Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My First McNuggets as an Adult

McNuggets and fries with BBQ sauce... awwww, yeah!

My lifelong relationship with food is probably only more evidence when it comes to my existence as a completely backward person. Everyone knows that kids are picky eaters as a rule and I wasn't really any exception. However, I was pretty much the polar opposite of most kids when it came to the actual items I enjoyed. In other words I hated the types of food that most kids thought were manna from heaven. Bologna and American cheese sandwiches with yellow mustard? Oh, hell no. Macaroni and cheese? Don't make me barf. Chef Boyardee canned pastas? You had to be kidding me. Other favorite options like pizza, hot dogs, and grilled cheeses got maybe a "meh" reaction from me at best.

I liked my food pretty plain and basic the way a lot of kids do, but I preferred things that I guess people consider to be more adult tastes. I absolutely loved carb-tastic foods like baked potatoes, pasta, and bread. I liked a variety of cheeses like Cheddar, real mozzarella, Gouda, Provolone, and Monterey Jack. I was really into seafood of pretty much all kinds, especially trout, salmon, shrimp, and those little fried clams you can sometimes get your hands on. I was also really nuts about a lot of vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. My absolute favorite thing to eat under the sun was a big bowl of black-eyed peas and at times, I liked nothing better than a nice, crunchy carrot to gnaw on for a snack. Hell, that's still one of my favorite snacks!

When I got older, I started branching out when it comes to the foods I ate, just like most people... except I wound up kind of moving in reverse. Trying new things meant actually going backward and revisiting some of those staples that characterized most people's childhoods, but not necessarily mine. I was actually surprised at the way I was able to really enjoy some of it. I didn't fully appreciate how tasty a bowl of mac and cheese or a slice of pepperoni pizza could really be until I was almost 30. Until Seth fed it to me, I'd never so much as tasted a piece of Velveeta cheese. Now I actually love those things... and they have a certain magic about them that feels unique because I fell in love with them for the first time as an adult. It's not a nostalgic thing, but many of those foods do strike a very basic, comfortable cord with me nevertheless.

Fast food is a special type of animal that was almost as mystifying for me as the mac and cheese or Velveeta was for the majority of my life. We were rarely given fast food in my household growing up and it certainly wasn't considered an appropriate choice on par with a fresh, homemade meal. On the rare occasion I was given the option of eating it, I didn't want to. I was used to juicy, home-grilled burgers like the ones my dad made... or lean, roasted chicken breast like we'd get for dinner every so often. McDonald's cheeseburgers and Chicken McNuggets seemed like nasty, bastardized versions of the real foods I was used to, so unlike most kids including my younger brother, I hated them.

I've come to understand their appeal as an adult though. While I still don't consider fast food to be something acceptable for eating on a regular basis, I do kind of get what people like so much about it. Sometimes it just feels good to stuff your face with something crispy, greasy, salty, and not that great for you... especially when you're super hungry. For that reason, I've come to embrace the occasional lunch at Burger King, Taco Bell, or Carl's Jr. as a welcome and relatively inexpensive departure from the norm.

I actually ate at McDonald's for the first time over the weekend. Seth and I have been looking to lose a couple of pounds and get in better shape over all, so we've been making it a point to get off our computers on the weekend and take the occasional walk to the beach or at least around the neighborhood. However, we still allow ourselves a treat once in a while, because what the hell is life for if it isn't punctuated with delicious things to eat. On Saturday, we decided to stop in at McDonald's. I honestly don't remember the last time I ate more than a stray hash brown or apple pie from McDonald's before that, so it was kind of an adventure for me.

I actually decided to get some McNuggets and fries for the first time since I was a child... and I loved it, actually! I don't remember liking McNuggets that much as a kid, but I have no idea why. These things are so crispy and tasty. They definitely satisfy that occasional urge you get to enjoy a cheap, guilty pleasure that you don't have to cook for yourself. Are McNuggets my idea of premium, high quality chicken? Well, of course not... but that doesn't make them any less delicious, really. I can honestly say that I do get the appeal of McDonald's now and that enjoyed every bite of the process. I'm looking forward to my next adventure there for sure.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Confessions of a Proud Omnivore

I live in California, so naturally I've run into more than a few people in my lifetime that were all about vegetarianism to one extent or another. Each of these people had their separate reasons for their choice. Some didn't believe in participating in an industry that involves harming animals in any way. Others were doing it in an attempt to lose weight, be healthier, or feel younger. Still more were doing it because their spouse or all their family members had decided to go vegetarian, which for all intents and purposes made them a vegetarian as well... unless they wanted to start making all their own meals, that is.

