I’ve long grappled with the idea of being a meat-eater.
It started when I was eight or nine. I think it was my spring break. We were having lunch while on the road in Nebraska, headed out east somewhere (as always), and one of the menu items caught my eye. Buffalo burger, it read. Eight ounces of buffalo meat grilled to your preference with swiss cheese, mushrooms, onions, and bacon. Or something like that.
“Yeah,” he said. “Made out of buffalo.”
I was flabbergasted. Made out of buffalo? Like Ralphie?
“Like Ralphie,” my dad said.
If you aren’t from Colorado, chances are you don’t necessarily know about Ralphie, the University of Colorado mascot that is, yes, a live buffalo that gets bustled along the perimeter of Folsom Field before CU football home games. She has handlers who are student athletes (you bet it takes an athletic program to handle her), and when she has seen enough days on the football field, she is retired to a ranch somewhere in the Rocky Mountains to graze to her heart’s content. You could say I’m rather fond of Ralphie — she was the first thing I knew about the school that would one day become my alma mater.
Yeah, you try telling a fourth-grader that she’s eating a Ralphie burger.
Over the years, I became more and more resistant to the idea of meat on the dinner table. I’ve never been a big fan of ham; in fact my family still makes fun of me for being absolutely insolent at the idea of having a Christmas ham. As a teenager, besides being weight-conscious, I ordered salads when we went out, or at the very least, avoided getting a burger (who knows if it could’ve been a Ralphie burger?). And I usually picked at my serving of the Thanksgiving turkey, woefully unsatisfied that the only way it tasted decent to me was if it was slathered with gravy.
And I’ll be honest: I’m just not that into bacon. (Save your mud-slinging for someone else — it’s useless on me!)
On the other hand, I’ve also been raised in two rather meat-loving cultures. My mother is Filipina, and I’ve seen more than my fair share of lechon (roast pig) parties, cooked more than enough chicken adobo, and been totally excited for some kare-kare (a stew made with beef and/or oxtail). My father comes from German stock, which means that our church had krautburger sales and bratwurst for dinner was a regular occurrence.
Throughout all of this, I’m still mostly a carnivore.