One thing that hasn’t changed much from my life in Vancouver is the amount of grief I get when I tell people I don’t eat red meat. Here’s a small sampling of the reactions I’ve had over the 7-odd years that I’ve been a non-red meat eater:
- Are you serious?
- But you’re from Alberta! (I got this when I lived in BC. As if being raised in Alberta means you are automatically a beeficionado!)
- Oh, you must be vegetarian. (I get this one here, from people who know I lived in Vancouver. I’m not.)
- So, you aren’t jealous of this blue rare steak I’m devouring before your eyes?
- Wait – you don’t eat bacon? (Bacon’s a white meat. I could never give it up.)
To clarify, I don’t eat beef, lamb, emu, or bison. (I don’t eat shellfish either – imagine how fun that was for me in BC!) I’m not an animal rights activist, I just don’t like it. And to be honest, I read Fast Food Nation a few years back, and after what I learned about the beef industry, I decided I never had to defend my decision not to eat beef again. The only other person I know who doesn’t eat red meat is Aaron, who’s been a vegetarian since college. He and I have been known to enjoy a “Don’t eat beef? Here, have some devoid-of-protein, carb-olicious pasta!” dinner or two in our day! We’ve been accused of every name in the book: fussy eaters, demanding eaters, unadventurous eaters, bad Albertans… you name it. Not that I’m complaining. I’m fully aware that this is a choice, and when in Rome…well, don’t criticise what the Romans are eating.
One thing that all of us Wo’MHers have observed since moving here is that Manitobans have a profound love of their meat, and specifically, beef. And I would hazard a guess that they love their meat more than most other provinces – maybe even the other prairie provinces. I don’t really have any proof of that, it’s more of a sneaking suspicion. I once overheard a lady at the grocery store tell her friend she didn’t need to buy any meat because she’d just bought “a beef”. A beef?? Is that “a cow”? (And could you also purchase “a pork”?) Also, I had never heard of a “meat draw” or “meat raffle” or “meat bingo” until I moved here, and now I see them advertised at Legions, community centres, and billboard galore (see Ian‘s hilarious comment on Laurel’s roadtrippin’ post). Apparently a meat draw is an event unto itself; perhaps something like a social – an all-night affair where the biggest prize is a cow, and the smallest prize is something along the lines of bacon and eggs.
Okay, apparently meat draws also exist in BC, so I must have been living under a rock out there.
All this has me thinking about what it’s like for non-meat-eaters in Manitoba. I have to admit, unless you set out to dine at a specifically vegetarian restaurant, the Manitoba pickins can be slim for someone who chooses, for whatever reason, not to eat meat. The West Coast was heaven for anyone with dietary preferences: no matter what your desire (organic meat, exotic meat, regular meat, no meat, soy substitutes) most menus had something suitable for you. In my travels throughout Canada and the US I’ve noticed that people are more accepting, and restaurants more accommodating, of meat preferences on the Pacific side. West Coasters be warned: the veggie burger is not a standard option here in Manitoba.
Manitoba’s love of meat logically and obviously stems from its agricultural industry, and it reassures me to think that people here seem more likely to buy their meat from local farms where they may actually know the farmer and his practices. Why is this? Winnipeg certainly seems to be more in tune with its rural neighbours than the average big city, where the line between city and country and their respective cultures seems to be more defined. And I have to admit, Manitoba also has a healthy love of fish, which I’m totally on board with.
So, fellow Manitobans old and new, please share your meat stories. Do you frequent meat bingo? Buy beef by the cow? Or on the flipside, are you vegetarian or non-beef-itarian and have trouble explaining this to meat enthusiasts? Where do you go when you’re jonesing for a good veggie meal? Can anyone vouch for the famous vegan po’ boy?
*I wanted to say “obsession with” instead of “love of” but thought that might be a bit judgmental 🙂