I’ve been thinking a lot about what being a vegetarian will mean for me. What are the boundary lines? Why am I doing this? What will this mean for my children?
While I will admit that the whole eating meat thing has always bothered me a little bit – that I have had to try to disassociate that chicken on my plate from the chickens in my father’s coop (yes, my father raises chickens) that really has little to do with my choice to stop eating (or really buying) meat. My beef has more to do with the meat industry in general. The way the animals we eat are treated on their way to our dinner plate. I liken it to torture.
Humans have been eating meat pretty much as long as we’ve been around. At one point it was a hunt for survival and generally, from what I understand, we tried to make that kill worth it. We used their skins to make clothing and blankets, the teeth and bones were put to use also I think. We didn’t waste for our wants and those animals had a somewhat fair shot at a good life before their end. It was, you could say, the circle of life.
Now money is involved. And ethics, in my opinion, aren’t being met. And there are the hormones and drugs being pumped into the animals. And the diets they are being fed that are unnatural and unhealthy for the poor things (But cheaper!) is just another bullet on the list of why I decided to say no more to the whole thing. Because we do live in a society with other options. The sheer popularity of the veggie / vegan lifestyle has given us a lot of options, entire aisles devote themselves to it in your grocery store and entire grocery stores have cropped up to give even more choices. It’s out there man.
Which is not to say it will be easy. It’s not to say it will be inexpensive (it might be, I’ll let you know). But I think like any diet, there will be more expensive and less expensive options depending on your price range and cooking skills.
And then of course there is what to do when we’re at a restaurant or a friend or family members house. I know several vegetarians of several different varieties (because not all vegetarians follow the same rules). Anyway here are the rules I am establishing (at the moment) and the protocols we will follow.
- If I’m paying, it won’t be meat. So if we are at a restaurant or the grocery store, it’s vegetarian.
- However, for the time being we will still eat fish as long as we are mostly sure it’s wild caught.
- And if we ever find a good deal on meat that was raised in much better circumstances (think your idea of a family farm) I might splurge for it, for the sake of my poor carnivorous husband.
- When we are at a friend’s house or a family member’s I will probably eat whatever they put in front of me. It was their money and their choice – their house, their rules. If they want to cook vegetarian for me, I’ll be honored – but this isn’t about “the very idea of eating meat disgusts me” so I won’t pretend it does. It’s a choice I’m making. End of discussion.
- The same goes for my kids.
- We will also not be going vegan. Eggs, dairy, all that jazz – it’s still in the mix. I have switched to organic milk for the time being and I can tell you if we were still in New England, I’d be buying my eggs from my father whose chickens are seriously living the good life.
All of this, of course, is subject to change. But that’s how I see it going down for now.
Also, in case your curious here are some resources I’ve read, watched, etc. that ultimately led to all of this for me:
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan was the first book I read on the subject. It was a real eye opener for me.
- One of my favorite celebrities, Ellen Degeneres talks about being vegan frequently on her show. Here are some of her reasons.
- But what about Thanksgiving??? Here’s a recipe that Ellen’s personal vegan chef Roberto Martin has made for her.
- I haven’t read his book but hearing Jonathan Safran Foer’s interview with Ellen discussing his new book Eating Animals was basically the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I also read this review of the book at the LA Times.
- After watching his interview, I thought, “But seriously Ellen, what about protein?” And her website told me, “Seriously Jen, it’s easy.” The following are all excellent sources of protein: Tempeh (a common meat substitute), Seitan (a common meat substitute), Soybeans, Lentils, Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Chickpeas, Pinto beans, Black-eyed peas, Tofu (firm), Bagel with Peanut Butter, Almonds, Soy Milk, Soy Yogurt, Sunflower Seeds, Spaghetti, Cashews, Brown Rice, Broccoli and Potatoes.
Confused about terminology?
- Vegan: A person who does not eat or use animal products of any kind (including meat, dairy and leather items).
- Vegetarian: A person who does not eat meat products.
- Pescetarian: A person who eats no meat products with the exception of fish. A lot of people will use this as a bridge to convert to vegetarianism.
- Tofu: A soft, high-protein food made from soybean milk.
- Tempeh: A food that originated in Indonesia, made from cultured soybeans. Since it retains the whole soybean (unlike tofu), it is a source of higher protein, fiber and vitamins. It also has firmer texture and stronger flavor, and is a widely used meat substitute.
- Seitan: A meat substitute made entirely of wheat gluten. It is an alternative to soybean-based substitutes like tofu, and has texture and consistency very similar to meat.