You know how sometimes something can be sad and exciting at the same time? Yesterday was one of those times for me. Thanksgiving 2009 marked an end to my meat-eating days. At least until Christmas.
Yup. I’m going vegetarian. Or trying it out anyway. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m not going to eat beef, poultry, pork or seafood. Venison, small game, rodents and road kill are also off the menu. I’m allowing myself eggs and dairy.
Why am I doing this? Much like the bear and the mountain, I want to see what’s on the other side and what’s along the way. As long as my vegetarian diet isn’t pasta and pizza, I should reach December 25 in better health. I have vague understandings of the meat business’ effects on the environment, and less meat consumption may lead to cleaner air and water and more land devoted to growing food for people instead of feed for livestock.
I don’t know a lot about factory farms, but what I do know disgusts me. Humans may be on the top of the food chain, but that doesn’t mean we need to treat animals like shit … or make them live in it. The animals Americans choose to eat and the ones we choose as companions aren’t always the animals other cultures would place in those categories. So who’s right? Pigs are thought to be as smart as dogs. A 2009 article in Animal Behavior discussed pigs learning to use a mirror to find food. My dog couldn’t do that. A story I heard on NPR this month talked about ants being able to count backwards. Big whoop, you say. Indeed, I say. According to the researchers, before this study, scientists believed humans were the only animal that could count backwards. Now add ants to that list. Not that I was ever a big ant eater (ba dum dum), but animals at all levels seem to be more than we once thought.
So I’m trying out vegetarianism. Yes, I know milk and eggs often come from animals who live in similar conditions to those that become beef and Perdue roasters and runoff from these operations causes the same environmental problems. My excuse or rationalization is that I’m new to this vegetarian thing and starting with something I think I can do. At least I buy organic, antibiotic, BGH-free milk and cage-free eggs. Baby steps.
Those of you who know me know I’m not a big vegetable fan. Without dairy and eggs, I’m not sure what I’d be eating. As proof of my former disdain for green food, I offer this: When I moved into a townhouse with two friends, we went grocery shopping on one of our first days together. We started down the vegetable aisle. Carolyn was excited and asked us what vegetables we liked. Carrots, but not cooked. Lettuce. Potatoes. Carolyn sighed and probably rethought her decision to live with us. Since then I’ve expanded to green beans, snap and sugar peas, bell peppers and probably a few more. This coming month should be an adventure in finding more than five things to eat.
Over the next 28 days I’m going to educate myself about the pros and cons of vegetarianism and learn what foods I like and what I don’t. I’m still up for dinners out, but may be ordering more salads than usual. I promise not to lecture any of you on where your hamburger came from if you promise not to sneak bacon fat into something I’m eating.
Preparation for the new diet consisted mostly of eating my favorite meat dishes in the days leading up to the vegetarian thing. Bacon-lettuce sandwiches. Sushi. A last steak dinner with Penny and Mike at Morton’s the Steakhouse (thanks to the restaurant for having a surf and turf special that night). Yesterday’s turkey. I will miss them all. But who knows – maybe the grocery shopping trip tonight will open up new worlds. I’ve never made a paella and that’s on tap for this weekend. It’s the perfect season for vegetarian chilis and soups. And it’s only 28 days. Come December 25, I could be hitting McDonald’s for a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit for breakfast. Or I could contribute a risotto to Christmas dinner. Maybe both.
Check back on the blog for at least weekly updates on how it’s going. If you have a favorite vegetarian dish or cookbook you can recommend, please do so. Thanks already to Tanya – a trip to the ChesCo library should net me your recommendations.