Monday, August 31, 2009

COLUMN: Carnivore

It's not often that my life gets easier -- and that's sad when you think about it. I mean, come on, this IS the 21st Century. We should all have jetpacks and flying cars and teleportation and clothes that self-wash and food that comes in pill form. Instead, it just seems like life piles up more and more complicated crud on us with every passing year. Ergo, it's the little things that count.

My life just got easier. My girlfriend is now a carnivore. Huzzah!

Maybe it's because I hang out with a lot of hipsters and artsy types, but we meat-eaters are an endangered species in my clique of friends. Ever since college, I've always had at least one close friend in my life who recoils in horror at the sight of a Quarter Pounder. Whenever you hear of a PETA protest in town or someone throwing fake blood onto a fur coat, there's a pretty good chance I know 'em.

Now, don't get me wrong, vegans and vegetarians. I have nothing against you, your lifestyle, and your digestive tract. I get the whole vegetarian thing, I really do. I consider myself a cute-itarian: I simply refrain from eating any animal that might one day make me go "awwwwwwww" when featured in a Disney cartoon. Deer are cute -- hence they stay off my plate. Chickens? NOT cute. Turkeys? NOT cute AND mean. Cows are only cute when they're babies, so no veal for me, thanks. Cows are beautiful creatures. They're just slightly more beautiful when served medium well with an ample amount of Heinz 57.

When your friends are vegetarians, eating out can be a real chore. When your GIRLFRIEND is a vegetarian, it's an entirely different ballgame.

I can't tell you the number of dates I've been on the past six months where I sit and tear through a steak while my girlfriend contentedly nibbles on an unappetizing assortment of twigs and berries. Some restaurants are really accommodating to the vegeterian way of life, others not so much. I'm too new at this to know which is which. But wherever we end up, she'll invariably go, "Oh, don't worry, I'll find something!" Sometimes she'll end up with something decent. But sometimes it ends up me devouring Chicken Little while she asks the waiter for some ranch sauce for her parsley sprigs and I'll feel like Glutton McMeateater.

All that changed at the NASCAR race in the Iowa Speedway the other day. I thought nothing of it when she said she wanted food. What I didn't expect was to see her come back with a chicken sandwich in her hand.

"Whaaaa?" said Shane.

"It looked good. I wanted some chicken."

"Wait, this isn't going to be the sort of decision you'll regret later and freak out on me, is it? 'Coz we can get you some nice tofu in a bit..."

"Nnnnnope," she said, taking a big ol' bite of the forbidden carnal treasure. She said something after that which was nearly indescipherable, other than it started with "OMIGODITSSOOOOGOOOOOOOD!" I'm pretty sure it was what scientists refer to as a meatgasm.

I thought maybe it was a one-off dance with the devil until the ride home, when she asked, "Umm, can we stop by Arby's? I think I want a Beef 'n' Cheddar." Gulp. And with that, her lengthy experiment with vegetarianism came to a crashing halt. Now I'm completely open and accepting and supportive of anybody's dietary choices, and I would NEVER pressure any twig-eater into plunging headfirst into a meat pile, but can I just say: HOORAH! Goodbye, guilt. Hello, Jim's Rib Haven!

Of course, the timing couldn't have been worse. Mere days after her epic change of heart, I had an experience that made ME second-guess my carnivorous ways.

There exists in the Quad Cities a fast-food restaurant. I won't say which one, because you might not ever want to eat there again. It's a restaurant whose drive-thru lane I frequent frequently. And just inside that drive-thru window, there's a bulletin board. And hanging on that board are any number of employee memos -- which, if they're written large enough, can be read by any customers who are nozy and/or bored enough to bother with.

It was on that very bulletin board the other day that I saw this note, written in huge letters with what appeared to be an angry, exasperated pen:


ummm... on behalf of the entire Quad Cities at large, can I just say... good? I suppose I appreciate the sentiment of the notice, and that the restaurant now gives a rat's behind about NOT treating their customers to an extra helping of enterotoxins with their poultry. But no, what I'm concerned about here is one word in that notice:


The sign didn't say "there will be no boxing up and selling of expired chicken." No, it said, "there will be no MORE boxing up and selling of expired chicken." One must only assume, prior to this sign's invention, that the boxing up and selling of expired chicken was a frequent pasttime of this establishment, until somebody had to come along and ruin all the fun with a pesky sign.

I suppose it can be forensically argued that ANY chicken who exits a processing plant in the correct manner had better be "expired," but something tells me that wasn't the point of this sign. At a fast-food joint, we're not priviliged to see the sell-by date on our combo meals. I suppose, though, if an e.coli bacterium can survive a ride through a deep-fryer, it's somewhat deserving of a nice intestinal tract to vacation in.

Still, I prefer that intestinal tract to NOT be mine. So, for the time being, chicken from THAT place is off my menu. And maybe chickens as a whole are suddenly much cuter than I once thought. And maybe a diet without red meat might not be the worst decision I could make. And maybe tofu doesn't taste THAT bad. And maybe parsley with ranch sauce sounds kinda appetizing.

ARRRRRGH. Life was supposed to be easier.

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