The Reluctant Carnivore

I’ve been a vegetarian on and off since childhood.  My most recent “on” period spanned the better part of this last decade.  I don’t judge others for the food they wish to eat, but meat is not something that I have felt comfortable eating.  However since my health has been in such a poor state lately I have made the choice to add a small amount of chicken into my diet (this is huge for me).  I figured that if I am willing to have countless vials of my blood drawn, undergo scans with heavy levels of radioactivity, pop whatever pills the Dr. prescribes me, etc…than I owe it to myself and my family to see if my vegetarianism is having any ill effects on me (some think it might be).

So with reluctance and quite a lot of sadness (I know that must sound silly) I cooked my first chicken meal this evening.  I picked this recipe for Lime Chicken Soft Tocos and set to work.  I really had to detach myself from the process so as to not upset myself to the point of losing my appetite.  When all was said and done it tasted pretty decent.  I think tacos were a great way to go since there are so many other flavors and textures to mask the little bits of chicken lying in wait.  I know I can’t do tacos every time though, so I’ll be looking for additional recipes that do a good job masking the meat element within them.  If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them.

I’m sure it’s odd for someone to feel so emotional over the process of eating chicken…but I can’t deny that it has made me feel a little blue.  As a kid we grew up being taught that there are little Elementals (like faeries) that are assigned to look after every living thing.  The result of our belief was a great reverence for the natural world.  If we picked a flower we thanked the Elemental for looking after it and allowing us the gift of such a beautiful bloom, etc.  So I found myself today feeling the need to thank something (the chicken, the Elemental…I’m not sure what) for giving its life for my meal.  My heart feels heavy.  I’m not sure if I even want that part to change, since my love for animals is a really big part of my life.  I guess we’ll see.

So…all that being said, I am still going to try to include chicken in my diet a couple times a week.  I know it won’t be easy…and if in a month or so I’m not feeling noticeably different I will happily return to my animal-free eating habits.  *sigh*  Until then, do you have any fabulous chicken recipes to share that don’t taste too much like, well, chicken?  xo Ez

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  1. Julie / / Reply

    I really hope it’s not meat that is the problem! If it causes that much conflict with you, it’s not going to help you feel totally better in every way. It’s also a shame that so much of the medical community points fingers at lack of a meaty diet being the cause of health problems… in my personal experience with mystery diagnosis, half of the 13 doctors I saw wondered out loud if that was it. Nope, it wasn’t. Are other countries that have primarily vegetarian diets dying of mystery meat-less diseases? No… most are healthier. It’s just weird that our culture permeates even our very educated medical field. So again, hope that isn’t it- for your sake! I am also a vegetarian who doesn’t care what anyone else eats (it’s just not my business) but I can’t imagine being told I’d have to eat chicken after 10 years!

  2. Betsy / / Reply

    i eat meat, but i definitely have moments of EW every now and then, and naturally go for days without eating it and not even notice. i grew up in a family full of hunters, so i sometimes had to be like "dad…seriously…what IS this meat? BE HONEST" because they thought it was funny to see me squirm. maybe hiding it in pasta would be helpful? i make your friend marichelle’s pasta ( a lot, sometimes i substitute baked chicken breast, cut up small. or maybe in stir-fry, since again, there are all the textures, and the chicken takes on the flavor of all the asian sauces? or a white chicken chili in the winter? oooh, or chicken tortilla soup? i use this recipe: with a few tweaks. keep us posted on any recipes that are working for you :)

  3. Rita / / Reply

    Hi, good luck with going back to meet-eating! As an all-my-life omnivore I can only imagine it must be very hard. Anyway, hoping to be helpful, here are two very simple ideas I love with chicken.
    1. Grill or fry (in very little olive oil) small cubes or slices from a chicken breast; add some sliced mushrooms, a bit of cream (not sure you eat dairy products, but I guess it can be easily replaced by a substitute) and season to your taste (salt & pepper is my fav here); let cook for a few minutes (+- 10 min) until the cream gets a bit thicker.
    2. Open a pocket in a chicken breast and fill it with crumbled feta cheese and oregano; I season with a bit of salt and some lemon drops; cook in the oven or grill (close the pocket with some stick if you grill). note: 1 chicken breast is way too much for me I usually cook 1 for 2.
    And adding small grilled chicken pieces to your favourite salads will probably be a good way to disguise it.
    Hope you enjoy =)

  4. Miz.Jo / / Reply

    Wow. I’m really sorry that this is causing you so much pain. Something that may help, however, is buying a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store. I do this a lot. It will prevent you from having to do the actual cooking, which I imagine, could be the worst part.
    As far as hiding it? Search for soup recipes, where meats are often added just for protein instead of taste.

    Good luck. I hope you get this all figured out soon.

  5. amy / / Reply

    awww! whenever i start thinking about it a bunch i feel like i ought to be a vegetarian. so i tend not to think about it too much. if you shred the chicken maybe you wouldn’t notice it too much?

    do you ever eat tofu – i know that can be a really great alternative and they taught us in foods class omg way back when that it can be seasoned to taste like anything really.

    i hope your health is 100% soon. don’t know if they have naturopaths there, but my husband has had a lot of success with going to one. they often promote certain foods, yoga, meditation, prayer, rest – so looking at your health really holistically. i have never gone but i know some people swear by it.

    either way – i hope you have a really great weekend – the printable you shared today was awesome!

  6. Vicki in AZ / / Reply

    Hi, I come to creature comforts often for inspiration. I think you have a lovely vision of life and are so uplifting. I send my best wishes for your healing. I am so thankful you have a link to your personal blog. Thank you for sharing. Take Care.

  7. sarah / / Reply

    First off, I just wanted to say that I greatly enjoy your blog Creature Comforts…it’s so inspiring!
    Anyway, a few years ago I had to stop being vegan because of health problems I was having. I hated admitting it, but it changed my health so drastically that I’m amazed that my body held out for as long as it did without meat. I felt so different…it really was like night and day. I could think clearer, my depression got better, and a lot of other problems improved. I know our bodies vary in their sensitivity. Some people manage on an all veggie diet. But I suppose my body is just sensitive and couldn’t handle it. It was, however, a disappointment for me to start eating meat again. So I know a bit how you feel.
    And, yes, it is a difficult emotional process going through that change. It’s sad when an animal has to die. We live in such a sterilized world of meat without blood, all neatly wrapped in plastic, that people don’t often remember that something has to die in order for them to live. Actually, even the vegetarian isn’t without fault…a plant had to give its life! (I know that it is a bit different, not having eyes and a beating heart and all! But still, isn’t that interesting that something has to die in order for us to keep living?) I always thought that it was beautiful how certain people groups thanked the animal for giving its life. The grateful attitude and the acknowledgment of loss is a healthy one, I think. However, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t stop there…stopping and thanking the animal shouldn’t just become a habitual throwing thanks to the wind, I should stop and think about the deep questions of life.
    What or who am I thanking? Am I just here on earth to consume and enjoy and hopefully hurt as few as I can in the process? We so rarely ask questions, and even more rarely do we stop to think that there might actually be answers. It seems that the human race has gone from proudly thinking they have all the answers to proudly assuming there are no answers to be known. And thus, people go on in life never bothering to know if anything can be known at all. But perhaps our world would be better if more people humbly pursued these hard questions…
    Anyway, at the risk of sounding like a goof to people who read this comment, why not use this as an opportunity to contemplate life, death, and meaning? Who knows, this might be a blessing in disguise. If anything, it might give a disappointing change a little bit more a purpose behind it. We live in such a fast-paced world we rarely give ourselves the excuse to stop and wonder if some of life’s mysteries can be revealed. Because there are some questions worth asking…

