From Big Mac to McVegan: My journey to a meatless life
“Would you like fries with that?” I would ask, often with a hint of teenage I-know-it-all-and-I-am-better-than-you attitude.
And I was. Fashioning high tech drive-thru gear gave me a false sense of self-importance. I had a trendy uniform with accessories, a myriad of flair à la Office Space and a custom-made brass nametag.
Allowing my report card to act a pseudo reference letter, I landed my first paying gig at the local McDonald’s. I guess I must have said something right as much later in my utopian vocation, I was allowed to look at my first interview notes. They read: Candidate for promotion.
I climbed the "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun" restaurant ladder landing myself a spot in the management team.
I was 16.
I loved my job and was dedicated. I planned events and birthday parties, trained new employees and handled customer complaints. Leading impromptu tours was my favorite activity. I would scout the restaurant, find well-behaved kids with adult supervision and teach them to cook a burger and make their own sundae concoction.
It was about making them smile, and it felt good.
Of course, some of my duties were banal: Restocking, ordering, taking inventory and accounting. But all these bedazzling new responsibilities were exciting and I took them with the utmost pious seriousness. I took pride in having my kitchen so well stocked that our over-populated lunch crowd would get their fine delicacies in record time.
One day, during prep, while I ambitiously carried — well, Cirque du Soleil-type balanced — two boxes of quarter pounder patties, a colleague (obviously not a manager) mooed. The boxes hindered my line of vision and while starting to chuckle, then laugh, then convulse, I managed to drop them both on my foot. Both boxes broke and patties elegantly glided everywhere, like oversized frozen hockey pucks.
It was not one of my finest moments.
It was during clean up that I realized what was inside those boxes and begun a slow transition into giving it up. First meat, then chicken, then fish, and years later, limiting dairy and egg products.
Looking at stacks of assorted boxes of processed meat was enough to make me feel like a cat trying to exorcise a hairball. What started and felt as some sort of post-traumatic fad — some told me I was practicing Jewish lent — turned more permanent.
I am by no means a picture-perfect vegan. It is quite plausible to drive oneself to irrational insanity in the quest for the Holy Grail, meaning 100-percent exclusion of all animal products not just in sustenance, but also in personal products, clothing and furniture. I dropped to my knees in universal thanks at learning that my skin care routine included animal-free products.
My acne cleared up, my skin radioactively glowed, my hair, well it is fabulous, and I felt like Aquaman.
Sexy vegans: Ellen Degeneres and delicious Portia de Rossi, Joaquin Phoenix, Woody Harrelson, Alicia Silverstone, Moby, and yes, lead singer of Radiohead, Thom York.
Whether you do it for health, for the environment, or for animal welfare, it seems that most people who transition to vegetarian and vegan diets and lifestyles experience some sort of traumatic epiphany. Although there is a strong but small movement in favor of raising vegan children and there are enough studies out there now to advocate the practice, most vegans make a go of it through a transition period in adulthood.
Dare I challenge you to try it for a week?
Tip 1: Eat a balanced and varied diet.
Tip 2: Eat colorful and beautiful food.
Tip 3: Wean yourself off meat over a week. Treat it as a side dish first.
Tip 4: Expand your culinary vocabulary. Learn about new fruits, veggies and cuisines.
Tip 5: Do not be afraid to dine out and be proud of your foodie exploration. Most restaurants have great options. Even steak houses will be happy to accommodate you.
Let me know how it goes in the comments section. Or just tell me, if you think I'm a McNut — us vegans have heard it all before.