Right before I was laid off from my old news job in March of 2015, I went to a bar and grill near my apartment on Mission Beach in San Diego with a friend. I ordered a giant cheeseburger and fries – and I felt disgusting for 24 hours after I ate it. That was the last time I ate red meat. Or chicken or pork or eggs. I still ate seafood.
About a year after eating no meat, my spouse and I went to a breakfast joint on Ambergris Caye in Belize. We went because the place advertised some kind of special: eggs and toast and taters and coffee or juice or something. Tedly urged me to try the eggs. He was worried I wasn’t getting enough protein, even though I was still eating fish. I rarely “give in” when I don’t really want to do something, but this was one of those rare times.
When the plates of food came, I put a forkful of scrambled eggs into my mouth only to discover – I couldn’t swallow it. I gagged. Tedly ate my plate, and I haven’t had eggs since. I still eat and enjoy cakes and cookies, which are made with eggs. There’s just something I can’t stomach about eating cooked eggs. I keep thinking about unborn, cooked chicks.
Later that year when we lived in Mahahual, Mexico, I would swim down the beach along the malecon. I’d see fish and play with them, watch them. One time snorkeling out by a reef, I wondered why am I eating fish? They surely are sentient beings as well as land-based mammals. I knew then that one day I wouldn’t want to eat fish.
That day is now.
We’ve been away from the beach for more than three months, slow traveling in the higher elevations of Guatemala and southern Mexico. There are no seaside restaurants with ceviche and whole, grilled fish in the mountains, and I have not missed it in the slightest.
In about 11 weeks in Guatemala, I ate: one dish with fish in a restaurant, famished after a hike so I hardly even tasted it to be truthful; one can of tuna, over two days because it wasn’t that appetizing; a fish plate my spouse lovingly made for me, but I could hardly eat his lovingly prepared meal. I felt like it was one of my greater struggles of all time. I let the leftovers sit in the fridge until it was time for us to leave, and then promptly threw them out – and I’m really not one to waste food if I can help it. It was just slimy and fleshy and gross.
Here in San Cristobal, Tedly made another fish dish for me, and again it was difficult for me to finish it. I simply didn’t enjoy the consistency or the thought of eating a once sentient being. Also in San Cristobal, Tedly wanted to try a seafood restaurant frequented by the locals, so I reluctantly agreed. (El Bony, which Tedly thoroughly enjoyed, and which is mentioned in a previous review here.) The restaurant had a few menu items without fish, but I figured I’d try their famous shrimp tacos, and maybe Tedly would stop pouting.
If I had eaten that food a few months ago, I know it would have tasted okay to me. But that was then, and this is now. I didn’t enjoy it and found it difficult to swallow. After the meal, I told my spouse that’s it, I’m done with fish. I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t enjoy it, and hadn’t enjoyed it for a long time. No more meat, poultry, fish. Nada.
I know he’s worried I’ll be nutrient deficient. But really, I’ve eaten so little fish in the last three months, I’m practically already vegetarian.
I’ve used nutrition calculators in the past that show my diet is virtually complete on plant-heavy diet – except for iron. So I already seek out fortified cereal, and some brands of milk are fortified with iron in places like Guatemala, where not everyone can afford to eat meat. Now, with no fish, I know I will need some B12 in my cereal as well.
I am not vegan. I know mass-produced milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products I consume likely cause animals great harm. That bothers me, but I’m okay with including dairy in my diet for now. I eat yogurt every day and cheese almost every day. Milk goes in my coffee every day. When we were able to on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, we bought milk, cheese, and yogurt from a small farm nearby that wasn’t big enough to be a factory farm. If we are able to make those kinds of purchases again, we will.
Someone close to me was a vegetarian for many years, and then went to a vegan diet. After years of not eating meat or dairy, one day she simply craved fish while at a restaurant with her husband, so she ordered it. And then she started eating meat again. I know Tedly hopes one day I’ll have that same craving and devour a chicken breast or a T-bone steak. But there’s not a chance on Earth that will happen today. Or tomorrow.
On a recent rainy afternoon, Tedly and I ordered a couple of tlayudas in a family run business we had walked by a dozen times. The food is made on a grill facing the street at Las Chapulines. It’s on Real de Guadalupe near Isabel La Catolica in Barrio de Guadalupe.
A tlayuda can be open, as a giant Mexican pizza, or closed, like a giant taco. Tedly’s had two kinds of meat and came closed. Mine was loaded with beans, nopal (Mexican cactus), tomatoes, onions, avocado, carrot, and cheese and came like a pizza. It was delicious. This is the kind of food my body craves. My heart and mind and soul have something to do with it, too.