  8. Ann Marie / / Reply

    I’m sorry to hear of your struggles. I’m pretty much a vegan, with the big exception of fish. Sounds silly I know, but it works for me. There are just too many healthy vegetarians and vegans in the world for me to believe that someone’s good health is dependent on them eating a hunk of animal flesh. Usually the problem is that the vegetarian or vegan is making sure they are getting all of the proper nutrients their body needs. I know sometimes I’m really bad about getting enough protein. My point in commenting here, is that one must always trust their own body. If not eating meat suits your body then don’t eat meat. If a body needs meat, then eat it. I’ve considered consulting a nutritionist who specializes in non-meat diets because I want to make sure that I do eat a proper, well balanced diet. Perhaps this is something that would help you too. I so hope that your heath begins to improve and that you find peace of mind in this area of your life. I’ve been following Creature Comforts for a couple of years now. I think you are an amazing young woman who will find the answers she seeks very soon. :)

  9. Ez / / Reply

    Thank you all so much for your warm and wonderful comments! I never fail to be amazed at the kindness and genuine good will that is out in the great wide web. Thank you for being a part of what enriches my life.
    xox Ez

  10. Relyn / / Reply

    I was just dropping in to thank you for all the inspiration you provide. And, I wanted to wish you and yours the happiest Independence Day. May your day be full! May you enjoy laughter shared with family, great food shared with friends, fireworks to make you gasp, a lump in your throat at the anthem, and a full and grateful heart at all we have been given. Happy Fourth of July!

  11. uma / / Reply

    Hi, I read creature comfort often. I happened to click on your personal blog today for the first time today.
    I am an Indian (from India) and am a vegetarian, by birth and by choice. I have never had any health issues due to the lack of meat in my diet.
    What a regular vegetarian diet might lack, can be made up by the addition of some other vegetarian substitute.
    For eg, usually, iron is seen lacking in many vegetarian meals. So, we compensate by adding cottage cheese or soya bean with a dash of lemon and voila! we have a nice iron rich diet :)
    I believe that if you are not happy doing something, it is not going to help you.
    Having said that, I do not know what it is that ails you, but I hope and pray you get well soon.

  12. Julia / / Reply

    You could try a hot chicken curry with coco nut milk and tons of vegetables. I would cut the chicken in small squares and add some tofu, too, that the meat won´t get dominant. This sounds good: or that one:
    Another idea might be to substitude your usually used vegetable stock by a good chicken stock or fond in dishes like risotto. There won´t be a big difference in taste and you will not have to handle the actual meat in your kitchen.
    I try to support the local farmers by buying the meat at the market and trying only to use organic meat. I am surely aware that this still means that animals are killed because of me, but at least I can make sure that my money supports the farmers who do their best to give the chickens a better live.
    I really hope that going through that struggle has a benefit for you and will be worth your efforts.
    All my best,

  13. Jamie / / Reply

    Hi Ez,

    I’ve been reading CC for a while now, and just randomly clicked on your personal blog to see what was happening in your neck of the woods. I feel really compelled to respond to your post, but a lot of what I have to say probably isn’t going to be appropriate for a blog comment. I don’t know if you can see the e-mail address I’ve provided above, but if not I would be happy to comment again with it if you’re interested in talking.

    I would really, really, REALLY like to encourage you away from eating meat to "fix" whatever problems ail you. I’ve been vegan for 6 years, vegetarian for 13. I’ve dealt with some of the worst of the worst diseases and disorders, literally been crippled and in a wheelchair for an entire year, have had multiple cancer scares, invasive surgery, dozens of biopsies, hundreds of CAT scans and x-rays, and I now currently battle a degenerative brain and nerve disorder that will ultimately put me back into a wheelchair; all of these at the age of 25. I’ve never smoked, drank, done drugs or voluntarily subjected myself to any physical mutilation. Growing up my family raised us on high vegetable & fruit diets, with protein mixed in but a focus on whole grain superfoods and vegetation. Needless to say, my first cancer scare at the age of 12 was shocking and confusing, and it took a full year of my life to diagnose, another to treat, years to conquer. One thing that I know has helped me stay as healthy as I can be, within the parameters of my disorders, is being physically active every day and eating a diet free from the nasty things that come from meat and animal products/by products. There are so many harmful components in animal meat, even the "free range organic" ones. There are millions of people world wide that are 500 percent healthier than the norm because they adhere to vegetarian or vegan diets. (A lot of those people also suffer from medical atrocities, but fight back within their belief systems and lifestyles.) Some of us have to struggle with medical issues that cannot be cured, most of us will hear the masses tell us more protein will fix everything, but a lot of people who think being vegetarian makes things worse are not learning and understanding what they need from that kind of diet to make people feel better and understand their bodies needs better. Most vegetarians and vegans have protein deficiencies, an easily curable problem with proper consumption of healthy soy and vegetable proteins (which are much healthier and safer than meat proteins). This is not to say you don’t understand that diet, merely a generalization of most common hearsay.

