I do like them, green eggs and ham

A colleague of mine recently wrote a column about life as a vegetarian. She obliquely argued that the vegetarian lifestyle is a better alternative to the polysaturated, artery-clogging path upon which many of us embark. Now, any time societal dietary policy is criticized, I’m like a notable Big 10 basketball coach who finds his team trailing an underdog opponent at half time — I get this huge rush of adrenaline and must come to the rescue.
First of all, the meat-eaters campaign sounds fairly reasonable to me. Second, I don’t believe better and brighter people restrict themselves (culinarily speaking) to soybeans and tofu (claims of health-crazed vigilantes notwithstanding). Last, and most important, why are we placing so much importance on eating vegetables anyway?
For starters, let’s look at the new wonderfood consumers that doctors and nutritionists are always touting as “better prepared.” I wish them well and offer congratulations on forgoing pork, poultry, and beef, among other things — they’re obviously capable of greater sacrifice than I.
I don’t care if these dietary fanatics limit their vittles to veggies. However, they won’t stay healthy if courses of protein, iron, calcium, and other minerals aren’t offered. Come on folks, legumes, lentils and refried beans only go so far.
Sadly, I’ve watched several of my family members and friends accept vegetarianism as a way of life. All of them are now gaunt and anemic like the latest batch of cookie-cutter supermodels. Oddly enough, they’re always coming down with a cold or a case of pneumonia, and many of them purchase vitamin pills and dietary supplements from General Nutrition Centers by the truckload. Although they boast about low cholesterol levels, few can lift anything heavier than a phone book.
The larger question is — what’s so great about being a herbivore?
What is often lost in this debate is an examination of the purpose of eating pigs, chickens and cows (cooked, of course). Call me naive, but I thought my incisors were meant to cut and grind meat. And has anyone heard the news that meat products are a tremendous source of protein? Sure, you can juggle around complementary proteins in order to guarantee adequate amounts of the eight essential amino acids your body can’t physically produce, but isn’t it easier to simply indulge yourself with chicken Kiev or filet mignon?
The “four-legs-bad” crowd does raise some valid concerns. Most noticeably, they claim that Americans eat too much meat, and they point to statistical indicators like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure as evidence. Although I am inclined to agree with their assessment, I find their solution (i.e. quit eating meat cold turkey) quite unappetizing and hard to swallow.
Whatever happened to moderation? As a student, I consume prodigious amounts of vegetables, fruits, grains and cereals because it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than smoked salmon and sirloin stakes. When treated to an opulent dinner at my parents’ house, however, I certainly don’t pass on broiled shrimp or prime rib. (In fact, I usually ask for leftovers).
More egregious is the vegetarian love affair with barnyard animals. I can’t possibly count all of the instances of vegans pleading with me to denounce hamburger. “Oh, how can you eat those poor little cows?” they say. “They’re so cute!”
Cute? Apparently their closest encounter with cattle is limited to pictures in children’s books and Farm-Aid videos. Rest assured, they’re not nearly as charming in person. They’re big, they’re ugly, they smell and worst of all, they don’t wear Pampers.
Hailing from several generations of Midwestern dairy farmers, I cannot extend the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights to include Guernseys and Holsteins. Domestication and animal husbandry are not a recent phenomenon — modern-day agriculture rests on traditions stretching back thousands of years. Love they neighbor, but please draw the line at creatures who chew their cud.
What really irks me, however, is vegetarian elitism. Without fail, vegetarians wrinkle their noses with disdain after gazing upon a dietary infidel (like me, for example) enjoying a bacon double cheeseburger or an order of greasy chicken wings. More often than not, they can’t control the urge to comment with words like “disgusting” and “gross.” If you’re particularly unfortunate, they’ll lecture and preach the benefits of a vegetarian’s abstinence until the cows come home.
Why is this? I don’t hover around those delusional, misguided souls who sustain themselves with buckets of egg-plant salad (hold the bacon bits, of course) and bowls of seven-bean soup. In fact, I’m almost thankful they gave up meat — it simply means more roast beef and venison for me.
Personally, I was once a dietary statistical anomaly. A running partner once brainwashed me into believing that more veggies would increase my stamina endurance. “Eat more bananas,” he said. “and you’ll be able to run for hours.” Although I’ve completed three marathons, my New Year’s resolution to limit my food intake to non-meat products lasted all of two weeks.
Oddly enough, there’s no mention anywhere of elitism in the name of dietary de-evolution. It’s time to get back to the basics and halt this radical departure from common sense. And that means meat, so please pass the steak!
Greg Lauer’s column appears every Wednesday in the Daily.