One of the things I’m happy to say most cleanly disaffiliates me from whatever we’re calling hipster culture these days is a fairly long and dedicated streak of vegetarianism. While going veg used to be the counter-culture thing to do, eating meat is really in right now for the fauxhemian, brobo, slackeratti and urban hippie set. And not just eating meat, but getting fetishistic about it, as apparent in these boutique slaughtering classes that some carnivores claim cleans their conscience (and some vegetarians think resembles an Eli Roth movie), the hunt for obscure deli meats (really, gang? You ate zebra before all your friends. Great, you win), and, uh, caveman chic.
And then there are all these trendy spots dedicated to the consumption of creature in some form that have opened in Williamsburg recently, like The Meat Hook, Pies and Thighs, Fatty ‘Cue, and so forth, plus the rise of the word “flexitarian,” which I cannot stress to you enough how many ways that’s not a real thing.
As Flavorwire wrote last week in their guide to throwing a Hipster BBQ:
It used to be that hipsters were vegetarians or vegans or macrobiotic or followed other strange, eco-/animal-friendly diet. But these days, most agree that eating cow and pig is the best way to show you’re in touch with the real America. You know, farms and tractor pulls and such. Designer barbecue spots and boutique butcher shops are popping up in hipster meccas all over the country. And if you still insist on giving a shit about sustainability, “free-range” and “local” is the new meat-free.
I’ve also seen a few friends and associates give up the veg life, some saying they’re doing so because they’re tired of missing out on all the dining options in this great city (though I am happy to say we’ve added a few converts to the ranks recently).
Despite the name of this blogspace, this author doesn’t actually ever get up on much of a soapbox about things, and he won’t bore you by starting now. Suffice it to say I’m generally cool with what you eat as long as you’re conscious of where it’s coming from, and that place isn’t some gruesome foie-gras or veal-cutlet factory. I do think if you’re a carnivore you should be able to, kill, flay and cook a pig yourself without getting squeamish (commit or quit folks). If you eat McDonald’s more than once a week, there’s a good chance I’m making fun of you when you’re not around (as much for health reasons as for ethical ones). If your restaurant can’t offer at least one decent vegetarian option (not the default pasta or default salad, or something off-menu you have to special request) then you’re sorta uncool (looking at you, Hilton Head). You should probably also be aware of the fuel consumption required by the meat industry too, come to think of it, especially considering recent events.
So it was this month 10 years ago that I formally gave up meat, after many years of hemming and hawing and rationalizing myself out of it in high school. In honor of spending more than a third of my years sans-hamburger, I’m going big V for the month.
When I went to college, I started to realize I was rather lame in high school, and began the traditional period of big college change:
I threw out the [REDACTED] from my CD collection, let the hair go long, discovered pot in a tightly sealed dorm-room bathroom and, after walking through the PETA tent at Earth Day on the National Mall, decided to nut up and actually commit to something I believed in.
The last meat I ever (purposefully) ate was an order of scallops from the Ground Round (now the Joshua Huddy Brew PUB (CORRECTION: Tuscan House. See comments-ed.) in Toms River. It was gross, the fish slimy and uncompromisingly chewy, and the free basket of popcorn was little solace to my dyspeptic and confused stomach, which had already started settling into a vegetarian diet. It wasn’t even so much a conscious decision: after that, I just didn’t see the need for it any more.
Worcestershire Sauce was an easy one, but it took awhile to learn about Ceaser dressing. Casings on some pills, beef broth and oyster sauce in soups, an overworked Denny’s waiter taking my veggie burger order on Christmas Eve in Virginia, a stunningly poorly labeled veggie option at the South Campus Dining Hall, among other incidents, have all conspired against me over the years. At some point you get down to the veggie enlightenment status and start learning about rennet in cheese and the isinglass used to refine some beers such as Guinness and basically everything seems fucked by the meat industry.
But as difficult as it occasionally was to get a solid meal in South Carolina restaurants, I can’t really grasp the whole lapsed vegetarian thing, because meat has only seemed more gross and less appealing over the years, not more. I enjoy discussions and arguments about the merits of vegetarianism, such as the recent one I had with my good and trusted friend Barry Schwartz, who argued that your body needs meat for strength and fitness. I won this argument when I pointed out (sorry Barry!) I am 100 percent most certainly in better shape than Barry, and I offered to prove this point by racing a mile with him while I ate a veggie dog (he declined).
So, all that said, in honor of a decade of meatlessness, Inverted Soapbox is going vegan for the month of June. It turns out the big V is quite easy to do in Brooklyn, even for the lazy vegan (fast-food vegan options abound. Also, I, uh, work in a damn grocery store). The only dairy/egg temptations I encounter of late are usually related to free food when my budget is hurting.
After the month, who knows? But hell, I feel good about it. Eat it, hipsters.