Monday, June 4, 2012

Five Reasons to Become a Vegetarian

Lately, it's become clear that Vegetarianism is calling my name.

I say this as a person with no book knowledge on the subject (though that's certainly about to change), and aside from being a self-proclaimed flexitarian (a combination of a low-intake pesce-pollotarian and the occasional cheeseburgertarian), I have no idea how this lifestyle is typically followed.

I am also a chocolatarian.

(And a wordatarian.)

So these five reasons for becoming a Vegetarian are MY five reasons - not to convince you. Here are the pieces of the puzzle that have slowly come together to form my thinking:

5. Cost
Meat isn't cheap! Of course, neither is produce, but considering how much produce I eat and how much more I enjoy it, the cost is better justified. I do the grocery shopping for our family with a limited budget, so spending $10-$20 each week on meat alone (depending on our meal plans) really makes me sick. I just hate spending my money there. I would love to pour that budget into fresh, tasty veggies & fruit.

4. Picky Meat Eating
As far back as my memory goes, I have always "dissected" the meat portion of my meal rather than eat it. My husband jokes that my plate looks like a bear attack when I'm done with it. This is because I pour over whatever serving of meat I have and pick out the gross parts - red spots, veins, discolorations of any kind, every tiny speck of fat or skin - I'm sure you get it. This habit has really stuck with me. I've realized that it's not just a picky eater thing, because when I attempt to eat meat normally - I cannot stomach it. People would probably find my scraps "fine" (I know this is true, because my husband usually sifts through the pile for pieces he finds more than edible). I come from the land of chicken wings, chiavetta's chicken, kielbasa, and sahlen's hot dogs - so my treatment of meat has always been sort of criminal to others. And truthfully, I feel extremely guilty and wasteful when I eat it despite this weird method of mine feeling necessary to me (at times, I get sad thinking of the animal that died for me to have this meat on my plate, knowing I will waste parts of it). When I do eat it, I ask for it WELL, WELL done. I want no juices left behind. It's easier to stomach this way. This drives most people crazy - because people typically like their meat juicy and flavorful. I also won't eat any meat that's in a frozen or canned meal or soup - AT ALL. No exceptions. And ya know how people would normally name a steak as their death bed meal? It wouldn't even make my top 50! Knowing all of this about myself, you'd think I'd realize it means something before now, wouldn't you?

3. Whale Wars
My husband and I have very different tastes when it comes to entertainment, but one thing we have in common is the show Whale Wars. We love it so much, it has come to define summer weekends for us, as it airs on Friday nights starting in May or June. While I am not extreme enough to dedicate months of my life for bitter cold antarctic campaigns to stop Japan from whaling, it's impossible to watch this show and not feel something for animals. No, I don't eat whale. But it's the idea of what's happening here - the reality of people slaughtering big, semi-intelligent animals to improve their own way of life. You can't watch this show, and not think about that. Or not love whales yourself. What really did something to me was watching their short season of Viking Shores. They went to the Faroe islands in Scotland to try and stop their tradition of trapping colonies of pilot whales (those are the social kinds that stay with their families from birth to death) into small inlet beaches and killing every last one of them. Even the babies. Even the pregnant ones with babies inside them. That in itself was heartbreaking enough, but then they interviewed someone from the islands about what they do and he made a point that really stuck with me. Without remembering the details, he said that they were doing it for food, and that we Americans are no better with the way we treat our chickens and cows. Touche, whale murderer. Which brings me to...

2. Mass Meat Production
I admit that I know very little about this topic - and my reasoning for this goes back to #4. If I knew about it, I would probably never touch an ounce of meat again. There are a few things I do know. Like, how they chop and bleach chicken meat into an unrecognizable mash that looks like soft serve strawberry ice cream before shaping it into chicken nuggets. I think this goes without saying, but my kids and I don't eat processed chicken - at all. I know that animals are treated poorly and kept in small, dirty pens, and fed diets that they aren't supposed to have in an attempt to fatten them up. I know that the nutritional value of said animals isn't what a naturally fed and raised animal provides. I know that some really gross and disturbing things find their way into the meat we eat - especially ground meats, hot dogs, and sausages. I know that many of these things are full of unhealthy nitrates. And knowing this limited amount about what goes on in the meat world is enough for me to stop supporting the people that do this (at the very, very least - limit it to almost nothing). If not for the animals, then for my own health and that of my family, and the astronomical ick factor.

1. Stress
This is the simplest point, and yet the one that had the biggest impact on me. One day, after making a really labor-intensive yet yummy veggie lasagna, I sat down to dig in - and I breathed a sigh of relief. Wait... relief? I surprised myself. I sat there for a second wondering why on earth I would feel such a thing, especially after a meal that required so much work. Why did I do that? Why did I just relax like that? And I realized - I feel like I can relax and enjoy a meal when there's no meat to be afraid of. There's nothing to inspect, dissect, pick around. There's no fear of accidentally biting down on the stray piece of cartilage (that I ALWAYS seem to find). There's no creepy "I'm eating an animal that used to walk around and breathe and make noise" feeling I'm working hard to ignore. How can I not listen to that? Why would I keep inflicting that stress on myself now that I know it's there? Just because everyone around me seems to enjoy meat? That's kind of dumb, isn't it?

I brought all of this to my husband, and he not only acknowledged all of these things about me - he wondered what took me so long to come to this conclusion! He is a meat eater through & through, but he told me he'd go along with this and eat all vegetarian dinners if I promised not to shame him for his personal meat consumption. DEAL!

And despite everything I've said, I'm still not calling myself a vegetarian. I don't think I'll ever move past flexitarian, because while I plan to switch our meals to very little to no meat, I do not want to be that annoying person invited to dinner who scoffs at the meat being served. I can suck it up and it eat it to be polite. Or in a circumstance when there's nothing else. My meals at home will be blissfully meat free, though.

To kick this off, I'm going to do some research to collect recipes and meal ideas, and to make sure we're getting enough protein, because anemia is something I struggle with. Then I'm going to plan an entire month of meat-free dinners to help us find a collection of meals we make all the time. It's weird, because this feels fad-ish when I put it all out there, but when I try to meal plan now - I'm hung up on it. My husband throws meal suggestions out there, and I cringe at every one that involves meat (Sloppy Joes? Please. I never want to see those again!).

As we try out this new way of life, I hope to share a weekly recap of meals with all of you (because I will most definitely be trying out other people's recipes rather than writing my own!). And I cannot WAIT to include the products of our gardens!

Do you have any yummy vegetarian meal ideas you can share with me?
How about books, blogs or articles on the subject?

1 comment:

  1. This is great. I've tried to be vegetarian before but...I love steak way tooo much. I could go without Chicken and Hamburgers..and Pork Chops but STEAK. uhhh it makes my heart pitter patter.

    Amanda Rose