It occurred to me in the wee hours of Sunday morning, mid-way through an exquisite little bite of Kentucky bison burger with smoked bacon and jezebel sauce poached from a generous friend’s plate, that I have become far more flexible in my food choices since moving back to Kentucky. The thought might also have struck me several weeks ago, as I was whipping up (and, naturally, tasting…) a batch of sugar-bacon topped flourless chocolate cupcakes with maple meringue and gray sea salt for my friend’s “mustache meat-off” birthday party…or a month before that, when I sampled some of the melt-in-your-mouth boston butt that my dad dry rubbed to perfection and smoked gently for no fewer than 12 hours one Sunday afternoon.

Now just to be clear, all this coming from a girl who turned vegetarian the moment she left home at age 15, and has happily (with the exception of the addition of some cold water fish in recent years) been a vegetable-queen ever since. And not in a “secretly dreaming of filet mignon” kind of way, either. Really, for about 15 years, with very few exceptions, I haven’t given a hoot about protein of the animal persuasion. My eating choices suit me. I would happily wolf down a plate of garlicky sautéed greens every day of the week (twice, if offered), and would miss them far before most other foodstuffs one might wrest from my pantry.

Not that I self-identify by my food choices. Well, let me rephrase that…clearly my identity is wrapped up in my food choices to a certain extent. I mean, I am a nutrition counselor after all – so what I eat day to day is a big part of “walking my talk”. Perhaps what I mean to say is that I don’t happen to think that being Vegetarian is any more “swagger worthy” than any other way of eating…or that straying from “the path” is anything to be ashamed about. In fact, I daresay that in my experience, trying to eat with your head to the exclusion of your mouth and your stomach often ends up causing more harm than good.

Am I saying that we shouldn’t thoughtfully consider our food choices? Certainly not – make no mistake. Eating is a complicated business in this day and age, and everything from food’s impact on your digestive system and arteries to the environmental and social impacts of food production and distribution practices must be pondered if we’re to have any hope of navigating these muddy waters with clear conscience and happy belly. BUT, even in a field narrowed by parameters like locality, carbon footprint, glycemic load, humane treatment, fair labor practices, seasonality, biodiversity, and sustainability (…the list goes on), there is a veritable cornucopia of food from which to choose. If there’s one thing from which we American’s don’t suffer, it’s lack of choice.

So what do I make of these recent forays into the world of four-legged-beasts? Honestly, I have to say that if I were to genuinely see myself reflected in some narrow term describing my food choices, Flexitarian would probably fit the bill. I kind of like the sound of it. I think it implies simultaneously a level of consideration of the impact of my food choices and a delightful allowance for making whatever choice feels right in a given moment for my unique body and mood. Usually, I choose kale. Sometimes (if I’m really listening) I choose a bison burger. Or a sugar-bacon topped flourless chocolate cupcake.

I think the key is curiosity. When you are curious enough to ask what’s really going on, you have to be flexible enough to accept the answers – even if they aren’t always the answers you expected.

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Listening to: The Avett Brothers: Emotionalism, I and Love and You
Munching on: Sautéed Greens with Garlic and Chile Flakes

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