Sixth Borough: Confessions of a Meat-eater

| 16 Feb 2015 | 11:42

We've been eating a lot of meat in my family. Dinner, recently, has included pork every which way, goat testicles (which you may have read about), chicken brains, chicken liver, chicken stomach, beef liver, beef heart, chicken broth made with the bones and the feet. Even our vegetarian-looking meals, like quinoia with veggies from the garden, are cooked in pork fat or chicken broth.

Most of the rest of America (minus the paleo contingent) is eating less meat, I'm well aware. Considering the quality of the meat coming from big producers, and the torturous conditions the animals suffer, that's a good thing. I nod supportively while people tell me how they've cut back, patting their diminished bellies, and conversation moves on. It feels unfriendly to bring up the fact that I've eaten a quarter of a pig in the last month.

It isn't long since I, too, was virtuously ordering steamed vegetable dumplings, and trying not to be judgmental or jealous of my friend for getting beef dumplings (and failing on both counts). Now "meat grinder" is on the top of my Christmas wish list.

What happened?

Let's rewind two years. I was pregnant, and had recently stopped eating factory-farmed meat, after reading "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer. I remember a friend, also pregnant (with twins) telling me with a laugh that she ate a big steak once a week, and wanting to cry, that sounded so good.

Meanwhile, late in my pregnancy, my midwife informed me I was borderline anemic and if I didn't get my iron levels up, I wouldn't be allowed to have a home birth. So I took a horse pill daily that constipated me and tasted gross, and got my iron to a level sufficient to give birth at home, but still below average.

I remember eating an endless amount of kale.

When my baby, Kai, started eating solids, we didn't feed her meat regularly ? maybe a bite here or there at a party. A little while after her first birthday, she went through a testy period where she'd throw herself down and cry. Around then I noticed white patches on the top of her front teeth. I ordered a book about tooth decay, and later another about childhood nutrition.

I hate those headlines: "What I learned shocked me!" But it did ? and it didn't. Kai's teeth were decaying because, although we were eating organic, unprocessed food, we weren't eating well. My body had been telling me so all along, if only I'd thought of my cravings as a message: we needed to be eating meat, including organ meats and bone broth and all sorts of things you don't find at ShopRite. (And less bread and dried fruit, which has lots of sugar).

Glory, glory hallelujah. Bring on the bacon.

And so, while our friends are observing Meatless Monday, my little family is gorging like the Roman aristocracy. At the moment we're working our way through the half a pig in our freezer ? our own pig, which we raised and husband Joe slaughtered with a friend. Kai enjoys munching on a slice of pig heart while I take her for a jog in the stroller.

Joe has gotten leaner and leaner, until at 38, he's down to college weight. Kai's front four teeth are still not in good shape, but all the rest of them are coming in looking beautiful, and she's a ball of energy. The only difference I've noticed in myself is that I've stopped craving meat.

This morning, Joe asked whether I thought we should do two more pigs before the winter, expecting a "hell yeah." I looked at him, thought about it, looked at him again, and shook my head.

"I'm kind of porked out," I said. He burst into giggles.

"Can we do a cow?"

Becca Tucker is a former Manhattanite now living on a farm upstate and writing about the rural life.