Ms. Kelso (right), a 34-year-old executive producer for an interactive ad agency in San Francisco, became a vegetarian while living with a vegan boyfriend. "He was adamant that his cookware not come in contact with any meat products." Because she cares about animals, their welfare, and their ethical treatment, she said, she found it relatively easy to give up meat. But, she says, "I love the taste, so I was one of those vegetarians who would always try all the fake meats."
It was after reading Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, however, that Ms Kelso was prompted to rethink her reasons for becoming a vegetariannamely her interest in remaining true to personal ethics regarding the impact of food on the environment and society. The book, which came out earlier this year, follows four very different meals from source to table while assessing their ethical, economical, and social impact along the way.
"After reading it, I realized that I was in violation of those ethics even while being a vegetarian," Ms. Kelso said. "Unless I drop out of society, live in the forest, and become a hunter-gatherer, I have an impact based on what I buy, no matter what it is."
In October, she broke her fast from meat with a breakfast of bacon and French toast with her current boyfriend, who, conveniently, is not a vegetarian. But, Ms. Kelso said, if she was going to embrace meat again she wanted to make an occasion of it, and so she came up with the 30 Days of Pork project, which she likened to the 12 Days of Christmas or to the season of Advent.
In her sampling of commonplace dishes (pork roast, sausage-topped pizza ) and some rather interesting ones (fried-Spam musubi (right) at a branch of L & L Hawaiian Barbecue), Ms. Kelso was surprised to find support from friends and strangers alike. People who had found her project on Flickr emailed with words of encouragement. A friend from Los Angeles drove up for the occasion, pork belly in cooler, to make a Korean-style meal on a tabletop grill, complete with blood sausage and, of course, kimchi ("A perfect meal after watching an episode of Battlestar Galactica," Ms. Kelso says in her Flickr caption).
Ms. Kelso found plenty of social interaction through the project. Halfway through the month and looking to try something other than bacon and sausage pizza, Ms. Kelso's boyfriend, Cameron Marlow, posted a message to Chowhound: If you had nine days to live and had to eat pork each day, what would you choose?" They received 40 replies, one of which recommended the charcuterie plate at Incanto, a Northern Italian restaurant in San Francisco. "They're really into boar there, and they have an amazing antipasto plate with a variety of house-cured meats and head cheese."
While she says that she may go back to being a vegetarian (or maybe not), Ms. Kelso is looking forward to the holidays at home, where, she says, her father is awaiting her visit. "He's obsessed with cooking and is very excited about the next time I go out and visit him. He's already planning all his special meat dishes."
All photographs courtesy of Amanda Kelso. View her 30 Days of Pork series in its entirety here.
Originally published on December 22, 2006
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.