My Year of Meats

I am surely the only person in America right now whose goal is to eat more meat. Yes, you heard that right. More meat.

People tend to assume that I am a vegetarian, although I’m not and never have been. But it is true that for many years I ate little poultry and almost no red meat. My reasons were mainly gustatory, as there was little meat that I really liked. Environmental concerns also figured into the habit: Diet for a Small Planet and the More-with-Less Cookbook were around the house when I was a kid, and I read them.

So why the sudden change? I have been very, very tired for several months, and the last time I went to give blood I was a little too anemic. I eat very well and should in theory get plenty of protein from legumes and milk and iron from spinach, but I wondered, since suddenly I started to crave meat more often, if there might not be some crucial animal protein or other nutrient that my body was missing.

The second reason has to do with where I live. We do not grow a lot of produce in Wyoming, especially at 6000 feet. What we mostly grow are animals: things that can eat what passes for grass out here, with a side of sagebrush. I’m not a hunter, so I don’t have a freezer full of elk and venison. But I do have a store where I can buy local meat.

There are, of course, detrimental environmental consequences to raising cows in the arid west. But are they any worse than the consequences of Midwestern feedlot beef pumped full of hormones and fed on corn? And is the carbon footprint of a lamb or cow that came from a ranch within 50 miles of the store really greater than that of the eggplants and peppers and tomatoes that get shipped in from Chile?

I haven’t done the calculations, and so perhaps I’m wrong, but I would guess that it’s about a wash. So last week I made my great-grandmother’s meatballs. Tonight I sat down with a lamb chop, some mashed potatoes and parsnips, and some broccoli. Later this week I’m going to make the dish my mother and I called simply “hamburger-spinach-egg-mushroom.” And after that, perhaps lasagna.

And oh, did I mention? I’m also planting a garden.

6 thoughts on “My Year of Meats”

  1. “hamburger-spinach-egg-mushroom” — this could be Joe’s Special, a San Francisco dish. The mushrooms are a twist I’ve seen a lot; I remember ordering meatless-joe-with-mushrooms at one restaurant fairly regularly in the late 1970s (when avoiding meat was a vanity thing related to weight control — not effectively, but still).

    Do you know if they finish off the cattle with corn, or let them feed on grass til… *you know*?

  2. I think they’re largely grass-fed, although that may vary from ranch to ranch. I can, however, find out which ranch any given cut came from and go find out.

    I should ask my mom where she got the hamburger-spinach-egg-mushroom recipe or idea from. We ate it all the time when I was a kid. I plan to make a splendiferous version with good meat, fresh eggs, and spinach from a neighbor’s garden that I froze last year. I can’t do much about the provenance of the mushrooms, but one can’t have everything.

  3. Right, I think of local eating as a dial I am tuning rather than a series of absolutes (though I could see living on oysters and tupelo honey for a long while).

  4. I don’t remember where we got the recipe anymore. It also has chopped onion; I’d probably add garlic now, since I am not making it for a small child or a finicky husband. I do remember that your grandmother said, “wouldn’t this be even better with cheese?” No, Gran, it wouldn’t. Maybe I’ll make it for her this week and see whether history repeats itself.

  5. Yes, it definitely needs some onion, and garlic would be good, too. As is, it’s kind of bland. Mine also came out very dry. I seem to remember that you made it on the electric skillet. Perhaps stove top doesn’t work as well?

  6. Yes, though I think my electric skillet has gone to Goodwill, or the landfill. I think if I were stovetopping it I’d turn the heat down a bunch at the last stage, cooking the eggs through. More onion would keep it moister, too. love, Mom

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