that formed the rope that pulled me toward it. 


  1. What was the book? It sounds worth a read.

    1. The Book is, Under a Crimson Sky by Mark Sullivan. The story about the book is interesting, as well. And the book is okay. It should have been much more exciting, but it dragged and I found myself skimming a lot. Sorry that I gave away one of the biggest surprises in the book ;)

  2. Oh, I think that might be on my Amazon wish list. Oh well, I needn't bother if it drags! I'm not very patient with books that aren't gripping.

    1. Then let me recommend First Light, by Geoffrey Wellum. First hand, diary account of an 18 year-old you fought through the Battle of Britain as a Spitfire Pilot. Totally gripping stuff.

  3. Thanks, I've put that one on my Amazon wish list.