The180·The 180

Living in the North killed the vegetarian in me

Amy Lam was a Toronto-dwelling vegetarian. But when she moved to Yellowknife, her vegetarianism died. She succumbed to what she calls the "meat creep"... the slow realization that eating meat was what was best for her.
Amy Lam eats moose at the Northern Farm Training Institute in Hay River, where she first tried it. (Provided)

Nearly twenty years ago, Amy Lam sat down to eat a meal. 

As she bit into her burger, she was overcome with a sudden distaste for red meat and over time that distaste evolved into a cause.

"It was definitely more on the ecological impacts of factory farming and learning about how animals are treated and what's involved in factory farming that really made me cement my choice in not eating meat."

Amy Lam took to the fish in Yellowknife almost immediately. This is her recipe of stewed tomatoes with white fish over vermicelli noodles. (Provided)

Lam was living in Toronto at the time, and being vegetarian was easy. There were lots of food options, markets to get fresh and locally grown veggies, and others who identified with her choice. 

But when she packed her bags and moved to Yellowknife, Lam realized her vegetarianism was in jeopardy. 

The slow process of accepting and eating meat is what Lam calls "meat creep" and for Lam, the creep had begun.

It began with fish, as it was the last thing that she had cut out of her diet prior to becoming a full vegetarian.

"Because the fish there is very accessible, it's very fresh and the fishing quotas don't get met there, so I know the waters aren't over-fished. Most of my reasons for not eating meat were for ecological reasons, so I didn't feel bad about eating in the fish there."

Cranberry and Rosemary Bison Meatballs served with Spiced rhubarb and Saskatoon Berry Chutney. (Provided)

But it wasn't until she was learning about growing her own vegetables with the the Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) that Lam started to welcome the idea of eating other meats. 

"I really wanted to do it [grow vegetables] in sustainable ways that reconciled with my ecological practices, so I didn't want to use herbicides and pesticides. So I was using soil amendments such as bone meal, and blood meal and compost and manure and when you think about it, most of those things come from animals, so you come to the realization that when you're growing something, something had to die."

Although Amy now embraces eating meat as part of her northern life, the garden is still her happy place. (Provided)

At another workshop with NFTI Lam had her first taste of red meat. 

"Someone had brought moose to share, and we have a chef on site and she made this delicious moose roast, simmered in red wine and it almost felt rude not to participate because part of hunting is sharing...and I felt that I wasn't being a gracious guest so I did try it."

Still the creep was slow, and it wasn't until Lam was faced with low iron levels that she made a conscious choice to include meat in her diet.

"I'm just not as fundamentalist about it," she says. 

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