Ex-Vegetarians Tell Why They Began Eating Meat Again


Credit: Sara Norris/Thrillist

Our relationship with meat is complicated, and there are myriad reasons why we might choose to ditch it from our diets completely: health concerns, moral ambiguity, trying to impress Paul McCartney, etc. But even as some turn away from the omnivorous path, on occasion those same people come back. The individuals profiled in this article all flirted with the veggie side of life, but eventually rediscovered flesh fare for varied and compelling reasons. None of which include pregnancy.

More: The Most Annoying Things About Vegetarians, According to One

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The hardcore vegetarian who was seduced by David Chang
Leanne Butkovic, a Thrillist city editor, spent six years as a vegetarian and one year as a card-holding (they have cards, right?) vegan. “When I was 16, I handled a piece of raw, ground beef that just set me off. It was gross, and that was really my first big adverse reaction to meat,” she said.

Afterwards, she tore through the benchmark reading materials — Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma — and by the time she hit college, she was a veritable vegetarian. Her school, University of Missouri-Columbia, boasted a surprisingly robust vegetarian community that made the lifestyle appealing, and realistic.

“The impetus here was originally based on what I read about, the problems with the food industry, animal cruelty. I also knew it was probably something that would be healthy for me. But it was really easy to be a vegetarian at college, for me. I was in a culture that massively supported my decision, surrounded by like-minded people.”

“When I moved to New York, it became harder to be a vegetarian. There was so much good food, and at the time I didn’t really have the means to buy the food I needed to maintain the lifestyle I had been living at school,” she said. “I was suddenly looking at meat, almost wanting some.

“One night, I was watching David Chang cook this juicy, inches-thick steak on Mind of a Chef. He was drizzling oil all over it. He says something like ‘if you could only smell this right now.’ It was like something snapped, it was an epiphany.”

Butkovic said she literally experienced “meat dreams,” that night, and the very next day she was “serendipitously served a coal-oven pizza with uncured pork jowls” (it’s Brooklyn), which she ate enthusiastically. “After that, I do eat meat now, about every other day. And I try to be conscious of where my food is coming from. But I actually don’t think I’ve had a steak since that David Chang moment. I should get one, right?”

The dude who was swayed by Spanish ham
Thrillist staff photographer Cole Saladino was also a vegetarian for a little over a year, before calling it off on a Euro-trip. “I did grow up in California — where you expect everyone to be a vegetarian — but I didn’t give up meat till I came to New York. I thought it would be cheaper to be a vegetarian, I cooked mainly at home and I didn’t mind eating the same thing every night. And, I thought it would be healthier.”

Saladino said the decision came after he realized he hadn’t eaten meat for a week, so he decided to “just keep going.” After a year and some change of vegetarianism, he left New York for a semester abroad in Madrid — where, according to him, abstaining from meat wasn’t an option. “I knew I was going to Europe, and I knew I wanted to experience the full spectrum of food there, because I thought it was an important part of the culture and I didn’t want to limit myself. It’s a good thing, too — I don’t think they fully understood what a vegetarian is over there. Even their vegetarian pizza has some pork on it — and that was the first thing I ate over there. I didn’t regret it,” he said.

Though Saladino now eats meat frequently, he said that being a vegetarian has helped him learn to shape a healthy, veggie-centric diet. But he does take a lot of meat pictures. That counts for something, right?

To learn what other reasons have causes vegetarians to forsake the veg-only way, get the full story at Thrillist.com!

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