The past six years, I’ve casually called myself a vegetarian. (While always hoping to be able to sneak a piece of bacon off the plate. One of the worst days was the discovery of a bacon bar at my cousin’s wedding. And the first time I went home after I stopped eating meat and my mom already had the bratwursts thawed and ready for the grill. I was, perhaps, one of the worst vegetarians ever.)
I stopped eating meat because one day in college, I just didn’t have the desire to eat any more eat. I watched Food Inc., and I read Michael Pollan, and then, I really didn’t have the desire to eat any more meat.
I kept it up when I came to Benin. There, it was easy. There really was no meat to eat. (except for the occasional can of Skyline chili).
Then I came to Namibia. Where there is a lot of meat to eat: oryx and zebra and kudu and the ambiguous “game.” Three times a day and sometimes in between meals. We told a campsite owner once that we weren’t planning on building a brai that night. He was baffled.
But, like in South Africa, Namibian meals are more about the preparation than the actual eating. Hours spent building a fire and drinking wine and having conversations while the food cooks. What’s on the brai doesn’t matter as much as the people who are around it.
So, I’ve started eating meat again. Because it’s (usually) fresh and (usually) local. Because it’s part of the cultural experience. Because oryx steak is good.
I think I kept up my vegetarianism for so long because I had gotten used to it. And maybe a little because I didn’t want to have to deal with the comments about me eating meat again. Then, one night, as I was being poured another glass of red wine and handed a plate of food that had just come off the fire, I decided that nothing other people would say would make this steak less delicious.