Taste Bud: 24 Hours Without Meat — My Story

Dining-Taste-Bud_30.jpg

I went 24 harrowing hours without eating meat of any kind – and survived. This is my amazing true story.

Day 1 — Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013

11:45 a.m.: At Rumors in Middletown, a server brings me a cup of seafood gumbo and an order of grouper bites. I eat while casually chatting with a friend about the state of football in America. My journey begins.

12:10 p.m.: By this time, I have devoured the gumbo and the eight or nine bites of tender, fried grouper; I have no plan to “meast” (engage in a no-meat fast) for the next full day. Otherwise, I’d have gotten a bowl of gumbo, not a cup, and maybe insisted on a bite of my friend’s Philly cheese steak sandwich.

3:35 p.m.: I feel a familiar pull — a feeling I get occasionally when my belly craves an afternoon snack. Tragically, I ignore it.

5:10 p.m.: I leave work. My craving passes — or so I think. By this point, my body may be in the early stages of meat withdrawal.

6:05 p.m.: Home now, I realize I am suddenly hungry. My mind must be reeling, because when I look in my fridge and see three meat-based choices, I have an alarming and irrational thought: “I’ll just eat some frozen vegetables.” One of the tragic side-effects of meat withdrawal? You need meat so badly, you are too weak to cook it. Insidiously ironic.

6:21 p.m.: After microwaving Kroger-brand rice and broccoli, I sit down to eat and watch ESPN, barefoot.

6:26 p.m.: I have a vague sensation that something is missing, but I can’t comprehend what it could be; again, more evidence that I am weakening and brain function is deteriorating.

6:29 p.m.: It gets weirder: I not only finish all of the rice and broccoli, at no point do I stop to think, “Gee, I really need some meat with this.” Clearly, meat madness has set in.

7:10 p.m.: I chat and watch TV with my girlfriend and never once during the evening does my body cry out for so much as a Slim Jim. At one point, I am pretty sure she speaks Swahili and grows an extra nose, but in my weakened state, this doesn’t register as another classic symptom of meat madness.

11:05 p.m.: By this point, I am 11 full hours without meat. I sleep the sleep of the doomed, with tortured dreams filled with angry tofu and armies of crazed asparagus.

Day 2 — Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013

6:30 a.m.: Alarm goes off. Getting out of bed is never easy, and in my weakened state, it’s a miracle I manage it. I press on.

7:05 a.m.: My stomach, now incredibly a full 19 hours without meat of any kind, siren-screams as the summer sun rises. But there is no bacon for breakfast; in my state of flummoxed confusion, I panic and eat Cheerios with blueberries and skim milk. Is there still hope?

9:15 a.m.: At work, concentration eludes me. In my crazed desperation, I eat snack crackers. My stomach accepts the meager offering, but the meat madness chortles menacingly. Why me?

11:20 a.m.: Finally, I start to realize that not only am I hungry, I have a specific craving. And at around this point, I realize the truth: If I do not eat chicken tacos, and soon, I will either descend fully into the madness ... or, god forbid, eat more vegetables.

11:43 a.m.: I am in line at Qdoba; only one employee is working the plodding assembly line, and at this point insanity descends upon me like a wraith from the very pit of hell. Cruelly, I can physically see and smell the nearby meat, yet I can neither touch it nor taste it. For a few moments, reality blurs. A clock screams. Everyone who speaks has apparently inhaled helium. In the distance, clams sing in harmony.

11:51 a.m.: I am startled back into coherence by the words, “Do you need a receipt?” With that, I take my seat and, like a single ravenous zombie at a Golden Corral of human cerebellum, I gorge myself on the delicious tacos, juice running down my fingers. Incredibly, I have survived.

Epilogue: I am happy to report that I am back to my normal self, and that while fruits and vegetables will remain in my diet, I now realize the risk I took. It is a time of reflection. I see my incredible ordeal as proof that I am in my very heart of hearts a survivor; I have beaten meat madness. For now.