Sunday, January 31, 2010

Friends, Not Food

Ok, so for those of you that read this and know me... this may seem to come out of left field. I'm not sure why, but for some reason, I've had a sense of anxiousness about sharing my most recent revelations. I've only told a handful of people, so.... for those who I haven't told and have had my BBQ burgers, my chicken pot pie, Boeuf Bourginon, etc etc etc... you may gasp at what I'm about to say.

Since October, I have made the commitment to stop eating meat.

Now, this isn't something that I've taken lightly and it's certainly not something that has happened overnight... Also, understand that I'm not sharing this to convince anyone to stop eating meat... only to share my experience... so that maybe one part of it will connect (or resonate) with someone. Maybe that someone will make the decision to only eat meat from humanely raised animals or maybe go meat-free for one meal or meat-free for a full day OR maybe like me... take the plunge into the unknown ;)

So... for those who are interested... this is where I'm coming from...

For the past couple of years, we've had egg laying hens-- yes, I know all hens lay eggs-- but that's what we have them for. From them, I've learned that chickens have personalities. Of course, they are not as affectionate or compassionate as our dogs and cat... but they're individual, curious, nervous and mischievous. AND.... when they die, I feel sad. While watching "A Mighty Heart," it was said that he (Daniel Pearl) was cut into 10 pieces... I thought "Who could do that?... but wait...we do that to chickens." And I could never get that thought out of my head. Last March, I was doing research for a newsletter that I was writing for Earth Day.... in google I typed "Tips for Earth Day Everyday"... and with that I stumbled across The pictures and videos of the factory farm cruelty was all over my computer screen and like a train wreck... I couldn't look away. (WARNING: The following video is absolutely horrid.)

Months flew by and I couldn't stop thinking about what I had seen and it seemed there was always something to remind me of it. Suddenly, steaks no longer tasted good to me. (Seriously, I'm the girl who ordered my steaks medium-rare.) Then I read that "one of the best things that you can do for the environment is to give up beef." So I figured that was a good place to start.

(I took this picture at my husband's cousin's farm)

The facts-- from environmental to health standpoints-- are all over the net... and they're quite overwhelming. There are a few blogs that I read that I think sum it all up quite nicely... and, of course, are good reads:

But then as I cut out beef... I realized that this was about more than just the environment. I thought about how I justified eating animals and after everything I read and saw... those justifications didn't sit well with me. I had feelings of disconnectedness to where food comes from and what it actually was at a grocery store. What I know is that, realistically, if I walked in the grocery store (or meat market) to get meat and had to pick out a live chicken, cow, pig, turkey, be butchered, I couldn't and wouldn't do it. That's when I realized that this HAD to be more than just beef. And sure, in the middle of this epiphany, I thought about how meat tasted so darn good... I LOVE bacon... in fact, I've always said that I think it makes everything taste better... chicken pot pie/ dumplins/ soup... hamburgers... all AMAZINGLY GOOD. BUT, I remembered how I used to eat stuff like Hostess "junk" cakes, Fattie Debbie snacks, and a lot of other prepackaged crap... And you know what? They no longer taste good. With that thought, I know that meat has the same fate.

I tell myself... I can and will do this... no labeling myself... I'll take it one day/meal at a time.

I've made the decision that I'm still going to eat fish... I'm pretty thorough in choosing a sustainable fish (and often buy it from my local Farmer's Market)... am I justifying it? Probably... but I'm OK with that right now.

Have I been scared? Yes. Have I had second thoughts? Definitely. Have I backed up and said to myself that I can do this? Absolutely. Now, one of the things things I've had people asked me is, "What about the kids??" Of course, that was (and is) my biggest concern (and often my reasoning for questioning myself). I won't force my beliefs on them. They (7, 5, and 3) are great eaters... I keep thinking that I don't want to screw that up. So.... while I've taken huge steps, they're right along with me with teeny tiny baby steps. They know that I'm not cooking "cow" anymore and for the most part they're with me. However, when they want to eat chicken fingers (go figure), bacon, sausage, etc.... they eat them...BUT they are also trying (and liking) all sorts of new foods.

Some things that I'm doing that are helping me transition to a plant-based diet are:
  • In the first couple of months, when we went out somewhere, if there was a vegetarian option... I chose it. It was an easy way to try something new without committing the whole family to it.
  • The ability to keep an open mind (and looking at packages of meat for what they truly are) is making me believe in ALL of the possibilities. Besides, it's exciting trying new foods and my taste buds are totally changing.... just like I knew they would :)
  • Cookbooks, recipe sites, blogs... it's a new way of thinking... and I know that I can't possibly do it on my own. (Thank you Mom, Tracy and Aaron for listening to my ramblings ;) )
  • I have prepared myself for the looks of "Seriously? Why would you do that?" But even so, I know that's the exact reason that I've kept this all on the down-low. **Is there anyone in this world that likes to be labeled or judged?????**
  • I look at the foods that I cooked and think about what I like to eat. More often than not there is a vegetarian version of a meal I used to eat, such as: Chicken Parm... now Eggplant Parm :)
  • I realize that not everything I cook is going to taste like the "meat" version, but I'm ok with that. One of the first couple of things that I tried were vegie dogs (the taste is uncanny to the real thing) and Tofurkey (it does not taste like Turkey, but it's not bad). I've also made vegie sloppy joes, seitan stroganoff, fish tacos (I know they're not vegetarian, but that's how I found my way to cut out beef), homemade vegie burgers, vegie chili, chickpea cutlets, tempeh (or seitan) stir-fry, quinoa...
Once you open yourself to the possibilities... trust me... they are endless.

So, I'm thinking that as I find a vegetarian dish that I absolutely LOVE, I will share the recipes and maybe inspire you to try something new :)

Want to buy sustainable and humanely raised meat? Check out: