We’re constantly presented with stories that tug at the heartstrings about dedicated vegans who give up on all animal foods in a noble quest to protect Mother Earth and the human race from total planetary destruction at the hands (hooves?) of the world’s livestock.
And the horrid creatures who slaughter them.
But how about the reverse? Surely there are plenty of people who went the Full Veggie route, then at some point decided for various reasons that such abstinence was neither necessary nor natural.
Of course there are. We just haven’t heard about them.
Thanks to the miracle of streaming video, we can witness one such conversion, a woman named Stephanie Potakis, who became a vegetarian in the fourth grade to “save the planet” (sound familiar?). After 22 years, she allegedly became so enamored of the sights and smells at one of Chicago’s justifiably famous ribfests that she decided to re-introduce meat to her diet.
Publicly. On camera. At one of the city’s trendiest steakhouses, Swift & Sons, an upscale “rustic but refined” eatery in equally trendy Bucktown. This is an area I know well, having spent some years living just south of that North Side neighborhood in an ethnic enclave known as Ukrainian Village. Let’s just say that if you’re interested in picking up a nice one-bath, one -bedroom condo in Bucktown, make sure you’re packing about $350K, because that’s the low end of such housing.
Now, I previously noted that Potakis “allegedly” decided to end her vegetarianism. Why? Because she works as a casting director for The Onion, the satirical publication that regularly runs wild, made-up stories and spoofs of current events that sometimes require a second take to make sure they actually are satire.
However, her video clip filmed at Swift & Sons is apparently genuine, as were her reactions to sampling some of the restaurant’s meatier entrées.
Make Mine Marrow
Potakis started with something called “crispy chicken thigh,” which she described enthusiastically.
“Wow, now I get what ‘juicy’ means,” she said. “And this crazy skin. The flavors are just oozing out! That doesn’t happen with vegetables.”
No, it doesn’t.
She then moved on to bone marrow, saying, “I’ve always wanted to try bone marrow. I watch cooking shows, and they’re always taking about bone marrow and its flavor.”
When presented with a hollowed-out beef bone filled with a spicy marrow mixture, she said it was “the weirdest part of the animal,” but after a few bites proclaimed, “This is my new favorite meal: bone marrow.”
Next up: Wagyu beef ribeye steak, and if bone marrow was a winner, you can imagine her reaction to this entrée.
“This isn’t good, this is stupid good,” she said. “It’s like a butter I didn’t know existed, only it tastes like meat.”
Potakis’ reactions in the video are revealing, and no doubt there would be many other vegetarians with a similar response to a Wagyu beef filet — if they were willing to try a taste.
That’s because our brains are wired to crave what our physiology needs. We crave sweet foods — usually to our undoing — because our ancient ancestors needed to eat the wild berries and fruits that were one of their few sources of vitamin C.
Likewise, early humans needed the fat found in animal foods, because minus the supermarkets and drive-thru restaurants we take for granted, they would often go for days without food during winter storms or periods of famine.
Try toughing it out for a couple days on nothing more than a bowl of quinoa or a couple of gluten-free biscuits.
Which they didn’t have, because farming hadn’t been invented yet!
Granted, we can always make a conscious choice and suppress our natural instincts; heck, look at the monks, priests and even regular folks who choose celibacy as their lifestyle.
But in the end, the reactions displayed by Ms. Potakis come from a visceral place, a primordial recognition that we evolved on meat, and we crave meat because it uniquely suits our human physiology.
Vegetarians can pretend they’re beyond all that, but the evidence on this video suggests that being a vegan is less about enjoyment, and more about self-sacrifice.
Nothing wrong with that, but let’s be honest about why veggies choose the diet they do.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and columnist.