    I work for an independent publisher that distributes scores of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, zines on health, and healthy living literature. One in particular covers personal accounts of people living with life changing illness, how they stay as healthy as the next guy & how they communicate their needs to their friends, families and medical professionals, and how they stay vegan or vegetarian because they know their suffering should not weigh out over the animals’ suffering. I will admit my life revolves around veganism and fighting for animals because I know it’s right. I am biased, but as a person with daily medical problems who will never eat meat to "get healthier", I’ve researched the hell out of my disorders and my friends disorders, what my body absolutely needs to feel & function productively because I refuse to take westernized medication. These things work, they are not mumbo jumbo. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to send you some of these books, so you could look them over, research them, perhaps come to understand your body better and grow. (All free of course.) I truly believe this would make an enormous improvement. If you’re interested, please feel free to e-mail me.
    If not, I really wish you the best of luck, but please also remember you should never have to compromise your belief system for the societal medical norm, a lot of it is not in favor of any type of plant based diet. If those pangs of guilt are hitting you, your heart is telling you something too!

    Good luck!

  14. ishtar olivera / / Reply

    Hi dear!
    I have been vegetarian for ALL my life too…and I can completely understand how you might feel eating chicken. I also feel the same about the the elements and the fairies, the devates of nature…So lovely to know this about you!!!
    if theres anyhting I can do for you just let me know, I´ll be more than glad to help!
    best wishes,

  15. ThiliBlooms / / Reply

    Hello :)
    here`s my 2 cents on the chicken: if it`s going to make you feel better go for it :) I`m a veterinarian and buddhist so I know how you feel.. I still cook chicken because I have a baby girl and she needs those proteins.. whenever I cook/eat meat I recite a little prayer inside my heart (I thank you chicken for this lovely meal you are providing me) so this way its life has a meaning (it just my philosophy).

    I like to cook it with white wine, table cream and mushrooms (dehydrated porcini) and eat it with rice.. it`s my favorite :) you can also buy pasta stuffed with chicken and cheese (you wont feel the chicken taste so much). You can find some amazing recipes for chicken at jamie oliver`s website and cookbooks!

    Take care and eat some chicken (and eggs)!
    have a lovely day :)

  16. Marianne Marloq / / Reply

    It doesn’t sound silly at all that you don’t want to eat meat after being veggie such a long time. I totally understand as I have the sort of same conundrum – I was veggie for 20 years and last year I made the decision to start eating fish for health reasons – I hate doing it. But I keep becoming anaemic – had a blood test today and fingers crossed I am not anymore as I really want to give blood but can’t.

  17. Ez / / Reply

    All your wonderful comments have truly meant so much to me as I’ve been struggling through this frustrating faze of figuring out my health troubles. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts and stories with me. It means more than I can say! xo Ez

  18. Rachel B. / / Reply

    Hi Ez! I rarely eat any meant at all, while I don’t call myself a vegetarian, I simply don’t feel comfortable consuming animals. Recently my doctor suggested I try adding fish or chicken (or turkey) to my diet. I have been giving it a try. I only have one recipe that I like- but I HATE cutting up the chicken!! I will email you the recipe. I hope the addition of poultry to your diet helps out your health!!

