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The Life Aquatic

March 14, 2011

Hi friends!

Thanks for all of your kind words about Ryan—after a long night of deep sleep, he feels completely back to normal today! Must have just been a 24 hour thing!

So, I want to talk about something that I brought up last week, but didn’t discuss in detail: fish.

As I mentioned in one of last week’s posts, I did eat fish when we were in Key West.  Having been vegetarian for about a year and a half now, I can honestly say that the only non-vegetarian food I’ve missed is seafood.  Chicken?  Meh.  Beef?  Really, I think I’d be just fine if I never ate red meat again.  However, month after month, seafood continues to be a struggle for me.  The reason is pretty simple: I love it.  I’m not one of those people who thinks that “fish don’t count,” or that they’re less of an animal than land animals are.  Chicken, fish, cow, turkey—they’re all the same in my book.  The only difference for me is that I find fish to be much, much tastier than the rest. 

Therefore, while giving up land animals was almost ridiculously easy for me, giving up seafood has been another story.  On the one hand, I’m not really tempted to eat seafood in my daily life.  Living in central Pennsylvania means that there is a pretty limited amount of “local” seafood…and by limited, I mean none.  It’s pretty easy for me to pass up the farmed salmon flown in from California, or the bags of shrimp imported all the way from China.  I’ll stick to tofu, thanks.

On the other hand, what isn’t easy is turning down fresh caught wild scallops in Key West, or local octopus in Croatia.  And there’s the rub: Ryan and I travel a lot, and one of the things I enjoy most about traveling is tasting the local foods and flavors of wherever we are.  It is very unfortunate for me, therefore, that the places we travel almost always seem to center around seafood! Last summer alone, we found ourselves in Croatia, Venice, Seattle, and Nantucket. 

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With each trip that we took, it became more and more of an issue for me—was I going to enjoy the fresh, local seafood?  Or, was I going to stick to my vegetarian guns and keep up with my animal-free diet, even when traveling?

As you can trace throughout the blog, I ended up eating a little seafood.  I didn’t go crazy—I had it a few nights in Croatia, and a few nights in Nantucket.  And here’s the thing—the world didn’t stop spinning.

We (and by we, I mean me) can get so involved with putting labels on ourselves: I’m a vegetarian.  He’s a runner.  She’s a Christian.  They’re writers.  I’m a winner.

Okay, that last one was just Charlie Sheen.

I understand the desire to label ourselves and each other.  I think it helps us to organize our thoughts and the way we see ourselves and the world.  It breaks society down into neat little boxes, so that all you have to do is find your box, and voila! You’ve found the role you were meant to play!

The problem with that, of course, is that none of us are so simple.  We’re constantly changing, re-evaluating, shifting, and transforming, so that the box you might have fit very neatly into in 2001 suddenly feels incredibly ill-fitting in 2011.  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  While I understand the allure and even necessity of labels, I think it’s even more important that we’re able to, if need be, give those labels up.  Give them a rest.  Move on.

Am I moving on from the label of vegetarian?  Well…kind of.  Here’s the deal: this summer, we’re going to Europe and the Caribbean.  And you can be damn sure I’m going to eat fish while I’m there.  Will I feel guilty?  Probably.  But life is too short to spend it wishing you were doing something else, and I don’t want to be sitting with my family, enjoying a sunset meal in the Caribbean and thinking, “I wish I were eating fish.”

Does this mean that I’m not a vegetarian anymore?  It might.  Some people would probably say that it does, and some people would probably say that it doesn’t.  Honestly, I think I agree with that first group—I think my new moves towards a seafood-inclusive diet, even if that seafood dinner only happens five or six times a year, means that I have to give up the label of vegetarian.

I’m okay with that—I really feel like I’m doing what’s right for me.  Again, life is too short to get caught up with what you should and shouldn’t do, eat, or be. 

But I’m not changing the title of my blog.  That’s a label I’m not willing to give up yet.  😉

I have a recipe to share with you, but I think I’ve rambled on enough today.  Thanks for listening, and for being so understanding about my topsy-turvy food ways.  I’d be happy to hear any thoughts you have on the topic of food labels, seafood, and winning.