Needless to say, I've heard more than my share of sales pitches for vegetarianism. Each time, the person delivering theirs thought they were going to be the one to finally convince me to change my evil, meat-eating ways once and for all... and each attempt resulted in a very disappointed vegetarian. I'm an omnivore and I always will be -- just as nature intended. I refuse to apologize for it to anyone either.

However, more than a few people who have really known what my stance is on this issue over the years have asked me why. Since it's definitely time to update this particular blog, I figured that this might not be a bad time to record a few thoughts on the issue.

Being omnivorous is what nature intended.

Vegetarians who know I'm an animal lover often try to pull at my heartstrings by pointing out the many ways eating meat makes me a hypocrite in their eyes. They think that someone who truly respects all life and wants to be at one with God's creation the way I claim to surely wouldn't want to continue contributing to an industry that survives by killing animals and chopping them up into juicy little pieces for human consumption. They aren't usually prepared for the fact that respect for God's creation and the natural order of things is at least a small part of why I eat meat without feeling the least little bit bad about it.

Vegetarians can claim that humans aren't meant to be meat eaters all they want, but that won't make it true. Human beings were created to be omnivores, meaning they were designed to subsist on a diet that includes both vegetable matter and meat... not vegetables alone. The proof lies in the way our bodies and teeth were designed, as well as in the way it's so damned hard for someone who cuts meat out of their diet altogether to stay properly nourished. Now humans can certainly choose not to be omnivores for whatever reason floats their boat, but that won't change the fact that natural omnivores are exactly what they are.

At the end of the day, vegetarianism is an alternative choice that isn't and never will be right for everyone. It's certainly not right for me. Contrary to popular belief, I don't eat meat at every meal. I eat and enjoy many dishes that actually are vegetarian or even vegan. However, I'm really not my healthiest if I'm not eating enough protein for whatever reason and... sorry, but tofu and peanut butter just isn't a solid enough substitute for at least some chicken or fish.

Becoming a vegetarian won't save the planet.

Someone deciding that they're not going to eat a delicious piece of grilled chicken breast or a steak isn't going to magically make the animal it came from any less dead by turning up their nose at the resulting deliciousness, so really the whole "I'm saving animals" argument doesn't even hold water. There are always going to be people who prefer to do as nature intended and eat meat or animal products instead of living on tofu and salad. The meat industry isn't going anywhere for that reason and it's completely unrealistic to think that it's possible to simply convert everyone on the planet to some restrictive vegetarian lifestyle that goes completely against nature.

Also, what about plants? Plants are living things as well, you know. Actually, everything edible and digestible was alive once. That's how this whole life thing works, you know. Life consumes life... always. Why is it evil to eat a chicken or a cow, but not a carrot or a head of lettuce? Carrots and heads of lettuce are still alive and I'm quite sure they'd like to continue being alive. Vegetarians exist because they eat, break down, digest, and process living things just like omnivores. They're just doing it in a way that differs from what nature originally intended for reasons of their own.

Restrictive diets suck, plain and simple.

Really, life puts enough restrictions on me as it is. I have to spend most of my time performing soul-sucking tasks for other people in order to earn a living. I have to be considerate of other people even in the event they're assholes that I'd rather punch square in the face. I even have to put on pants if I want to go out in public. I'll be damned if I'm going to put limitations on myself when it comes to one of the few areas of life where I can do more or less whatever I want.

I sometimes put on a little extra weight or get sick just like anyone else, but all in all I'm a relatively healthy person. I eat pretty healthfully for the most part as well since the mac and cheese, bacon cheeseburgers, and loaded pizzas I talk about so often are once-in-a-while treats, as opposed to staples. There is absolutely no reason in the world why I need to stop eating meat and... honestly speaking? I never will.

Really, I spent five miserable years married to strict vegetarian who tried repeatedly to show me the error of my ways. My mom is on this vegan kick these days and has tried to turn me onto giving up meat as well. If people I was that close to on a daily basis for years couldn't convince me to change my ways, the likelihood of strangers doing it with their flimsy arguments against meat eating is pretty slim.

........

If I absolutely have to put a label on my dietary habits for the sake of clarity, I would probably say I'm best described as a flexitarian. I actually do eat many meals that are vegetarian and there are even whole days that don't see me touching so much as a mouthful of shredded chicken. I really love vegetables and whole grains like brown rice or barley. I love light meals, too. However, I also love seafood, pizza, and ham sandwiches. I adore a good pulled pork sandwich, a cheeseburger, or a hot dog once in a while. Special occasions and treats in particular are all about food for me and very often, that food includes meat or animal products in some way, shape, or form. I have zero problem with that and I can assure you that  nature doesn't either.