On the second bite I notice it: not bean, not onion. I hesitate as the unexpected texture rests on the tip of my tongue. It’s been a long time, but I haven’t forgotten bacon. Soft, smoky, forbidden.
What’s a vegetarian to do? Spit into a linen napkin in the best Mexican restaurant in Chicago which doesn’t accept reservations and the wait is two hours but where my friend has hip-checked our way to a bar table and finagled a third chair? No. I haven’t eaten meat in years, but the bacon is already in my mouth. I could feel disgusted, dismayed, disappointed. Instead I lean into the moment: salty, earthy, illicit.
This reminds me of a piece of advice a professor gave me in college. Walking out of the English exam, I passed my professor at the vending machine (which, because Cornell has an Ag school, vends milk cartons). Just as I got too close to pretend I didn’t see him, he poured the contents of said milk carton down the front of his shirt. He looked up at me (through sunglasses) and said, “I thought it was going to be orange juice. And you know, when you find yourself between two paradigms? All you can do is just experience.” Which, even though he was clearly high, continues to strike me as good counsel.
Don’t worry–I’m not afraid the taste of bacon is the gateway drug to a carnivorous lifestyle. Which apparently is a good thing because a study found that people who ate meat every day were 13 percent more likely to die prematurely. So, yeah, I ate a bite of bacon and I liked it. Maybe two bites. I didn’t turn into a meat-crazed lunatic. Crazed lunatic, perhaps. But not owing to meat.