Hope you’re having a great day!

ps—if you aren’t sick of me yet, you can check out (and listen to) a few of my  poems that were recently published on 2River View: www.2river.org.

 

33 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2011 7:35 pm

    I’m sure the natives and locals on many an island or sea coast are thankful that not everyone is a vegetarian. 🙂 I would not be able to pass up fresh seafood either.

  2. March 14, 2011 7:57 pm

    I think it’s great that you are eating what appeals to you, when it is produced in a way you respect.

  3. March 14, 2011 8:02 pm

    Europe and the Caribbean…HAVE FUN!!! Eat what you want. Enjoy your trip. And your life. Labels, schmabels.

    I have enough “trace” dairy that many would say Im not a vegan. Fine. I dont like the label anyway. I also have cravings to eat eggs and fish sometimes. If I knew I wouldnt have an allergic reaction, I would!

    I think it’s fabulous you’re doing what makes you happy and feel right, Anna. Thank you for having the courage to blog about it!

  4. Marcee .... ILLINOIS permalink
    March 14, 2011 8:07 pm

    Hi Anna. Enjoyed your interesting post. Well, I never thought of what to, or not to eat would be a label for us. When it concerns others, I respect whatever food choices they make. Folks are usually set in their ways from (maybe) childhood. Personally, I detest the taste/smell of meats. Beef, etc. Also, certain brands of turkey (anything w/bitterness is awful) make me ill. My senses become freaked or something when this nose detects anything gamey. Ohh. Ugh. Cannot even use the noun aromas. To me, aroma is nice, pleasantly wonderful. Some sea ood and fresh fish are okay. Highly selective though. As for land animals …. for sure, it is astounding how folks love their meats. So yuck. On another note, if cooked proper, I do enjoy (a little) chicken several times a week. Humans do not need as much animal protein they consume. Possibly (I hope!) in a next life things will be different. That all of us will be veggie eaters! No meats allowed. Might be a better world …. less diseases.

  5. March 14, 2011 8:15 pm

    The way I see it: each to his own. I don’t see any reason to judge someone because they like seafood. It doesn’t make you any less of a healthy eater or a bad terrible person. Life’s too short for labels and for looking down our noses.

  6. March 14, 2011 8:17 pm

    Yay Anna! this was a BEAUTIFUL post! =) I have been wanting to discuss this with my readers forever now and you did a fabulous job at A. Quoting Charlie Sheen and making me bust out laughing and B. Stating your case!

    P and I made a plege (though I catch his punk @$$ cheating on it!) to only eat local shrimp/scallops and only wild atlantic salmon. In public i’m vegetarian 100% b/c I dont know where their fish is coming from! Though if they can prove it to me i’ll probably eat salmon at restaurants like how you ate the fishies in croatia and key west =)

    I’m so happy that you’re enjoying something you love in the best way possible, and approaching it in such a fabulous way! You rock! and now we have one more thing in common to blog about – fishies! ❤ hehe

    xoXOxo
    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

  7. March 14, 2011 8:24 pm

    Good for you to follow your heart and do what’s right for you! I’m a vegetarian, but that is as far as I am willing to go in terms of labels. Do I eat vegan alot, yeah I do, but I don’t want to be completely limited and judged by a label I gave to myself….I can’t lie, I love a little eggs & cheese once in a while 🙂

    Wow, you really do get to travel alot – how lucky!! Can’t wait to hear all about your adventures!

  8. March 14, 2011 8:50 pm

    I love this post. It speaks to me on so many levels. I am having the hardest time right now with the thought of eating fish. I am so with you…I never like labels. I never call myself a vegetarian because, well, you never know where or what the situation will be and I don’t need to be defined by what I eat. I LOVE that you eat local when you go places. I think that is such an important part of experiencing the places we go. I haven’t eaten meat in 3 years (and for a small time in high school, but my parents made me eat it again). You know I had the b12/iron deficiency and have been sick for a while. Tony and I talked and we have considered going pescatarian for a month as a family to see how it works for us. Luckily, there are fish in Georgia. My struggle is that I don’t want to eat fish. I am having a hard time getting my heart to listen to my head. I don’t want to take tons of supplements to get the nutrients I need and since I can’t eat cheese or have dairy, eggs or supplements are all I can do. Tony is so nice and understanding when I tell him my struggles, but I know he just wants me to be healthy. I know that eating fish is not the end of the world and really it would only be a couple of times a week (if that), but I can’t seem to get the thoughts out of my head long enough to even plan the meal that we will eat it. Thank you for sharing Anna. I really appreciate your honesty and really, I think you are doing the right thing for you and that’s all that matters.

  9. March 14, 2011 9:39 pm

    Hey Anna I agree, that you should eat what makes you happy. I eat fish (which makes me ~and now you, a pescatarian) but I only label myself so that I don’t have to do a big yada,yada to other people/family about what exactly I do or do not choose to eat. Like you, I have no problems giving up any land animals and don’t eat a ton of seafood, but I live in the Beef capital and even going out to eat with family or friends, I’m often left with fries or a seafood dish as my options.

    Glad to hear Ryan is feeling better!!
    P.S. Watching the finale of Bachelor tonight? Who are you rooting for? I’m for Emily!

    • March 14, 2011 9:45 pm

      Yes– Emily all the way! And I think she’s s shoo-in!

  10. Kristina permalink
    March 14, 2011 9:54 pm

    It was really great to stumble upon your blog last week, and now this post too! I’ve been struggling with a vitamin B-12 deficiency (the second bout in less than a year), as a result of being a careless vegan/vegetarian, and this has led me to re-evaluate my dietary choices. It can be hard to let go of a label that you’ve used to define yourself for a few years (which is certainly the case for me, not sure if it is for you)! This post is really inspirational and puts things in perspective!

  11. March 14, 2011 10:04 pm

    I think the point you make about eating fresh and local seafood is an important one. I also think you’re right, are you technically a vegetarian? Probably not. But you know what, no one cares! 🙂

    • March 14, 2011 10:26 pm

      …and if they do care, it is they that have the problem not you (or anyone else for that matter).
      You said that you will feel guilt after you eat fish…don’t. Say a little thanks, a bit of gratitude and let it go 🙂 We spend way too much time with the negative feelings, it’s a wastle of precious moments.
      Thanks for this post…enjoy your life, the way you want to, you deserve it!

  12. March 14, 2011 10:57 pm

    So funny to read this because I’ve been craving seafood lately, and have been eating it more frequently (must be all those years in the midwest catching up with me).

    And as for changing your blog title…you might be only sort of a vegetarian, but you’re only sort of a newlywed, so it all evens out! 🙂

    • March 14, 2011 11:15 pm

      Ha– true!! Thanks for your comment– I think that’s part of it for me, too. We have no seafood here, so when we’re in these places with delicious, fresh seafood…I just CRAVE it!

  13. March 14, 2011 11:24 pm

    Good for you for listening to what your body really wants! I hate labels, and I so agree with everything you said. I also teeter on the vegetarian, not vegetarian line because of fish. I have just taken to the idea that I have a plant based died and occasionally I’ll have fish or even chicken if I really want. I’m glad you are living in the moment and choosing fresh, amazing local fish when available! 🙂

  14. March 15, 2011 12:15 am

    I was pescatarian for about 6 years before introducing chicken back into my diet for about a year, going fully vegetarian for 6 months and then finally returning to pescatarianism (but less fish than before). You’re right that we’re constantly changing!

  15. March 15, 2011 2:31 am

    One of the most important things to me, when I decided to go vegetarian, was that I made it clear to myself and others that if I wanted to eat meat – I would. So far, I haven’t wanted to – but seafood, especially sushi, is the one meat that I miss – so if I was in Key West, I would have definitely enjoyed some fish – and not let someone tell me that I should now define myself as a pescatarian. Who I am is not defined by what I eat – it’s a part of me, just like my love of fish is too. I think your attitude is perfect!

  16. March 15, 2011 2:33 am

    Wow, so jealous of your summer travel plans! I hope you have a blast! Everyone has a different food path and should eat what makes them happy, I totally understand your love of seafood. I agree on labeling diets and glad you’re doing what feels good. I think people go through diet phases, extremes and periods of experimentation before finding what works and that’s important.

  17. March 15, 2011 3:22 am

    Ditto to all of the above! 🙂
    I also loved your poems–the first one was really touching and it was neat being able to read it while listening to you read it aloud, such a cool idea.
    -Lisa

  18. March 15, 2011 3:39 am

    Great post! I totally agree with the traveling and eating what you crave. I’m going to Europe next year and definitely plan to partake in some of the delicious local dishes even though I’ve been eating vegan. I’m aware that I’m human and anything can change. Kudos to you and enjoy your eats!

  19. March 15, 2011 12:20 pm

    Very thoughtful, honest post about what works best for you. Kudos!!

  20. March 15, 2011 12:35 pm

    I am the same way. I am a vegetarian, and sometimes I really crave Salmon. I loved the stuff!
    Its annoying when I tell people I’m a vegetarian and they say “oh, you still eat fish though, right”
    I don’t understand that. Vegetarians don’t eat meat/ animals. Fish is a meat and it is definitely an animal.

  21. March 15, 2011 12:38 pm

    Good for you!! I feel the same way about seafood- I love it too much to give it up. And while I know there are environmental consequences to eating it, I also feel like I make far more effort in that department than most people. I never want my diet to be restrictive, and I never want to sit around wishing I “could” eat something. It’s just food, and I think that if you make choices that totally support what you believe in most of the time, those few occasions where you eat seafood are okay. It’s about finding a balance that allows you to enjoy food, while still feeling good about the ethical choices that you’re making.

  22. Ginger permalink
    March 15, 2011 12:52 pm

    Great post – and I’m very proud of you for being so forthright and honest. I agree with what everyone has said (you have such supportive blog readers!) And, who knows, before you’re done, you’ll probably make several more changes regarding your diet; that’s life! I’d definitely keep the blog title. “Wed a few years/Pescatarian” just doesn’t have the same ring to it : ) Loved, loved, loved your poetry – post more of it!!

  23. greensandjeans permalink
    March 15, 2011 1:21 pm

    Hell yes sister. I struggled with that when I was a vegetarian (which I was for 8 years), and I still struggle with it now when people ask how I eat. “Uh… I eat… food?” It’s better to just go with the flow and do what makes you happy. For some people that is knowing they are passing on animal products. For me it might be eating tofu and following it up with a burger. And I’m okay with that.

  24. March 15, 2011 7:26 pm

    Your summer travel plans sound amazing! Jealous! After reading your posts I want to go back to Key West 😀

    Your reasoning for introducing fish into your diet makes total sense and is well thought out. Good for you!

  25. Marie permalink
    March 15, 2011 10:13 pm

    Great post! I’ve actually been struggling with this line, too. I call myself a vegetarian… and a part-time pescatarian. I eat a mostly vegetarian diet… but if I’m at someone’s house and they’re serving seafood– I’ll eat it. If I’m at the beach and we go to a restaurant and I want seafood– I’ll eat it. At first I was pretty ashamed but now I’m over it! Just do what you want to do 🙂 Life is short!

  26. Kelly permalink
    March 16, 2011 8:33 pm

    I am just catching up on this but I loved this post. I think it takes a lot more guts to admit that a label you imposed on yourself isn’t working anymore than to just suffer through it and let it stand.

  27. March 16, 2011 9:03 pm

    I tried really hard to stop eating fish but about 2 weeks ago I had to start again. I just was NOT feeling well without it! And since I have to be gluten-free there are just too many things I can’t eat.

    I support you and understand where you are coming from 100%!

  28. March 17, 2011 3:40 pm

    I think you’re absolutely right that people spend far too much time worried about the labels we place on ourselves. Do what is right for you, and tell everyone else to get over themselves.

  29. Kim permalink
    March 17, 2011 6:04 pm

    I just stumbled on your blog a few weeks ago and I keep coming back. It started wiith the King Cake (I was looking for a recipe, but I really liked your post) and then started looking through all your great veg recipes. I’ve tried a couple yummy ones already and am quite interested in your balls. I also have a not-easily-defined diet, mostly vegetarian with meat of various description a couple times a month. I can actually afford to buy high quality, responsible meat when I don’t do it very often. And eating the local specialties is an important part of traveling and getting to know different places. I definetly relax my diet and eat what I want when I travel to great food locations, even if it’s just back to New Orleans. Eat what make you feel good. I love the blog, keep up the good work, and do not change the name – it’s great.

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