  19. Alison G / / Reply

    Have you read The China Report? It is a book about one of the most comprehensive nutrition studies ever conducted and in it they completely disprove any theories that a diet with meat is better for you. In fact, they actually show how meat consumption is linked to many diseases, such as cancer!

    Anyways, best of luck to you – hopefully it is not the meat in your diet!


  20. Gabbie / / Reply

    My family’s Mexican and we have always eaten meat of some sort. But i did change how i think of meat or how i should eat after being dignosed with lupus in 2004. Like i said i had to rethink everything.Being told your sick of some sort stinks hardcore . But look at it this way you need food to get better just find something that in the end is going to make you feel better. Plus chicken isnt all that bad .I like it better then beef.

  21. andrea / / Reply

    I hope not eating meat is not actually where your problems are coming from. Best of luck with that! :)

  22. Katie Bee / / Reply

    I have to agree; I hope you can get back to a vegetarian diet, because it clearly matters to you–and treating the body’s illnesses definitely requires caring for the mind! I cut up a rotisserie chicken early this week and nearly cried. I don’t generally ascribe to beliefs or needs to thank the animals that die, but I found myself apologizing to the poor creature.
    One of my favorite ways to hide chicken, though, is in a good marinade. You can cut it up one day (I recommend buying boneless chicken if it already makes you leery), let it sit in a marinade for a night, then prepare a meal within the next day or two. This has helped me deal with my distaste for meat, and chicken in particular, since I used to work in a restaurant that only sold chicken…yeah….
    If you start with an italian marinade, then shred the chicken and make up some whole grain noodles and toss it all together with some mozzarella, olive oil, garlic, and any other seasoning, you have a super easy pasta dinner that makes everything more palatable in my opinion.

    So…best of luck. and if you get to go back to veggies, always remember eggplant–it’s got so many good things for you. I use it all the time to replace meat.

  23. Julie / / Reply

    Do what feels right to you!! I have been a vegetarian since junior high! And now two big and healthy little boys later am still. But sine we moved to Wyoming and with my kid’s and husband’s picky diets, they are now eating meat by their choice. My sister was vegan for years and years and recently decided to incorporate small amounts of meat in her very healthy diet and is happy with that decision! I tried a bite of meat recently and just can’t do it:( Hope you feel better! Anyway, hope you figure out what is best for you!

  24. Kara / / Reply

    It's hard sometimes when we're going vegetarian and trying to reconcile that and 'seeming as if' we ought to eat some meat for our diet. It seems that way. But literally perhaps e only thing we'd miss is vit b12, which is the only vitamin only gotten from animals…like eggs, dairy and cream, but that is because only animals like you and i actually make it from the other nutrients we get from food.
    If you're having to eat meat, don't feel guilty about it..choose the best healthiest happiest you can. and eat more good greens.. take care :)

  25. Jen / / Reply

    You need to listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel the lack of meat is causing or contributing to your unwellness, by all means you should trial introducing chicken to your diet. However, it may help to find out exactly what it is that the chicken is providing for you (protein, b12, iron etc), and see whether you can substitute vegetarian options. You mentioned an eating disorder before and the last thing you want to do is associate guilt with your meal! Your other option (and I'm not sure whether it is viable where you live), is to buy organic, free range chicken from farmers markets or a local butcher. At least then you know that although the chicken has had to die, it did not lead a potentially tormented life.

  26. Charlotte / / Reply

    I'd just say eat tofu :)
    My acupuncturist recommended macrobiotics and that was perfect for getting my health in good shape. I love that you were raised to thank the elementals. One of my favourite books I still have from childhood is The Field Guide to the Little People.

  27. Sherry (BTLover2) / / Reply

    Hi Ez,

    So I'm sifting through your blog after reading your "Things I'm Afraid to Tell You" post and came across this. I see your wrote it back in 2010. So I'm curious… are you still eating chicken or other types of "flesh"? I've recently become a vegetarian myself and can understand how you'd feel creeped out introducing it back into your diet. I hope whatever road you are on that your health has improved since 2010! I'd love to get an update about what you did or are doing now. Don't be afraid to tell us :)

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