The Reluctant Carnivore

If you’re a vegetarian or even a vegan, you could do worse than living in a place like Ubud. In fact, I’m not sure that it would be a stretch to claim that this town probably has the largest number of vegetarian-friendly restaurants – per square inch – in all of Asia. Not just are vegetarians very welcome in this town, but the real rage is organic and.. raw food. The raw foodies are everywhere, proselytizing, poo-pooing the non-raw-foodies (what, you’re still eating cooked food? pshaw!)

So imagine how easy it’s been for me, these past (almost) 4 years, finding a vast array of scrumptious and nutritious choices for someone like me, who for many years has been predominantly vegetarian – with the occasional slice of fish or chicken added to the mix.

Then imagine how blindsided I was when, not one, but two practitioners (actually three, but I’m not a big fan of the 3rd so he’s not in my good books right now) read me the riot act. You HAVE to eat meat, they said – one after the other. Not just any kind of meat. Preferably ORGAN meats. Gamey meats. Venison. Bison. Veal. Sweetbrain if you cDSC02464an stomach it.

The German-born persona non grata actually went so far as to recommend that I eat these meats – with butter and bread (!) – at EVERY single meal; occasionally with veggies and grains thrown in. He also advised that I eat foods such as smoked salmon, mackerel, pears and caviar. In Bali. I nearly lost it. Caviar?!

But yesterday, DSC02466when L looked me straight in the eye, nodded gently and re-iterated (as he’d done last week) that I really should be eating some bone marrow soup; and because I respect and honor his knowledge and experience (in so many areas), I realized I was done. Medium-rare or well.. done.

For the first time in all these years, I ventured over to the supermarket’s meat counter. Through the display case windows, I scanned the meats (ground beef, chicken feet, chunks of beef..) – and I started to feel nauseous. How would I ever manage to digest these meats when my body had become accDSC02467ustomed to salads, grains, soups – and Balinese food?

Then I went over to the smaller fish section. Now, THAT I could handle; tuna, salmon, a few other little fishies besides.

It was time to get my body back on track. At least to push the re-set button.

No, I didn’t buy a slab o’ steak – don’t imagine I’ll ever be able to do so…

But this afternoon, I dared myself. I walked up the street, just a stone’s throw away, to a restaurant so renowned for its grilled burgers, steaks, pork chops, sausages and ribs.. that Indonesians and expats alike will sometimes drive an hour or more (from down south) to chomp away at the smorgasbord of meat. I settled down near the grill (at the roadside) and studied the menu. Uuuhhh…

DSC02470Sure I had a choice. I could have resisted, could have ordered a yummy looking salad, or a delicious vegetable and noodle soup. But when the waitress came over, I heard myself speak words that I’ve not uttered for many years. One steak please. Medium-rare. And yes, potato wedges on the side. (ok, it was in bahasa indonesia, but that was the gist of it)

When she brought my order to the table, I stared at it for long enough that she came back and asked if everything was alright. Yes, I said.. thinking that I really didn’t want to eat it but couldn’t very well tell HER that. What a dilemma I had: To eat or not to eat? DSC02473

I apologized to dead animals, gave thanks for food that nourishes me – plus a double-dose of gratitude to those who are guiding me to better health (though I sure as hell wish they would have found a different method!) – and did the deed:

I cringed as I sawed through the meat, cutting it into bite-size pieces. And I procrastinated by slowly nibbling away at the wedges. And then I ate it. All of it. The whole damn slab.

And, though I’d rather not admit it, my body felt very VERY happy indeed.


  1. As a matter of practice, I suppose we each have to decide for ourselves whether to support the exploitation of animals as a food source. As a matter of healthy diet, there’s so much noise out there, so much fad, it gets hard to be confident in our choices. I like data. I got on to “Eat To Live” by Dr. Fuhrman after seeing his presentation on public tv one morning. As an M.D., he has specialized in nutrition. His book(s) are based on science and data from large studies from around the world. It’s very persuasive. So when you choose broccoli instead of a t-bone, you’ll know why. And when people tell you that you have to eat this or that – you’ll have your own hard data and your own understanding. Namaste

    1. Thank you for your comments. I certainly understand what you mean about exploitation of animals, but I find it’s wiser to suspend judgment when we don’t know the whole story and the heavy burden of making certain decisions…

      1. Completely agree. We must decide things for ourselves. If I could, I would not just suspend judgment of others, I would quit it altogether for the very reason that you cite. We can do our best, but none of us can ever fully know what someone else’s burden is. Speaking only for my own judgmental ways, I find that most of it is superficial and reactive and not at all well considered. No judgment of anyone was intended in my original comment. In fact, I meant to gloss over the ethical part of it so I could get to my book recommendation. I think “exploitation” is an accurate word in this context. But if I had been more mindful, I would have considered how loaded with judgment that term is. So by using it, I break my own practice. That’s my bad. I should have found better words.

      2. No worries.. every day we’re given opportunities to reflect, learn and tweak our pre-conceptions and beliefs. I have a long way to go yet myself… πŸ˜‰

  2. COngratulations. I was vegetarian for 16 years. When I finally started eating meat again (during pregnancy and, like you, on strong advice), I felt like someone had turned the lights on.

  3. Some bodies really need meat protein. My daughter is one. She wanted to be exclusively vegetarian sooo dearly, but she doesn’t thrive on nuts and berries, barely survives. In the end, the wisdom of our bodies dictates and hopefully we bow and surrender.

    1. I was eating more than nuts & berries of course, but yes that’s what it boiled down to.. meat protein, fat and other essential nutrients. So that’s what I did, surrender. And slept REALLY well πŸ˜‰

  4. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for you to eat meat again. I am not vegetarian but I do have to be very careful about what I eat. I like your comment about suspending judgement regarding people’s food choices, you never know what the reason may be for the selection they are making!

    1. Yes, it was challenging, but I was getting to the point I shouldn’t have… and I had a tuna sandwich with mayo and veggies on brown toast for lunch! It’s a whole new (or old, actually) world for me.. πŸ˜‰

  5. What a great blog! As a former vegetarian who has recently started eating meat on my doctor’s advice, I can relate to your experience. I don’t WANT to eat meat but on the few occasions when I do, I can feel my body responding with gratitude. I remember Naughty Nuri’s from a holiday…how lucky are you to be living in Ubud!

  6. As is always the case, it is about finding the right balance. I tend to be ‘feast or famine’ when it comes to meat which I’m sure is not good. Enjoy finding your own delicious balance, Amit πŸ™‚

  7. I think it’s good to say thanks when we eat meat – to the animal that is, not to some deity, at least for me. I hardly ever remember, so thanks for the reminder.

    Incidentally, did you see the documentary where they reintroduced wolves to a place in the US, and within a very short number of years the ecosystem improved – more birds and animals, richer mix of plants, simply because the wolves stopped the antelopes from overgrazing the river banks. So we apex carnivores do have our place.

    1. Hi Mike, Thanks indeed, to the animals and trees and earth (for all the produce we’re blessed to have). No, didn’t hear of that doc, but thanks for the info. Nature – and the ecosystem generally – if left to their own devices, are powerful entities… Interesting term: apex carnivore πŸ˜‰

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