Sunday, April 17, 2005

My Overburdened Liver

I woke up this morning feeling bilious and resolved to try going vegetarian for a week. It just seems like the right thing to do. Today’s biliousness (if biliousness is indeed what I am suffering) and subsequent resolution are the result of several physical and psychological conditions. There’s the general impairment caused by menstrual cramps. And then there’s last night’s dinner, which consisted of a margarita; chips, chips, and more chips; and a pizza-pan sized plate featuring a chile relleno, a pork tamale, a beef enchilada, Mexican rice mish-mash, and refried beans--all smothered beneath a quarter-inch scum of oozy orange cheese.

We all remarked on how large our meals were, but I was the only one who didn’t finish everything on my plate. Our friend T.O.--a doctor-- virtuously remarked at one point that he had opted to get the regular margarita as opposed to El Super Mucho Grande margarita, since he had taken some Advil earlier in the day and didn’t want to tax his liver’s toxin-processing faculties too much. What? As if a ton of meat and cheese and gluttonous portions in general aren’t a huge burden on the liver (not to mention most other organs and glands).*

T.O’s liver remark clearly made an impression on me this morning. I’d hurled a considerable amount of animal fat, alcohol, and Advil at it yesterday, and it was choking and sputtering under the burden. Or so I imagined. At any rate, I felt crappy and going meatless for some reason seemed highly appealing.

I’ve made a few feeble attempts at vegetarianism before, but I’ve never managed to stick with it for more than a couple of weeks before I developed uncontrollable cravings for bacon cheeseburgers and the like, even though I’ve never been a person who has to have meat at every meal or even every day.** I guess I'm just somehow not committed enough to the idea, even though I know becoming a vegetarian or--better yet--a vegan would be better for my health and most certainly better for the environment. I do try to always buy meat that hasn’t been raised on factory farms, but even so, raising animals for food is not a wise or sustainable use of the planet’s resources. I feel guilty about that.

Anyway, for the next week, I will be a vegetarian. And I’m not going to cop out and just eat a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches. Really, it shouldn't be all that hard to be more conscious about what I eat. More than anything, it's just a matter of being organized enough to have the right food on hand. So often, I find myself caught without any groceries in the house, have no time to compose a shopping list, and run out for pre-prepared food or pick up quick pork-laden Vietnamese takeout.***

As of this writing, I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 hours. (Please hold your applause.) I made some homemade vegan granola this morning that is totally fabulous and low in fat. Who knew that low-fat granola could be good? Plus, it's made with whole, organic ingredients. Right now some yellow split-pea soup is simmering on the stove. It's the first time I've made it without bacon or ham, but I’ve had a taste, and it’s unexpectedly good.

I know that at this point in my life, I would still be dooming myself to failure if I were to permanently declare myself a vegetarian. Instead I’m going to see if I can do it for one week each month. It’s a small thing, really, and hardcore vegetarians and vegans may scoff, but what can I say? I just don’t have the gumption to be a full-time vegetarian. Maybe one day.

*T.O. is famous for cheerfully pointing out how terrible certain foods (e.g., tater tots) are for a person’s health. He then proceeds to eat them with great gusto. Of course, the guy is always running half marathons and climbing Mt. Hood, so that might give him a bit of leeway.
**I admit to an enthusiasm for most things pork, and most hikes I take end with a hamburger.
***I cannot bring myself to like tofu or any other meat substitute. And I have tried.


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