I love meat, or at least I used to. I grew up with long deep freezers full of meat stored in the garage. All you had to do is go out in the garage and there it was a treasure trove of whole hams, turkeys, chickens, fish, ribs, roasts you name it there it was. And everybody in my family had back porches, garages, sheds etc. with freezers full of meat.
But one thing I noticed was the older people in my family while having freezers full of meat. They barely ate it. My grandmother barely ate meat. She had three long freezers in her garage. She had two long freezers full of meat. But she was always in the one freezer she had full of frozen fruits and vegetables. She loved bread. She was notorious for making little sandwiches with a bit of meat or tearing off a piece of meat to eat with a dinner roll.
She would skip the meat portion of the meals served most of the times. At family gatherings, if a platter of meat was placed in front of her she would study the platter and take the smallest piece. And even then it was rare she ate it all in that sitting. She was always wrapping the leftovers up in something vowing to eat it later. Sometimes she did, but many times one of us would come across it.
“Grandma is you going to eat this pork chop?”
“Well can I have it?”
“I don’t care. Whatever is in that refrigerator you can eat.”
I used to love when she went out to eat. We grandchildren would see her “doggie bags” and there we would be gulping it down. They wouldn’t always even make it to the fridge. She was one of those people who would always take the leftovers home she just didn’t believe in wasting food, meat in particular. My uncle would go in the refrigerator see her leftovers and just warm them up and eat them without even asking her. Because if he did out of courtesy he knew her response would be, “Now you know I’m not going to eat that.”
This is a woman that had meat served at every meal and would tell us to eat as much as we wanted. When we would fight over the last piece of bacon at breakfast she would be quietly eating a bit of this, a little of that. She loved fruit. If you put a bowl of fruit in front of her, her eyes would light up like it was candy. She would pick out an apple, and an orange and eat every bit of it. And moments later she would go back and get a banana and eat that too. While we would make a bee line straight to the meat at gatherings she would be looking for the vegetables and if you tossed meat into a vegetable dish? That was what you saw on her plate with more vegetables and of course bread. Corn bread, muffins, rolls, sliced bread….she couldn’t get enough of a variety when it came to bread. She loved the stuff. She used to crumble corn bread into buttermilk and when she ate it she would smile.
She would tell me stories about growing up on a farm but, smack dab in the middle of Los Angeles this lady had a spectacular garden that she tended with help of the unwilling participants she called grandchildren. While I would be pulling up weeds she would have her hoe telling me stories about growing up in Texas poor and the daughter of a farmer with a bunch of mouths to feed. There were a lot of children but many of the families were big where she grew up. Their community was poor so if someone butchered a cow, pig or was smoking meat it was usually shared. Chickens were used to have fresh eggs, so on occasion they were killed. So she grew up eating meat on occasion. Imagine my astonishment to find out she went several days without eating it.
She lived through the great depression and managed not to starve due to her living in a farming community. She told me about living through World War 2 and standing in line for something she called “olio”, cans of meat, bricks of cheese, sacks of flour and other food items the government gave out. There wasn’t a chicken in sight let alone ribs, hams and lamb chops. My family was canning back then. They ate lots of bread with preserved fruit, and the vegetables they grew.
Basically barely eating meat became a habit out of necessity and then she just keep that diet. She literally ate all day. It was usually fruit of nuts. She was always chewing on something. If I or anyone else happened to have fast food, or snacks she would always look at the items with a curious look on her face.
“ What is that?”
“Grandma its Doritos.”
“ What is that? Some kind of potato chip?”
“ Yes Grandma. Its tortilla chips.”
“ Oh let me have one.”
You watch her eat it.
“Is it good grandma Do you like it?”
“Oh yes that was tasty.”
“Want another one?”
“Oh no, I just wanted to try it.”
If you saw her eating chips, she maybe ate 6 or 7 then moved on to a piece of fruit. She never sat down and ate 3 big meals. She just ate whenever she happened to get hungry. I noticed as a child my grandmother had a issue with being hungry. If I ever said that I was hungry she always sprung into action. I don’t care if we were in the line at the bank; she would whip out a piece of candy, which was rare. She had a thing with candy but that’s a topic for another post.
It was some kind of silent agreement between her children that she was not ever to be hungry. If she was out running errands with them they were always asking her if she was hungry. If she said she was “getting there” they would get her to some food. She was polite to staff restaurants but if she made any complaint of being hungry, one of my Aunts would offer to go somewhere else, “because Mama needs to eat.” Her siblings were the same way. At any of their house were freezers and cabinets full of food. And they were always asking if anybody was hungry. I grew up knowing that these people had issues with food.
It took one of my Great Aunts to explain to me about what it is to really be hungry, and surviving on just enough food so that everyone could get to eat. When they moved to California they all just began to have kitchens full of food. But that didn’t erase the memories of not having enough. At family gatherings there was a whole table just for the meat dishes. And they would beg everyone to take it all because of course, they wasn’t going to eat it.
My mother never even knew what it was like not to see meat at every meal but throwing it away was a sacrilege. She automatically always served meat with every meal. I would eat all the meat I wanted. My grandmother would see me eating and shake her head in amazement. She just never understood my obsession with meat.
So when people complain about being forced into becoming vegetarian or vegan for health reasons, I do understand. While I haven’t been forced to eat less meat, I do have a few reasons why I have decided to actively limit the amount of meat I consume. One of them does have to do with my health as I move into the later stages of my life. My ultimate goal is to only consume meat occasionally by gradually reducing the amount of meat I eat slowly. So this post is for those of you who need some great reasons that may make you move towards a meat free diet.
I’m not to the point where I am ready to become completely meat free but there are times when it has helped me to skip meat like before a job interview for example. Skipping meat does tend to help me sleep better and perform great on job interviews, go figure. But there is a bigger reason that this decision has stuck. If everyone ate less meat we could literally improve the planet for everyone. That does not mean eliminate meat consumption, it just means consuming less.
This is doable for those of us who still want to eat meat. And the truth is it is way easier to reduce than it is to eliminate especially when you find a routine that is right for you and challenging yourself to grow as a person by controlling what you choose to eat. Just because meat is offered doesn’t mean you need to eat it. We shouldn’t have freezers of meat or hoard meat like our elders do. Some of them do it in response to the trauma of being without and who are we to judge? I haven’t been in their shoes but I do understand not wanting to go back to a place of lack.
My grandmother was well into her nineties and almost made it to see a century before succumb to old age. She was spry, sharp and healthy almost till the end. She always attributed her long life to eating well, walking every day, avoiding sicknesses and being spiritual. She was still walking and having her adult teeth when many of her peers were sick or ailing in some way. As a child, only time I remember her taking to her “sick bed” was when she sprained her ankle and even then she kept trying to get up to do things. I want to go out like she did. She finally just went to sleep, soft as cream. Eventually we will all go, but that’s the way I want to go.
So I decided if I wanted to live long, I would follow the expert, I think she was on to something, by the way, Happy Meatless Monday!
What are your thoughts?
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