Meat Lover or Meatless: My Stance on Vegetarianism

At some point, every person comes to a crossroads that will take their life in an irreversible direction. I came to this very sort of crossroad when I was in the 4th grade. I had one of those teachers who felt it her moral obligation to point out our lack of couth by carting us around town to learn about other cultures. Midway through the year, the Board of Education limited Ms. Snyder’s cultural outings to one field trip per school year. This was due to the “This is What Happens When You Don’t Listen and Screw Off” trip…which took place in a trailer park on the west side. I lived a somewhat sheltered life, but even I knew this was in bad taste.

Ms. Snyder pleaded with the Board…just one more trip. Just one more! They agreed, but there were strict guidelines. The location and “theme” of her outing had to be cleared with both the PTA and Board of Directors. Because our school was near the largest Orthodox Jewish community in our city, the “Passover, Dreidels & Meat” tour was cleared for take-off.

A week prior to our excursion, Ms. Snyder gave us the low-down on Orthodox Jews. She described them as “hardcore”. I was an “Amelia Bedelia” as a child. I took everything literally. So in my head, I’m seeing an intoxicated Orthodox Jewish man beating up a homeless woman and child. That was the definition of hardcore to me. I later learned that “hardcore” actually meant that the Orthodox Jews adhered to a relatively strict interpretation and application of the laws and ethics canonized in the Talmudic texts. This greatly eased my mind.

Ms. Snyder had kept us in suspense so long that Clark Montgomery wet his pants a little from the excitement of it all. I’ll admit, I was curious as well. I just didn’t pee my pants about it. She stood at the front of the class like she was fixing to tell us all we were geniuses and excused from school forever.

‘Students! Eyes on me! Our final educational experience will take place at…(unnecessary pause)…Cohen’s Kosher Grocery!”

She lifted her hands to zion and I half expected ‘Chariots of Fire’ music to come piping through the intercom. Cohen’s Kosher Grocery? A grocery store?! I was already missing our politically incorrect trailer park trips. We all slumped in our seats. No good could come of this and we all knew it.

On the morning of our departure, we all stood huddled outside the school bus while Ms. Snyder went to fetch the chain-smoking driver who’d dipped behind the cafeteria to enjoy one last good smoke before entering the Land Of All Things Orthodox. It took about 15 minutes to reach our destination and the entire ride was spent whispering questions to each other.

Why do the men have long curls hanging down?

Will we get to take home a dreidel?

I didn’t bring any cash…did you?

We were all told to shut our mouths after Amanda Piedmont told everyone that her Dad said God gave all the money to the Jews. Ms. Snyder had a habit of cracking her Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing gum when she became nervous. There was so much cracking coming from the front of the bus, we thought someone was getting beat with a switch.

One hour later, we were back on the bus looking nauseated and curious all at the same time. We had been ushered into the back of the store where dead cows and other dead things were hanging upside down with no skin or head and the temperature was practically freezing. The only thing I heard over the chattering of my teeth was:

“…and we give all the bruised meat to Kroger after we take that which conforms to our regulations.”

We should’ve known that Ms. Snyder would screw up again. Three days later, she resigned, citing her desire to spend more time with her 17 year old son who had dropped out of high school and was threatening to sign up down at the Vocational Tech school for to study the art of hair decorating. Apparently several of my classmates were so traumatized by the event that professional help was sought and a couple of them even missed a few days of school.

So what was the dilemma at this particular crossroad in my life? To be or not to be vegetarian. And I also secretly wanted to become a Jew. I particularly liked the idea of belonging to a group of people that had their own way of eating, meeting and greeting. But as it turns out….I decided to stick with what I knew.

Deer meat and the occasional squirrel.

But that’s a flashback for a different day.

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