As of July 13th, I had consumed no meat for an entire month. Ages longer than any other previous meatless interval. My previous record was probably somewhere close to 12-15 hours. Possibly fewer.
So when my birthday came along, and Carrabbas wanted to buy me a filet in celebration of being 28 and not dead, I suddenly began to panic. It has been easy to say no to chicken, ribs, shredded pork, and a myriad of other meats since June 13th. And it has certainly been easy to not purchase any steaks. But to be offered a Filet. A free filet. The God King of all meats. This was a conflict.
Put 100 free chickens in front of me, and I'll say no every time. Easy. I even turned down halibut (which I love) at our quarterly work meeting where we try all the new specials. NBD. But I have always loved steak to the max. As much as my little brother, I believe I have previously stated. It has been slightly hard, delivering steak after steak to table after table over the last month. Slightly, because said meats were never offered to me. Not until now.
A free filet. DAMMIT.
So I stewed it over in my mind for a few hours. Weighed the pros and cons. Cons being, eating the filet will sort of compromise my moral position and make me feel like a hypocrite. Also, perhaps I will enjoy it so much, I may slide back into my former life as an indifferent, apathetic carnivore. I thought about the pros, and besides the enjoyment that would come from shoving an extremely tender, bloody hunk of cow flesh down my gullet for the first time in over a month, I couldn't really think of any real pros.
In a moment of weakness, I decided that eating one measly filet, in the whole grand scheme of things, wasn't really a big deal. Who could even know where our Carrabbas cow meat comes from? Maybe it was ethical. There was roughly a 30% chance it might be. Probably not. But maybe.
As I sat at the pasta bar, waiting for my filet to cook, the only thing going through my mind, over and over again was, "Please, for the love of God, don't let Bob over cook this thing." I thought this, because likely this was going to be the only filet I would be eating for a very long time. If I was going to sink to the level of a hypocrite for 10 minutes, I wanted to enjoy it. I thought that after a long, meatless month, this filet would probably be one of the best things I had ever put in my mouth. It was my birthday. Couldn't I be a hypocrite?
Upon cutting into it, besides cursing Bob's name for slightly over cooking it, I marveled at the tenderness. I didn't even need a knife. A spoon would have sufficed. I put the first chunk in my mouth, expecting an explosion of palatal ecstasy, a veritable mouthgasm, I expected to think, "Man, have I missed this. Meat is so terrific. I wish I could eat 100 meat, every single minute. Wrap me up in a meat blanket, and feed me to myself."
Rather, I thought, "Huh. This is tasty. But so is a chipotle black bean burger. And felafel. In fact, I could eat a tomato stuffed with mushrooms, red peppers, garlic, and goat cheese over this any day." In other words, it wasn't blowing my mind. At all. Yes, obviously it tasted good. And was something that I would certainly enjoy eating on occasion. However, the experience was altogether lackluster. A let down. Which was AWESOME.
While part of me regrets descending to the level of a weak birthday hypocrite, I am ultimately glad I ate that filet. I realized that honestly, I am not missing much. I can think of about 15 things right off the bat that I have enjoyed the last month just as much, if not more, than I enjoyed that filet. I think as we come to decide what our favorite foods are, and the values placed upon them, whether cultural or familial, we build these foods up to mythical proportions. I attached meaning, value, and importance to a filet because, being an expensive chuck of dead cow, it was mostly a special occasion commodity. So, after abstaining from all meat for a month, and delving into an entirely new realm of the food chain, I realized that a filet (and meat in general) is really only as good as we mentally make it to be. When something suddenly is no longer a choice, other things take its place. Other foods can inherit an abandoned food's value and meaning. A caprino stuffed tomato is my filet.
I guess what I'm saying, is by eating a filet, I realized that I truly don't miss meat. I may miss the meanings I attached to different meats. Like a summer tri-tip bbq with friends. But now that I realize it is more the meaning that I miss, I can quit missing the meat itself, and begin attaching new meaning, memories, and feelings to new foods.
Sometimes being a hypocrite works out okay.