I know what you must be thinking: That headline can’t possibly be true.
But it is all too true: I went 24 harrowing hours without eating animal flesh of any kind – and survived. This is my amazing true story.
Day 1 – Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013
(I know it was only one day, so labeling days may not really seem necessary, but just work with me here.)
11:45 a.m.: It is around this time, at an area restaurant, when a server brings me a cup of seafood gumbo and an order of grouper bites. I begin to eat while casually chatting with a friend about the state of football in America. Everything is normal.
12:10 p.m.: By this time, I have devoured the gumbo made with chicken and shrimp (and some rice and green stuff too), as well as the eight or nine bites of delicious, tender, fried fish. At this point, I have no deliberate 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 pull – a familiar feeling I get occasionally when my belly gets the urge for an afternoon snack, a pick-me-up. What I would later realize is that this was my body already looking ahead to the meat it assumed was forthcoming, but sadly, on this day, was not.
5:10 p.m.: I leave work. My craving passes – or so I think. Again, in hindsight, I feel by this point my body was in the early stages of meat withdrawal. I listen to Barenaked Ladies on my 20-minute drive home. I would later realize this was more evidence of my body chemistry being off, especially with perfectly good Beatles, Travis and Ramones CDs in my Jeep Liberty.
6:05 p.m.: Home now, clothes changed and dog walked, I realize I am suddenly extremely hungry. Once again, my mind must be reeling at this point, because when I look into my fridge and see my three remaining meat-based choices are: precooked chicken that is past its expiration date, a pepperoni pizza or tilapia that would have to be thawed and cooked, I have an alarming and irrational thought: “I’ll just eat some frozen vegetables.” This is one of the ugly side effects of meat withdrawal; you need meat so badly, that you are too weak to cook it. Insidious.
6:21 p.m.: After having pulled a single-size serving of Kroger-brand cheesy rice and broccoli (I know, it just keeps getting weirder) and microwaved/spiced it to my liking, I sit down to (obviously) watch ESPN barefoot and eat my dinner, beer in hand.
6:26 p.m.: I have a vague notion that something is amiss, but I can’t comprehend what it could be; again, more evidence that I was weakening and that my brain had begun to malfunction even more than it normally does. Even more telling is that I actually enjoy the concoction, having added ample pepper, sea salt and a couple dashes of cayenne, as well as a bit of sharp cheddar.
6:29 p.m.: OK, even I am shocked by this, but here goes: I not only finish all of the rice and broccoli (??), at no point do I stop to think, “Geez, I really need some meat.” Clearly, meat madness has set in.
7:10 p.m.: I go to visit my girlfriend, who has just returned from a trip to Nashville. She tells me about her stay, we watch TV and never once during the evening does my body cry out for so much as a snack. At one point, I am pretty sure she was speaking Swahili and had grown an extra nose, but in my weakened state, this didn’t register as a classic symptom of meat madness.
11:05 p.m.: I am in bed. By this point, I am eleven full hours without meat. Clearly, I must be fading fast. I sleep the sleep of the doomed, with haunting dreams filled with tofu and armies of crazed asparagus.
Day 2 – Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013
(See? Told you to bear with me on the day-labeling.)
6:30 a.m.: The alarm goes off. Getting out of bed is never easy, and in my weakened state, it’s a miracle I manage it.
7:05 a.m.: After showering and the usual morning rituals, I deem it time for breakfast. My stomach, now incredibly a full 19 hours without animal flesh of any kind, siren-screams as the sun rises. But there is no bacon in the house; 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 my desk at work, concentration eludes me, even as I try my best to write effectively about data recovery as it relates to a rising trend of bring-your-own-device in American enterprise (yeah, that or may not have been the meat madness). In my crazed desperation, I eat snack crackers. My stomach accepts the meager offering, but the meat madness chortles menacingly. Why me? Indeed. Why me.
11:20 a.m.: Finally, my body’s natural survival instincts begin to overcome the coinciding onset of madness. I start to realize that not only am I hungry, I have a specific craving. And at around this point, I realize: If I do not eat chicken tacos, and soon, I will surely either descend fully into the madness … or, god forbid, eat more vegetables.
11:43 a.m.: I am standing in line at QDoba behind three people who have multiple orders; only one employee is working the assembly line, and at this point insanity descends upon me like a wraith from the very pit of hell. Cruelly, I can physically see meat – it is within arm’s reach behind a Plexiglass shield – and yet I cannot touch it or taste it. The room spins. For a few moments, reality is a blur. A horn honks. Everyone who speaks around me has clearly inhaled helium. In the distance, I hear clams singing.
11:51 a.m.: I am startled back into coherence by the words, “Do you need a receipt?” “Yes, please.” “You’re welcome. You have 200 points on your rewards card.” With that, I take my seat and. like a single zombie at a Golden Corral of human cerebellum, I gorge myself on the delicious bird flesh, juice running down my fingers. I have survived.
I am happy to report that I am back to my normal self, and that while fruits and vegetables will remain a big part of my diet, I realize now the dangers involved in an imbalance. It is a time of reflection. Looking back, I also see my incredible ordeal as not only proof that I am in my very heart of hearts a survivor, but also that it’s damn good to be at the top of the food chain.
And if anyone wants to join me for some chicken wings, I plan to hit Buffalo Wild Wings later tonight.