"Hmmm, should I?" That’s the moment it changed forever. Walking past Tesco and lying to myself as I wandered up to the meat aisle. I am just browsing, nothing is going to happen, I say to myself. I felt people’s judgemental eyes burning a hole in my back like I was looking at the condoms in the family planning aisle. They knew my meaty secret. I decided on the cheapest, nastiest looking packet of ham and made a dash for the self-checkout before the little veggie fairy on my shoulder burst into angry flames.
But at home I took time and pleasure in making my first ham sandwich: buttering the bread, laying the ham in perfect lines, cutting it evenly into triangles. We weren’t messing around now lads. I took my first bite and I knew I’d wasted the last ten years of my life.
For many, becoming vegetarian happens for a particular reason: saving the planet from global warming and deforestation or simply saving the animals from a brutal death. For me, there wasn’t really a reason; it was a Lent that never seemed to end. That’s why when people used to ask "why are you vegetarian? Is it for the animals? What can you eat without meat in it?" a little part of me would die.
The looks of utter confusion when I repeatedly answered, "I don’t have a reason really, I’m just not overly keen on meat" (I can now say that that was categorically untrue). People couldn’t fathom a meal without meat; no breakfast without a little bacon? No lunch without a chicken triple in your meal deal? And oh God, please, no dinner without sausages? "Only Quorn for me," I’d say.
In ten years, one whole decade, I didn’t touch, think or dream about eating meat. Apart from the horrific incident years ago, that we will name the ‘pesto deception’. Sitting down for a delicious Sunday lunch, my family and I were unsure of which were the veggie quiches and which contained the slaughtered, defenceless animals. However, as I confidently took a bite of the broccoli tart, I discovered it was filled with chicken and pesto. If only I’d had the chance to taste the animal before I spat it all out, maybe things would have changed a little sooner.
Eating meat again I am starting to understand what the big deal is about. Before, I would skim-read the restaurant’s menu, which may as well have been the length of the Bible for anyone else, to leave my only two options: goat’s cheese tart or something with mushrooms. However, like the rest of you meat eaters out there, I am beginning to become obsessed with eating ‘the animals’ in every meal, in all their gorgeous forms.
After what can only be described as a legendary ham sandwich, I continued my foray into carnivorous behaviour. Meat has become the main part of my meals: sausage and mash, chicken fajitas, cheese burgers (single and double), the list finishes at my feet. I'm still yet to consume a greasy kebab at 4am, or tuck into a rare, 10oz steak at a family meal, but good things come to those who wait, and I’ve waited ten years.
The serious veggies in my life weren’t best pleased with my new life decision but the praise, almost moral acceptance you could say, I received from now fellow meat eaters was definitely worth it. Some telling me that I’m "officially normal again", one person saying to me "Oh wow, I am so happy for you – you can start living again." Helllloo, I wasn’t dead?
I likened it to the feeling of joining an exclusive, highly popular club; the only rule being you have to eat delicious dead animals. The vegetarians in my life – aka my mum – will get used to the idea after me eating a whole Nando’s chicken in front of her. I hope.