I have been a vegetarian since about 1986. I stopped eating meat for many reasons. Chief among them was that I didn't really like the flavor OR the idea of eating animal flesh. This decision didn't sit well with my family, especially my dad, who still offers me meat to this day.
After work I was talking to my folks. My dad was born in the late 1910's in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. My mom was born 7 years later in Santa Barbara.
My mother said she didn't remember eating meat much as a child. Times were hard. She said they ate a lot of soup, potatoes and beans flavored with a little piece of pork. A chicken was a nice treat for Sunday dinner.
Dad grew up in the country. He, his father, five brothers and cousins hunted and fished, so they ate meat all the time.
He said he remembers leaving the house before dawn, barefoot, taking his shotgun to hunt up some quail or pigeons for the family's meal.
He talked about other times when he would shoot a deer, field-dress it (removing entrails, head and legs) and haul the rest home by himself, which he said was tricky since the deer's skin was loose and he had to carry his rifle, too. (A full-grown deer usually weighs between 120 and 150 lbs).
Hearing their stories made me realize why eating meat is such a big deal to my dad. It isn't just some redneck macho thing. It is a link to his heritage and his feeling of belonging and importance in his family, that he could provide something of real value through his efforts.
Bringing home meat was a man's job, and, for them, a big part of becoming a man - literally "bringing home the bacon."
By becoming a vegetarian, I have cast aside a piece of my history and removed myself from the web of that family tradition. I didn't mean for it to be a hurtful choice, but now I can see how strange it is to my father.