Behind The Butter

Pork or Carrot?

Hi everyone 🙂

I made it to Vero safely and am getting ready to shower and get ready for dinner. I had a nonfat chai latte when I got here at my favorite little bakery I always used to go to when I was in high school. It was really good! I’m also eying a bag of dried apples right now from across the room, so I might have a few of those in a second to tide me over til dinner. My mom and I are going out for a glass of wine in a little while then have dinner reservations at 8:00. Don’t worry–I’ll bring my camera!

I am getting a lot of questions as to why I decided to start eating meat again after being a vegetarian for so long….I thought a “humorous” way to address this would be to share with you a funny essay I actually wrote for my final portfolio project during my time at the writer’s workshop last summer in Paris. So if you are bored on this Friday afternoon and are looking for a short read, here you go!

        The Merits of Eating Pork

I cursed silently as I opened up the café menu. Only meat.  What was with the French and their lack of vegetables anyway? I knew I had my work cut out for me coming to France a strict vegetarian. All of my friends back home had taunted me, placing their bets on how long I could go without touching the loathed animal meat. I brushed them all off, however, and stepped up to the challenge. Now, only a few mere hours into my journey I could see that this might be more of an issue than I thought.
At home, for the past four or five years,  my daily diet had consisted of equal proportions of fat, carbs and vegetable protein, tofu being a primary player on that list. I was one of those poor saps that got sucked into the PETA video and had been an animal rights sympathizer ever since. It wasn’t as hard as I thought though, in the beginning. I actually craved tofu and ordered it out at restaurants whenever I saw it on the menu, much to the chagrin of my friends. In my first days of a being a vegetarian I had emailed them all the link to the video so they, too, could witness the poor little pig family being torn apart and know where my boycott was coming from. Most rolled their eyes, but I did manage to convert two of them, for a couple weeks at least.
However, it had been increasingly difficult after I graduated—my boyfriend and family were all ravenous carnivores, which limited my options for dinners cooked at home. A couple times I had sneaked soy in their burritos and gleefully told them after the fact when their plates were clear and their bellies full. I had even produced a delectable chocolate pudding in the past with soft tofu as a key ingredient. No one knew the better.
Now, as I sat across from my mother in the greasy Paris café booth I secretly wondered if perhaps I had been missing out. All of the people around us looked so happy digging into their country ham sandwiches or juicy beef bourguignon.  I pondered this briefly while taking a sip of Perrier and nibbling on some bread. All I had to eat that morning and the night before was stale airline food—a greasy croissant baked in Newark, New Jersey and some in flight peanuts.
“Ooh look, they have Croque Monsieurs here. I haven’t had one of those since I was last here twenty years ago!” My mom said excitedly. “What are you going to have?”
“I don’t know. I don’t see anything really. Maybe just some bread and a latte with skim milk?” I laid the menu down and rubbed my temples—my head was aching from hunger now. My body screamed for protein and I hoped the little bit in the milk would pacify it. I felt already frustrated with this country and their cuisine. The waitress came over to our table and stared at us expectantly. I tried to communicate in my high school French that I would just like a cup of coffee and some bread. She just looked at me and frowned, clearly confused.
Too tired to fight and feeling quite faint, I said, “Umm…I guess I’ll just have one of those,” and pointed to the same sandwich my mom had ordered. Maybe I could pick out the meat and it would still be fine.
The coffee came and it was strong and wonderful with a creamy layer of foam on the top. Next came the sandwiches, burning hot and filled with melted cheese and paper-thin slices of ham. A little jar of spicy mustard was brought to the table and I slathered it on the warm bread. I carefully took a small bite off the end, chewed slowly, and swallowed. That bite was followed by another, and then another and soon the entire sandwich had vanished before my eyes. My mom sat across the table, dumbfounded, as I proceeded to relish every part of the pig that I had so vehemently preached against. And it was good! Better than any sandwich I had ever had, I decided. I began to rationalize with myself, telling myself that of course the piglets were treated more humanly before slaughter in the great country of France rather than the meat-houses of Midwest America. Visions of happy pigs sipping French wine and frolicking in the countryside before death comforted me in some obscure way.
In the days that followed I continued to expand my horizons, ordering delicious crepes filled with ham, eggs and cheese for lunch and thin slices of ham on salads for dinner. When I talked to my friends back home I seemed to forget to mention this small change in my diet, and instead filled them in on the beauty of the Luxembourg Gardens, the history of the Louvre. I felt a bit guilty at first but kept telling myself I wasn’t really lying, just withholding the truth. I knew for sure that eating the delectable country ham in Paris did not in any way prepare me for Sonney’s Barbeque Joint or Burger King. So I kept the little secret to myself.
The final culmination and sealing of my fate as a carnivore happened one cold rainy day after I had been in Paris for a few weeks. I was on my way to the store and passed a butcher shop featuring an entire dead pig dangling in the window by one hoofed foot, eyes glazed and tongue sticking out.  I stood for a moment, said a silent “I’m sorry” then proceeded to munch on my sandwich and walk on.  What can I say except for what happens in Paris stays in Paris!

