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Ugly, Dangerous Meats
August 7, 2012

"Yeah, and I can't eat [monkfish] because it wouldn't hurt me," Lora told me, "but salmon will hurt you." Really? "They can scratch you with their scales and they have very sharp teeth," Lora explained. When I said it was news to me that salmon had teeth, Lora exclaimed, "Oh, they do! I found this out when [a salmon] showed up at somebody's table with their head still on."

If you've read Suffering Succotash then you are now acquainted with my friend Lora, the vegetarian who only will eat meat if it's ugly and scary (or bacon). You've read how her experiences with headless chickens, "screaming" lobsters, and a pet bunny ending up on her dinner plate turned her against meat. However, what I couldn't fit in the book was how I took on Lora's form of vegetarianism as a personal challenge.

"You're sort of a self-defensive eater," I mused. "Eat it before it eats you?" "I am! Is that not the most surreal thing? And it's how I dealt with it. It was like, 'Well, if it would hurt me and it was ugly..." Lora explained. You see, the potential meat must meet both criteria. "Like, a tiger would kill me, but they're beautiful," Lora said. Lora's friends think she should be able to eat swordfish because they are both ugly and dangerous. "But I think they're kinda pretty, and the minute I find them attractive, I'm done," Lora said, "Like, I wouldn't eat tuna forever and then somebody showed me a picture of tuna and I was like, 'Well, where's the tuna?" And they were like, 'That fish the size of the house? That's the tuna.' And I was like, 'Oh, THEY'D hurt me.'" However, as scary (and delicious) as I think they are, Lora won't eat octopus because she saw one in a tank in Europe and thought it was really cute.

And then I began my campaign against the octopus. "Yeah, they're so cute they could hug you to death. Plus, that beak of theirs freaks me out," I told her. "Huh," Lora said, considering that, "You know I wonder, I bet that's one I could switch in my head if I worked hard enough." I stepped up my campaign by telling her how I grew up looking at pictures of octopede swarming over and sinking enormous pirate ships. "So, I always thought of them as giant sea creatures," I concluded. "Octopus," Lora said slowly, "I think I could get turned. Seafood is the easiest one to turn because they get so big down there, they'll hurt ya." I told Lora that if she did in fact change her mind about octopus, I would take her to a local Greek restaurant where it is grilled over coals and brushed with lemon and oregano.

Continuing to play my game of "Convert the Lora," I asked her about lobsters and crabs -- things my little sister refuses to eat, because she can only see them as bugs -- and Lora judged lobsters to be "freakishly fascinating," which means she won't eat them. But she will eat crab. "They HAVE hurt me!" she announced.

"What if you didn't know what something looked like? Can't you force yourself to imagine that something is ugly if you don't actually know the alternative to be true?" I ask. There's a dramatic pause on the phone line. "I'm a librarian, Stephanie," Lora reminds me. "Before the Internet? I bet I could have."

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Copyright © 2002-2012
Stephanie Vander Weide Lucianovic