I've been feeling self-conscious about doing this when others are around, as I'm aware that it looks like prayer. It isn't, but I'm taking it just as seriously as if it were a religious ritual. It's important to me to be aware of what I'm putting in my body, as the food literally is my body. boyziggy and I doing most of our own cooking helps with that awareness and appreciation tremendously.
I realize that a lot of people shun vegetarian cooking because they think it's too difficult or time-consuming. I've never understood this. Meals can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be, regardless of whether they contain animal-based ingredients or not. My favorite recipes mostly come from the Happy Herbivore, Engine 2 Diet, and McDougall cookbooks and web sites. Some of them are elaborate, like this amazing lasagna, but most of them are simple and quick to prepare. I probably spend more time in the kitchen than most because I have the time to make my own veggie broth, soy and nut milks, and beans rather than buying packaged versions of these, but much of this can be made in large quantities and frozen. (Buying dried beans is a lot cheaper than canned, especially when looking for salt-free, organic varieties.)
I can't appreciate animal foods the way I appreciate plants. I understand people salivating at the smell of bacon or cheese, because these foods have what our primitive bodies crave: fat and salt. It took me 19 years after going vegetarian to go fully vegan (other than honey, which I'm eating very little of at this stage), and love of cheese was a big factor in this. But I don't crave it anymore. I can't eat dairy products anymore knowing what the vast majority of cows go through in this country, and what their methane emissions do to the environment.
I'd probably feel differently if I lived in an area or time when agriculture was scarce, and I needed to eat animals and/or their products to survive. But I have year-round access to locally-grown produce here. I could survive exclusively from plant foods bought at farmers markets if I needed to. (I keep thinking about doing a week- or month-long experiment with this. Not sure if Ziggy would be willing to join in though.) I also have no medical or other needs to eat anything other than plants. (I do take a weekly B12 supplement; it's made by microorganisms in the soil, not animals, but modern agriculture methods make getting B12 from plant sources exclusively unreliable.)
So seeing a dead animal, or pieces of one on a plate, doesn't fill me with gratitude, even if it was raised lovingly and slaughtered mercifully. If I'm offered animal products, I refuse them politely. In that context, I usually don't get into a discussion of why unless asked. I did get into a discussion on this topic recently though, when I was invited to an Earth Day celebration at a local organic vegetable farm that would feature a spit-roasted pig. I debated whether to say anything, and finally decided that it was worth risking causing offense to express my views, especially as I knew and had done volunteer work with many of the people on the invitation list. I first expressed gratitude for all the wonderful food the host farm has contributed to our community, and then asked why it was necessary to kill and eat a friendly, intelligent animal to celebrate the Earth, when we had abundant, nutritious plant food available. (I was thinking of this story about a pig farmer, which I linked to in a later reply on the thread.)
As the discussion thread was private, I won't post the responses here. I did not expect, request, or demand that the roast pig be taken off the menu. I wasn't involved in the hosting or planning of the event, after all. But I did feel it necessary to express my views in this instance. I will not be attending the event, as the sight and smell of an animal corpse will not put me in a spirit of gratitude and celebration. Others feel differently. I do not expect most of them will change their minds on the issue. But maybe one will.