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  • Kath
    January 18, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Love it Jenna! Beautifully written 🙂

  • Laura
    January 18, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Up until the point about the dead pig I was about to try ham! I still may, what type, brand/how do you order it. You mentioned black forest? I am new to it all?

    I know ham and cheese sandwiches are big-is there a typical cheese people eat it with?

    also, what type of dish do you bake in the oven with, etc if you were to make a baked potato?

  • Allison
    January 18, 2008 at 11:49 pm

    My vegetarian experience is so similar to that. After being shown “Meat your Meet” which I am pretty sure is produced by PETA..I just stopped. But when I got my first apartment, with an avid carnivore, all bets were off one morning when she was cooking bacon. I hadn’t had bacon in almost 3 years…but the smell was just too much.

    🙂 Great story!

  • Laura
    January 19, 2008 at 12:20 am

    Random question….what sorority. I’m in chi o.

  • Ashley
    January 19, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Thanks for sharing your essay with us! I have always considered going vegetarian but I think there are ways to make sure your meat is coming for the right place when buying for your home. Besides humans have been eating meat since the beginning of time so it cannot be that bad right? Besides my boyfriend is a meat and potatoes man and I cannot even begin to imagine what he would do if I swore off his favorite food! lol! Thanks again for letting us into your life!

  • Brianne
    January 19, 2008 at 12:37 am

    I too was a vegetarian for a year- I really am disgusted how conventional animals are treated. So I try and eat organic meat, eggs, dairy as much as possible. Not only is it better for you and the environment, it also benifits the overall life the animal lives. I mean how can you argue with that? 🙂

  • Bce
    January 19, 2008 at 1:07 am

    Very similar story; I was vegan, then I slowly eased into vegetarianism prior to studying abroad in Italy. The day I landed in Italy I had a beautiful, perfectly cooked steak for dinner. Primarily I tell people, when they inquire about my eating preferences, that I just eat like a vegetarian but actually am not one.

    Wonderful blog; akin to Alice Waters in your philosophy while maintaining an attitude practical to daily life.

  • amy
    January 19, 2008 at 1:44 am

    I recently became a carnivore again. I was a vegetarian for 12 years. Then when I was pregnant with my second child, I ate one of my 2 year olds chick-fil-a nugget. Oh man was it good. But my craving for it was over and no longer ate it. But from that point on, I began to wonder why I gave up meat in the first place. I too was persuaded be PETA to try vegetarianism and was even a vegan for 2 years. Then I got married and we cooked separate meals, I always ate something different from my family, and could I find anything different than a salad or veggie burger? I just started feeling more and more left out, and when my little girl offered my her chicken nugget, I just could not refuse. Then when my second child started eating meat (not long ago, b/c she is just 10 months), I began to wonder how I could not be a part of my little girls food experiences. That is when I decided to eat meat again. So for a little over 2 months now I have tried pretty much everything. There is so much freedom in eating everything! I have no limits. I still eat very healthy and have actually lost 5 pounds! Now I cook and eat everything my family does and order anything on the menu and not feel left out at all!

  • jenna
    January 19, 2008 at 2:50 am


    I was an AXO (alpha chi omega) in college!

  • jenna
    January 19, 2008 at 2:51 am

    I’m glad to hear you all actually took the time to read my little essay and you liked it! I had to read that out loud in front of about 100 people at the final commencement reading for my program last summer and it was a little nerve wracking because I was trying to make people laugh (and they did so it was okay)! Anyways, I loved reading y’alls stories too..thank you for sharing them with me!

  • Danielle
    January 19, 2008 at 2:59 am

    oh. my. gosh. i’m in axo now! good choice 😉

  • Danielle
    January 19, 2008 at 3:00 am

    sorry for another one… but what chapter is yours? i’m a lambda 🙂

  • Jill
    January 19, 2008 at 5:17 am

    Haha, this reminds me of myself… only I detest ham and chicken was my downfall as a vegetarian. Man, I guess being a vegetarian just made me more grateful for the meat now that I do eat it, right?

  • jenna
    January 19, 2008 at 1:02 pm


    My chapter used to be Iota Psi. But…then I transferred colleges and I didn’t participate in the whole sorority thing at College of Charleston because they didn’t have alpha chi omega.

  • jenna
    January 19, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    That’s so funny Danielle! We are sisters 🙂

  • nmj
    January 19, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    Hello all,

    Just discovered the blog and love it. But I thought I should comment on this entry.

    Being a vegan/vegetarian is indeed a tough choice in a lot of ways for a lot of people. I’ve been veg for about 6 years. Cravings and temptation are part of what makes us human, and they are understandable. But it’s the ability to realize that what you are doing for animal welfare, the environment, and one’s own morality is far more important than the momentary satisfaction of a ham sandwich, no matter how good or how French, that takes real conviction. While it’s difficult, I hope you would consider a return to vegetarianism as you’ve clearly illustrated previously that you can do it! Just reflecting on how much I, as one person, can contribute simply but what I DON’T put into my mouth each day makes it all worthwhile.

    Of course, I would never fault someone for making their own conscious choices but, in this case, and after reading all these responses, it seems like we’re all just giving ourselves a pass on even having to think about the methods in which these animals get to your plate.

    It’s much like dieting, where you may have a huge “off” day, going way over your desired caloric intake (not suggesting everyone should diet but… an analogy.) The best thing to do is get back on the “horse” immediatey at yoour next meal and make healthful chocies, and just put it in the past and try to do better. I hope anyone who has fallen off the vegetarian “wagon” once or twice can rebound and do that too.

    On a side note, as I said, I thoroughly enjoy your blog. I also live in Orlando and have found MANY healthy vegetarian optioins here. Try Ethos Vegan Kitchen on Orange if you get a chance, too. Thanks for listening.

  • jenna
    January 19, 2008 at 2:44 pm


    I like black forest ham because it is of a higher quality than just regular old ham..I think it tastes better. In france the typical cheese they use a lot of is Gruyere. I LOVE this cheese but it is pretty expensive! They also use emmental (swiss) alot as well. I love all cheeses…bri, gruyere, swiss, cheddar, provolone…..yum, yum, yum!

    When I make a baked potato I just put the potato directly on the cooking rack….or on tin foil. Its best to put it on the rack though!

  • jenna
    January 19, 2008 at 2:51 pm


    Thank you for sharing! I do love animals very much but as food is really my entire life (culinary school and all) its very very difficult for me to limit myself and not eat meat right now. My past chef for the meat fabrication class I took last month said point blank he would fail vegetarians if they refuse to try everything. I make it my point to try every single thing but I only buy all natural meat. And…I exercise a whole ton so for me, I felt like I wasn’t getting the proper diet when I was a vegetarian. Now I know you are perfectly able to get a good diet and be a vegetarian, but everyone makes different choices and eating meat on occasion is the best way for my body. But again—every body is different so by no means does eating meat or not eating meat make you a “better person”. People just have to find out what works bet for themselves and their body. I guess we sort of disagree that you have a better “morality” if you are a vegetarian. That’s fine. I don’t think your food choices really dictate my worth and my morality but, again, everyone is different and has different values. And who knows? I might stop eating meat again in the future…but I doubt it. I like the taste of a good steak once in a while or a ham and cheese sandwich. I also love tofu though! I think its the best of both worlds 🙂

  • Laura
    January 19, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    Jenna, my recipe link still shows up.

    What made you decide to transfer?

  • jenna
    January 19, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Transfer colleges? Well my college story is funny. I first went to Elon (in NC) for a year…decided it was way too small…then I went to university of alabama for a semester and thought it was WAY too big….then I took a semester off and worked full time. THEN, I went to college of charleston for my final 2 years and LOVED it.. it was perfect..perfect size, perfect city, perfect everything. I can’t rave about charleston enough. Its my very favorite city in the entire world (even above paris). I just love it there! When I was there something just “clicked” and I felt like I fit in there better than anywhere I had ever been. That’s when I knew it was the right school!

  • Courtney
    January 19, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    I went to CofC for my freshman and sophomore (first half) year! I just transferred to a school back home though! I loved Charleston, it IS such an amazing city and the food is to die for! I lived off campus on Morris Street! Anyway, have a good weekend! oh, and I have been a vegetarian for about 6 months now, and I loved your story! I kinda have a feeling some day I will go back to eating meat! Hah, anyway, have a great weekend!!

  • jenna
    January 19, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Courtney!

    Aww….I lived on Queen street. I miss King street and the amazing shopping and restaurants!!!!