12 February 2004

Explaining My Diet

I received the following letter from a reader:
Keith, I am curious. What made you give up chicken so many years after giving up red meat? Or rather, what made you continue to eat chicken after rejecting red meat? Joanna
Thanks for writing, Joanna. My plan, back in 1981, was to eliminate animal products from my diet gradually. If you will pardon the puns, I didn't want to quit cold turkey (or go whole hog). But seriously, becoming a vegan is a momentous event. I was worried that my health would suffer. I knew little about nutrition; I was poor (in law school); and I couldn't cook worth a lick (despite having a mother who's excellent at it). I decided that if I gave up red meat all at once, but continued eating turkey, chicken, fish, and eggs for a while, I could learn about nutrition and cooking in the meantime. The plan was to eliminate turkey from my diet at the end of 1981 (which I did), then chicken the following year, then fish the year after that, and then eggs. By the time I reached veganhood in three or four years, I'd be ready for it.

As I said in my blog yesterday, I failed to eliminate chicken from my diet when the time came. It was moral weakness. I admit it. I ate chicken in many forms and enjoyed it. I've never backslid. Since 31 December 1981, the only animal products I've consumed (other than the insects that creep into our canned goods) are chicken, fish, and eggs. As time went on, I found myself eating less and less chicken. Then, a couple of years ago, I had an invigorating e-mail exchange with several friends and colleagues. These conversations didn't persuade me of anything (sorry, Mylan); they simply inspired me to continue the program I began more than two decades ago. I decided to eliminate chicken from my diet at long last. I sometimes buy chicken-flavored ramen, but that's it. I also became picky about the eggs I eat. The grocery stores I frequent began carrying eggs from "free-roaming" hens. They cost more, but it's worth it to me.

So here I am. No dairy products for thirty-two years. No red meat for twenty-three years. No turkey for twenty-two years. No chicken for a couple of years. The only eggs I eat are from free-roaming hens. I still eat fish, however. I'm no saint. But I'm close to my ideal, and there's always room for improvement. The next thing to go, if I move forward, will be the fish.

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