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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

I did it.

October 9, 2009

I did it. I made it 30 days without eating meat, no seafood, either. A lot of you out there didn’t think I could do it. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I could do it.

Now it’s over and, after today, I can start writing about something other than my intimate relationship with vegetables. This navel gazing has gotten old, even for me, who has spent my entire writing career navel gazing.

Unfortunately, the navel that I am gazing into today is a little deeper than the one I was gazing into 30 days ago. I didn’t lose weight. I actually gained one pound as a vegetarian.

Many have written and asked about my re-entry into the carnivorous lifestyle. I heeded the advice of many of you who suggested I do it slowly. Though I probably didn’t do it as slowly as I should have.

After a breakfast and lunch spent nibbling on a sausage patty and taking a few bites of a gyro sandwich, I found myself in the Renaissance Center in Madison, Mississippi in the middle of the afternoon, sitting in the new Five Guys burger franchise eating a hamburger and French fries.

Of all of the burger chains, Five Guys is my favorite. The burgers are good, but what I love are the fries (maybe it’s my newfound vegetarianism). Five Guys serves the best fries on the planet, bar none, end of discussion.

I’ll have a full review of Five Guys in a future column, but the afternoon snack of a hamburger ended up being the last meal I’d eat that day— so much for a slow re-entry.

A doctor friend of mine told me that my 30-day vacation from meat left me with no enzymes in my system to help me digest animal-based proteins. I won’t go into any details here, but the friends who warned me to take it slowly were right.

Jimmy Buffet had a hit with a semi-novelty song that he still performs in concert. Cheeseburger In Paradise was written after spending several weeks at sea drinking carrot juice and eating sunflower seeds. His craving was for charred beef and cheddar mine was for ribs.

I had been dreaming about barbequed ribs for three weeks. On day two of my carnivorous re-entry, my wife threw a surprise birthday party for me at Leatha’s BBQ Inn, home to my favorite fall-off-the-bone barbeque. I ate well— I had earned the right to do so.

The theme of the evening was meat and more meat. There were cow balloons and gag gifts and plenty of good-natured ribbing (pun intended). A very talented local gourmet cake baker— Kathy Davenport of Sweet Creations— baked a birthday cake that looked exactly like a large baked ham, studded with cloves and finished with a pineapple ring and cherry on top— amazing. It was the perfect finish to an interesting month.

My aim was true. I took the vegetarian challenge and didn’t waiver. I expected to get a month’s worth of comedic material for this column, what I got was the knowledge that limiting meat in one’s diet is probably a good thing.

Will I ever become a full-time vegetarian? No. Will I take one or two days a week to eat only healthy vegetables? Probably. Do I still love ribs? Yes, especially when it’s followed by ham cake.

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