All Of My Friends Are Eating Meat Again
What happened to the days of swearing off steak for the sake of everything else?
By Joss Peter
Winnie broke her 9 years of vegetarianism for a chicken liver parfait from a wanky restaurant. She thought she had a brain tumor but it was only anemia. Chile was pescatarian for 15 years and is now obsessed with goat. Arielle confessed she had been flirting with meat a little, dabbling with fish and bone broth, but knew she had dismount her 6 year vegan high horse when she went out for lunch with a friend and ate Bún Riêu- a noodle soup made from crab, pork dumplings and blood.
Abbey spent 10 years as a vegan, converting originally to annoy her mother, which feels like a good enough reason to deprive yourself for a decade. She dm’d me: veganism is over. Why? Because life is short, there are so many bigger things going on in the world. Why do I need to worry about what I eat?
For years my friends and I didn’t eat meat. It wasn’t a collective decision. It was just that kind of thing where you look around and everyone’s gulping water like they’ve been lost in a desert for years after gnawing on a drywall textured falafel wrap. At dinner parties, you never had to tell anyone your dietary needs because everything was also so pumpkin souped and lentil dahl-ed. The only meat we knew was made from ingredient lists that looked like phone numbers. And we all claimed we’d never ever go back.
Most of us cut it out at the start of university. A cocktail of things: the booming 2010s vegan YouTube movement, right-eyed tertiary education-ed activism, the rise of substitute meat, a series of gorecore vegan documentaries doing the rounds on Netflix, the cause du jour being environmental activism and a new way to control food that didn’t publicly read as restriction.
But then, in the past year, something changed. You’d go out to dinner with your vegan friends and they’d sheepishly rip off a piece of the burrata, just to see. Your vegetarian friend would say to the waiter that it’s fine that the dish is made with fish sauce, that bone broth isn’t a big deal. And then you’d turn and your pescatarian friend would have barbeque sauce crime scened all over their face, sucking on a rib like it’s a dummy. Suddenly, all my friends ate meat. And did I.
Something changed for me when my boss came into work and told me she’d eaten a schnitzel for dinner the night before. By her own admission, she was a vegetarian for 10 years for health, environmental morality and a whole lot of virtue signaling. And? How did you feel? I said. I felt nothing, she replied.
A couple of months later, I had my first bite of meat in 6 years. I didn’t feel anything either.
For a while I had a rule that I only ate meat when it was expensive, but I didn’t have to pay for it. But then I started to really feel like eating a whole sheet of prosciutto, and when I was ordering pizza I felt like I’d rather die than eat the veggie supreme and the fennel sausage one sounded really nice so what was I supposed to do then?
I asked my best friend, Liv, to tell me about her journey from label reading vegan of 7 years to someone who sends “bad day to be a chicken” to the group chat. She sent me a 10 minute voice note which can be essentially distilled into the following points:
- She got pulled on board the 2015 Freelee the Banana Girl Train.
- Which she couldn’t get off for so long because she’s stubborn.
- And also probably, if she’s honest, because it was easy to hide disordered eating behind the guise of veganism.
- She doesn’t really justify eating meat again morally, she just eats it.
- She says that her babies will be eating prosciutto as soon as they can.
- And last week she had a dream about eating one of those supermarket roast-chook-in-a-bag which she translated for her teacher at Spanish school.
So why the reversion?
As it turns out, apathy is a hell of a drug. The steam has gone out of our engines. We’ve stopped researching the amount of water animal farming takes and using those online calculators to figure out how much of a difference our personal abstention makes. We’ve all graduated university, we’re all sitting in the offices we said we’d never work in. We just think it’s different because instead of wearing suits, we’re wearing overpriced hoodies from record labels. The easy option starts to look pretty tasty. I mean, currently I’m anti private jet, but let’s just see where I’m at in a few years…
Of course, there is also a healthy dollop of post covid nihilism, the idea of control and self governance has been yanked from our lives. It feels hard to deny yourself for a brighter future when the only bright future in sight is lit from the flames of the world burning in 10 years anyway. The solution that many people have found, it seems, is getting high off the heady fumes of self indulgence, holding their hands over their ears, closing their eyes and going lalalalalalala.
Maybe one day we’ll start reposting infographics of meat climate effects again, but until then, I’ll trade in the moral high ground for a slice of the highly processed meat pie. Olivia summed it up nicely, when she dmd’ me; eating meat again is the real pandemic for every long term vegetarian woman.