I’m Throwing in the Towel on Vegetarianism (And Need Your Help!)

Why I'm no longer a vegetarian and how you can guide my explorations in eating meat and more.

All of my life, I’ve been a vegetarian.

Except for the occasional chicken nugget in a Happy Meal (which might be part of the reason I stayed away from meat as a kid), I really have never eaten meat. For the sake of full disclosure: I did have two close encounters with meat, both within the past two years: The first, with a filet mignon at a black-tie awards dinner where I awkwardly pushed said meat around my plate before giving up and grabbing something to eat later that night; the second, at weekly lobster boils while I studied one summer in coastal Maine. I made a futile attempt to break, crack and pry open the local delicacy and, instead, wound up with lots of hungry dinner companions who wanted to cash in on my uneaten meal.

Being a lifelong vegetarian has meant no fish on Christmas Eve, no BBQ during the warm summer months and, worse yet, very limited menu selections when dining out.

And being a vegetarian has come with quite a few questions sparked from other people’s curiosity: The first is “Why?” (Taste, perception, ethics); the second is “Are your parents vegetarian?” (No); and the third usually is “How do you get protein?” (Through a variety of sources, mostly nuts, beans or green leafy veggies).

Those certainly are fair questions, but there’s one occasional comment that, finally, has made enough of an impact on me—it’s a comment that most meat-eaters have likely said to a non-meat eater at some point in their lives, a comment that many non-meat eaters grow to expect (but likely cringe) upon hearing: “You really don’t know what you’re missing.”

Those words were last said to me about six weeks ago while dining with friends, when suddenly, the realization struck me clear-as-day: They’re right.

When it comes to surf, turf—even eggs—I really don’t know what I’m missing. I am totally clueless. It’s for these reasons—and for the sheer adventure of trying something new—that I’ve decided to throw in the towel on vegetarianism and delight myself in eating all of these things I’ve never before tried.

When telling my friends, family and colleagues of this decision and about “All Eats,” many responded in disbelief. “Usually people go the other way, from meat-eating to being a vegetarian or vegan. It’s not the other way around,” a few reminded me.

 One of my closest childhood friends simply said: “I can’t wait until you try a steak and love it.”

 And maybe I will. The question now is: Where do I begin?

Help me get acquainted with eating meat. What should be first or last on my to-eat list? Post a comment or e-mail kjohnston@pittsburghmagazine.com.