What A Plate Of Spaghetti Taught Me

by holli on November 10, 2016

I have ben tiptoeing around, fighting the urge to chime in and share my thoughts on the election.

The reason I haven’t been blunt and open is because I truly believe that social media, or just text isn’t the way to fully convey the meaning of my thoughts and opinions. No quote or meme or info graphic can express what I want to say. And, in truth I have no more wisdom or answers than haven’t already been offered on either side of the political spectrum. What I can share is this: words matter. What you say matters. My experiences have shaped my perspective and values. And, all I can really share are those through the stories that make up my life.

I believe we can see what we're looking to find.

I believe we can see what we’re looking to find.

To share what I mean, I want to tell you about a time in my life when I truly believed that eating meat was bad. It was horrible. I think I was 8-years-old at the time. As a child who grew up with PBS as my main channel for TV, I saw documentaries and shows that highlighted the cruelty and horrible conditions of factory farming. And, I decided that eating meat meant killing baby cows and making grown cows live in horrible conditions. It meant supporting a place where cows never had a happy life.

This was before documentaries were sexy and shown in regular theaters.  It was before anyone knew who Michael Moore was. I’m sure the editing was crude and the filming was raw.

You should also note that I grew up a McDonald’s kid. I had a collection of Happy Meal Toys. So, being a vegetarian was a new thing for me. My parents were such polar opposites, that I learned I could pick and choose who I wanted to be and what choices I could make. They gave me space to be myself (even if they didn’t agree). And, even if I would only order French Fries at McDonalds.

My mind started to change one fateful meal among new friends…

Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my Aunt Thomasine’s house. She babysat me and my siblings for a large portion of my childhood. And, one fateful week she was hosting a family from Eastern Oregon in her Seattle area home. The family had children my age and several younger. I enjoyed becoming friends with them and playing together.

When it came time to share a meal, I had a hard time. We were served Spaghetti. I could barely eat it. I didn’t want to eat the ground beef in the delicious tomato sauce. I felt like eating meat would be equivalent to killing baby cows and supporting a system where cows lived in horrible indoor conditions. Being the eager, earnest child that I was, I explained in a spirit of conviction to my new friends how eating meat was so awful. That’s why I was a vegetarian.

My Aunt Thomasine quietly heard me speak up.  She calmly explained that this beef we were eating was a gift. It came from the family sitting at the table with us. It came from cows who were pasture fed, who breathed fresh air and led lives filled with country sunshine. She shifted my perspective.

I felt both embarrassed and more aware. As a child, my mind opened up to the fact that I had only known part of the picture.

I still avoided meat, but I was happy when I had the opportunity to eat it from a real farm, from a real family, from a place where the animals had space to live outdoors.

And, I “outgrew” being a vegetarian when I was 14-years-old, just in time for my High School friends to decide for the very same reasons to try it for a week. You know what I did, when they shared the decision among themselves?

I said nothing.

I didn’t know how to share what I knew. You have to understand the food system, and then act in ways to make a difference. But, again, this was before pasture-raised beef was sold in the grocery stores at higher prices. There wasn’t a way to truly make those choices.

At 18-years-old, I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture farm) to get fresh produce for my family. I “volunteered” every month to pull weeds in order to get a discount, because that produce was more expensive than what we could get at the grocery store. As I grew older, the ways I could engage and act on my convictions became clearer.

And today, I eat meat. Not every day. And not always from a pasture-raised family farm.

p.s. If you’d like to talk politics, ask me in person sometime.

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