By Justine Wang
I don’t need to try very hard to convince anyone I’m a big eater. Before I became a vegetarian, I would go to Cham Sut Gol for Korean barbeque with a few of my hallmates and finish 6 platters of meat with two others. I would also occasionally go to Brandywine and devour up to 5 chicken breasts along with a ham sandwich and top it all off with a grilled cheese.
I love to eat. This is why the beginning of this past summer was so radical for me. After my church’s annual summer retreat, I decided to become a vegetarian.
Why? First, we discussed intensely and honestly about how animals are produced. Nobody wants to believe how terrible the animals’ conditions are but I felt that being apathetic about living creatures that are designed to live in hell so that they can become food says a lot about my own humanity.
It’s unfair that chickens get their beaks seared off with hot metal and baby pigs that don’t look like they will make profit are slammed headfirst onto the concrete floor while the world keeps demanding more meat. Also, it’s damaging to the environment and to the workers, who are usually immigrants who don’t have any other job options. Furthermore, the amount of grain that is bought to feed the animals could feed countless hungry people in poverty-stricken countries, but the money is being used instead to feed the food of the rich.
But aside from the horrors of the factory farm, I thought of what my life would be spiritually if I simply ate as I pleased while less fortunate beings are being tortured every day. I had come to the realization that I didn’t know how to discipline myself when it came to my eating habits. I felt like this love for meat had strongly become a part of my identity and I started to understand more deeply what Jesus meant when he talked about “dying to yourself” and “denying your desires” and how important these concepts are for those who claim to have faith in God.
I’m not saying that eating meat is a sin, but personally, I felt convicted of giving it up forever as a way of declaring that I am going to learn how to love God more than I love meat. I have learned many things about myself as a result of this decision but I must confess, as a food lover, I still really miss meat. Here are the top four dishes that I miss the most:
4. Ding Tai Fung dumplings: Shortly after my newfound vegetarianism, I took a trip to Taiwan and had to face delicious dumplings from a famous restaurant that still holds my heart, Ding Tai Fung.
It wasn’t easy lusting after the forbidden meat with the luscious dough perfectly wrapped around it and watching as my dad dipped them one by one into a plate of soy sauce. I longed to capture one between my chopsticks, let it bask in soy sauce, and then slowly lift it up to my lips. It wasn’t easy.
3. The Great White: One of BJ’s best pizzas, a sumptuous blend of chicken alfredo and pizza that lulls your stomach into a deep sleep. If it weren’t for pizookies and booze, I would have lost all reason for dining at BJ’s.
2. Homemade hamburgers: I used to get creative with hamburgers. I would stuff cheddar into the center of my own handmade patties. There’s just something about assembling your own hamburger that people take for granted. I miss organizing the lettuce, the tomatoes and the mayonnaise. I miss having them come together with the patty under the same buns — all by your own hands, your own work. I miss taking the first bite into a juicy hamburger you’ve just created.
Occasionally, there are still times where I am haunted in my dreams by In-N-Out. Although I can still enjoy the smell, there is a part of my stomach that will never be the same.
1. Chicken Noodle Soup: alas, the lover I can no longer partake in. Chicken noodle soup has always been my favorite. It’s always there for you in all its simplicity, its loveliness, and its promise to take care of you when you are sick.
I will never forget the days where I took in its sweet aroma, admired the tenderness of each piece of chicken, and delighted in its succulent flavor. And though this beloved dish has been there for me in my most sick of days, I have ultimately chosen to part with it and discover more of what it means to “die to yourself.” Despite these circumstances, I will hold the highest esteem and most special place in my heart for chicken noodle soup, forever and always.