Coleman nodded, and so reigned a moment of long, greasy silence in their cramped dining room on Long Island. Then Marilyn easy-morphed into stepmonster, asserting how she, at least, turns out lights when leaving rooms, unlike Elahna who had left a bulb burning down Western Civilization in the guest bedroom. I defended my wife by reminding Marilyn of her huge carbon footprint as she flies around the world clutching her bucket list -- Ghent altarpiece, check; blue-footed boobies of the Galapagos, check -- and she snorted, the planes are going there anyway, and then Elahna chimed in with her firm-but-tolerant voice and Coleman kept eating, munch, munch, munch, and I reminded myself not to answer questions about being a vegetarian in front of meat eaters, never ever again.
The very practice of abstaining from eating animals is an affront to many people. It hits a chord, and so has arisen the meme of the sanctimonious vegetarian making everyone else feel bestial and selfish. But in my experience, just refusing to dig into the roast beast is enough to unhinge a lot of people. And if you're a vegan -- Good G-d! Don't tell me, you're off-the-grid, too?
Could mankind's skyrocketing appetite for spare ribs and sirloin steaks doom us to runaway climate change and worldwide species decline (including our own)? Yes, it's possible. I'll spare you the statistics today as well as the nanny lecture about cutting down your meat consumption, embracing Meatless Monday and Fishy Friday and generally being more mindful of what you cram down your craving-craw. But I will say that I've eaten meat for most of my life and enjoyed it, with a growing background sense of unease in recent years. As a kid I loved Oscar Mayer Wieners and their commercial jingle. I ate hash from cans and even tried the dog's horse meat from his bowl -- not bad, a bit salty. I made the switch to vegetarian (including ocean-caught fish) at age 55, and fairly suddenly, during my recuperation from open-heart surgery. One day I picked up Yuval Noah Harari's amazing book Sapiens, read the chapter on our relationship to animals, and that was that.
Why, you ask, am I a vegetarian? Oh, that's a long, boring story. But what a nice brooch you're wearing! And how about those Mets...