I’ve been participating in these Blog Action Day events ever since the first one in 2007. Each year there is a chosen topic on which all participants write. This year, Blog Action Day coincides with World Food Day so the 2011 theme is, naturally, food. The four previous Blog Action posts I’ve done have been on Tea With Dee or The Well-Groomed Hippie but since this is about food, it only makes sense to post it on Dee’s Kitchen.
I must admit that I signed up and then sort of forgot about it. Well, not exactly. It was in the back of my mind, and on my blog calendar, but the past week has been busy and I kept putting off writing it. In fact, I really had no idea what my topic would be. I mean…food…that’s a pretty broad subject, right? So I looked at the list of suggested topics and saw “Vegan, Vegetarian, Meat Eater…Which one are you and why?”. Since we’ve been dabbling in vegetarianism the past couple of years, I thought that would be a good topic for me to address. As they say, write what you know. Right?
I’m often asked why we decided to “go vegetarian”. Actually, we are only “mostly vegetarian”. We did eat entirely vegetarian, with a couple of exceptions, for an entire year. It all started when our adult son who lives next door and often eats with us decided to go vegetarian. This wasn’t the first time he’d done this. In fact, he was only five years old the first time he decided not to eat meat. We were living next door to my parents who raised cattle. These cows were almost like pets and one day Chris made the connection between these animals in his grandparents’ pasture and the hamburger on his plate.
I’ve always tried to respect the sincerely-held views and preferences of my kids so for most of one summer I indulged him in this pursuit. Eventually he gave it up, only to revisit vegetarianism off and on throughout his teens and early adulthood. This latest attempt happened to begin just prior to a message David received from the wife of a dear friend. Ron had stage 4 cancer and his only reasonable hope was alternative medical care he was receiving in Mexico, including a strict, vegan diet. As a “meat and potatoes” sort of guy, he was really struggling with this. His wife asked David if he could help encourage Ron to stick to his diet. David called Ron and told him he would become vegetarian for a year in solidarity with him. Not vegan, however.
Since Chris was also eating vegetarian it just made sense for all three of us to go that route. I already included a number of meatless or low-meat meals in our diet so it really didn’t seem like it would be a big deal. And it wasn’t. So many of our favorites are easy to make meatless. Spaghetti or lasagna made with vegetables instead of meat. Mexican dishes which use beans and cheese for protein. And others that with a few changes can be made without meat.
I actually found it to be creatively stimulating as it forced me to look outside my standard recipes and search out new ones. I also experimented with old favorites such as chicken enchiladas and found that we like the new, meatless version better. I also asked some of my long-time vegetarian friends to share their favorites and some of their recipes are now part of our regular routine.
Additionally, we began eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, in greater variety. Better yet, because we weren’t spending money on meat we could more easily afford organic produce and other high-quality foods. Also, with no meat wrappers in the trash (and by composting other scraps or feeding to chickens) there was nothing to produce odors. I can usually go 10-14 days with one tall kitchen trash bag.
After that year of being completely vegetarian, or to be more precise, pescetarian (some of us continued to eat fish and seafood occasionally), we have chosen to remain “mostly” vegetarian. That means that I might purchase one package of humanely-raised, organic chicken per month. Or maybe a pound of ground bison. I have an organic turkey breast reserved for Thanksgiving. Otherwise I continue to cook vegetarian meals. When we eat out, David chooses something with meat perhaps half of the time. I do once in awhile but if there is a good fish or seafood option, I usually choose that. All three of us have made the decision to eat what we are served in other people’s homes. But we all agree that we tend to feel better after a meatless meal. Meat can be difficult to digest.
Different people have different reasons for eating a vegetarian diet. Concern for animals, health concerns and environmental impact are all valid reasons for this choice. All are important to me and contribute to my personal choice to remain mostly vegetarian. So why have I not embraced vegetarianism 100%? First of all, there are times I do like meat. I’m looking forward to that Thanksgiving turkey, for instance. Second, I have trouble with anemia and find it difficult to get enough iron without red meat a couple of times a month. Third, I live in Oklahoma where vegetarians are often looked upon with suspicion or even derision. I want to be able to attend the occasional church potluck or dinner at friends’ homes without making special food arrangements. Basically, I’ve decided that since 90% is generally an “A”, I’m satisfied with that. Most of the time I’m more like 98% vegetarian but I’m okay with less than a perfect score in this part of my life. In fact, that 90% thing is how I try to view most of my efforts to live a good life. We eat a very healthy diet at least 90% of the time so the occasional candy bar or hamburger won’t hurt us. But that’s just me. Others may want or need to set the bar higher and I have nothing but admiration for them. This is simply the choice we’ve made and feel we can live with.
If you’ve followed Dee’s Kitchen for any length of time you’ve no doubt noticed that while my menus rarely contain meat, I have featured guest posts for recipes that aren’t vegetarian. That’s by design. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian food blogs. There are LOTS that feature meat prominently. I figure there have got to be other people out there who, like us, choose to limit but not eliminate meat and perhaps this blog will help fill a void. And even if you have no issues with meat consumption, we can all use a few lower cost recipes these days. Meatless meals are generally less expensive so including one or two per week can help with the food budget. In our case, as mentioned above, it allows us to purchase more expensive organic products.
So that’s my view on the vegetarian thing. I’d love to hear how you make your dietary choices. Are you a meat lover, vegan or something in between?
Previous Blog Action Day posts I’ve done: