We’ve been mainly vegetarian for about a year now in our house (mainly means that I had a pastrami sandwich in New York last summer and that we eat the occasional piece of fish.) It’s a tough lifestyle in many ways for those of us who enjoy eating meat, and I’ve written at great length on my other blog about the conflict. It’s especially difficult going forward as you begin to accept it as a way of life rather than a temporary experiment. I found this article on the ELephant Journal this morning ( a great read!) and loved it…so here it is (you can find the original on EJ…this is an edited version and my edits are in blue) for those of you who may be considering stepping off the ledge:
How to live a flesh-free life:
1. Have a strong rationale for ditching meat.
To truly make the change to a flesh-free diet you have to have a reason that keeps you meatless when you salivate over a remembered flavor or when you’re feeling too lazy to think outside the box of meat.
My personal motivation began with my kid’s love of animals. As I encouraged that it became impossible to continue to eat meat. At first it was because of industrialized food production and the way we treat the animals we kill. But it grew to even encompass meat from local farms or places where the animal had been well treated. It grew to be more about understanding that when I feel anxiety or fear (for example) I am having the same experience that an animal (let’s say) has. That animals, like humans, feel, fear, experience anxiety. I then began to question whether or not it was legitimate for me to ask an animal to suffer in this way on my behalf.
2. Don’t be an assh*le vegetarian.
Sanctimonious herbivores really eff things up for the rest of us. They’ve induced some meat-eaters to be wary of vegetarians, assuming that we’re out to convert ‘em. And nobody likes the dietary proselytizer.
For years one of my favorite restaurant slogans said : Man did not claw his way to the top of the food chain to eat soy. Believe me, I understand. If you would have asked me three years ago if I would ever be vegetarian I would have laughed in your face…as I chewed up my steak.
3. Be patient with the carnivorous public.
A ridiculously common but absolute bullsh*t understanding about life without meat is that protein is suddenly hard to come by. But protein’s all over the place—grains, nuts, lentils, soy, and—for those not vegan—eggs and some dairy. Yes, the first few months of a meat-free existence are more mealtime intensive, but isn’t it always a bit exhausting when you’re breaking habits to form new ones?
Here’s how I ring in on this: I find that without the lean protein of meat my waistline is harder to manage. In a year of eating vegetarian, I have had to embrace eating more vegetables. It is possible to be veg and just eat cheese and bread and sweets. Veg is a change that requires time to process. It’s easy to fall back on junk food, even as a vegetarian, and especially if you’re not a great eater to begin with (case in point.) But in the past several months I have embraced more vegetables, more legumes, more types of food. Like I said, it’s a slow process. I have made eating more of a living commitment to my values and gotten really honest about why I gain weight (or don’t lose it) as a vegetarian. All I’m gonna say is, check out vegan body builders and then tell me you need meat.
4. Make it clear to your peeps that this choice of yours is yours and you take responsibility for it.
When going out with friends it may happen that they turn to you, sometimes in an accusatory fashion, and say, “Well, you’re the one with the special eating issues. You choose where we’re going.” Vegetarianism isn’t a diagnosis. Make it clear that you don’t have issues. You just don’t eat meat and there’s not a restaurant menu out there that you can’t make fit your needs.
This is true. With the exception of my in-laws wanting us to go as a family to the BBQ joint, there hasn’t been a single restaurant where I couldn’t find a meal, although, I will say that vegetarian food is a general after thought in many restaurants and you shouldn’t expect to have the meal of a lifetime unless you’re going somewhere that specializes in some veg options. Elizabeth St. Cafe, in Austin, is a great example of where it’s working.
5. Learn where meat might be hiding.
Beef or chicken broths in soups. Bacon fat in cornbread. Lard in Mexican food. Anchovies in Worcestershire sauce. Fish stock in miso soup. Don’t be shy about inquiring after ingredients. Remember that your vegetarianism isn’t an embarrassing affliction. You made this choice—own it.
My poor baby girl was harmlessly wandering with me through HEB and sampling all of the free food (yea, I mainly feed the kids there on shopping days) when she picked up a cracker spread with fancy cheese and bit in. The next several hours were spent consoling her (as she fell apart) about having gotten a mouthful of bacon. Some of us take this more seriously than others. Lesson: Watch what you eat.