One of my go-to meals is a cheeseburger and a cold glass of skim milk.

Don't judge. It tastes good.

Still, I felt a little conflicted when actor Joaquin Phoenix made a speech at the Academy Awards last month bemoaning human use of cow's milk. Paraphrasing, he said we humans take milk intended for baby cows and "put it in our coffee and our cereal."

Hmm. I love animals, but the idea of a lap cow had not previously occurred to me.

On the topic of Joaquin "The Joker" Phoenix, I liked him better as Johnny Cash.

Also, for the record, Cash — no vegetarian — liked fried catfish and deep-fried chicken skins. I could be wrong, but I doubt if those chickens donated their skins voluntarily.

But back to milk. If milk drinking is morally wrong, then our family is doomed. Our two teenage boys think a half-gallon of Mayfield chocolate milk is a single serving.

Just the other day, I saw our 18-year-old add a splash of white milk to a 32-ounce tumbler three-fourths full of chocolate ice cream and chocolate milk.

"What are you doing?" I said.

"Just adding this (white milk) so it won't be too chocolatey," he said, waiting for the ice cream to float so he could pour some more.

"Oh, good," I said. "I've always hoped you'd become a chemist."

Part of my retirement calculus is someday paying about $100-a-month less for milk when the boys leave the nest.

Overall, they say American milk consumption has declined considerably in the last generation. But not at our house.

To contain costs, I tried buying those little single-serving, paper cup portions of ice cream like they serve in school cafeterias. These are consistent with the idea that a serving of ice cream is a half-cup. This rationing, however, did not work as expected. Our boys would simply grab a whole stack of the little ice-cream cups and leave a trail of empties around the house.

We also have a healthy beef bill. When we grill hamburgers, the question for our 18-year-old is not "one burger, or two?" It's "two burgers, or three?"

All this is preamble to today's headline. Despite the tone of this column, I have largely given up milk and beef in the last couple of months as part of an elimination diet designed to clear up some digestive distress. I'll spare you the details, but old age seems to be the culprit.

Thankfully, this change of diet seems to have helped me.

I have come to the conclusion that my brain likes dairy and beef better than my gut does. But that's just me. If you want a big juicy sirloin steak topped with two scoops of Rocky Road ice cream, by all means go for it.

Giving up hamburger was harder for me than giving up dairy delights. I would order a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with cheese for my last meal.

Here's the fortunate part: These new plant-based burgers you've been hearing about are not bad. In the past, veggie burgers tasted like they were made out of Silly Putty. Yet, I recently tried the Burger King Impossible Whopper, and I thought it was OK. A little dry, maybe, but OK.

Then, last weekend I tried grilling a plant-based "burger" I bought at Publix, and it actually tasted excellent. Hint: If you put a big enough slab of onion on anything, onion will become the flavor.

And so, in conclusion, I feel like I have created a new category of carnivore I'm calling the involuntary vegan/vegetarian.

Maybe I could write "The Involuntary Vegan" cookbook, do a segment on "Live With Kelly and Ryan!" and become rich and famous.

If that happens, let me assure you, I would trade it all for a Quarter Pounder with cheese and a large chocolate shake.

Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645.

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Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo