Many people who give up meat still enjoy its taste and also find value in limitless culinary adventures. “When I go to my friends’ house for dinner, I’m like, ‘Shit, yeah, I want to eat that amazing meat you made,'” says Perry, who started eating vegetarian at home after moving in. a plant friend during a pandemic. She just didn’t feel like it made sense for them to cook their own food. The relationship had since ended, but Perry’s new habits remained. “I like how it makes me feel,” she says.
Others who like to eat meat have cut it out at home due to climate concerns. After watching a Planet Earth documentary about how global warming is decimating the vulnerable walrus population, Tina Liu decided she wanted to reduce her carbon footprint. But the 33-year-old product manager, who lives in New York, also loves eating out. “If the food sounds good, I want to try it,” he says. He doesn’t want to miss his parents’ Chinese kitchen either, where pork chops or chicken often appear. “I understand it’s made with love,” he says. “I don’t want to twist something that brings me joy into killing the planet.” At least not 100% of the time.
For some people, reducing meat consumption is a matter of health. Taranekia Gilbert-Ross, owner of The Boujee Southerner, a new plant-based stew restaurant in Lawrenceville, Georgia, has suffered from “terrible stomach problems” since she was in her 20s. After several doctors suggested she avoid beef, the 42-year-old chef decided to start eating vegan at home last year. Gilbert-Ross still eats the odd chicken breast at large gatherings with family and friends, mostly to avoid fussing over hosts who may not be self-confident vegan cooks, but she sees her diet as a “gateway to being a fully plant-based person.”
Her restaurant’s menu, which includes vegan classics like sweet potato cornbread and collard greens, is an extension of that lifestyle. “Heart disease is the number one killer of black Americans,” he says. “I wanted to create something that would help people live longer.” While she hopes her food will convert some meat eaters to a plant-based diet, Gilbert-Ross meets her customers where they are. “Food is such a comfort in many black households,” he says. “You can’t just tell people not to eat. [their favorite dishes].”
For Libby Huggins, a 40-year-old teacher living in Kansas City, the decision to avoid meat was easy: “I just don’t like the consistency or the taste,” she says. Huggins also finds the meat industry “gross” and scary. There are a few caveats. She “bites” her father’s delicious pork tenderloin and occasionally tastes meat dishes on the road, which is a big part of her relationship with her husband.
I myself have vacillated between strict vegetarianism and social meat-eating for more than ten years. I mostly eat meat for work. A couple of times a year, I eat a Polish grandmother’s juicy pies and borscht with chicken, which she claims is vegetarian. Every Christmas I happily devour my boyfriend’s mom’s amazing German Sauerbraten. My mom’s beef lasagna topped with crispy béchamel is my vegetarian Achilles’ heel. I love all these women so much and I’m not going to turn down the effort they put into feeding me.