Confessions of a Vegetarian

People often ask me “So why did you become a vegetarian?”  I started on the herbivorous path nearly 20 years ago, in my early teens, and back then that question was asked with total perplexity, especially in the rural mid-western community where I had spent my entire life.  These days, however, that question is usually posed with genuine interest and curiosity, often from people who want to cut down on the amount of meat in their own diets, particularly the growth-hormone-packed, mass-produced meat that dominates so many dinner plates in our country today.

Confession #1: I’m not really a Vegetarian.

I prefer to say that I “don’t eat meat”, and I’ve never been totally vegan.  During high school and college my diet came close, but these days I eat dairy and eggs on a daily basis.  For years I have gone through an on-again, off-again relationship with seafood.  And these days, since I’m the primary cook for my family, which includes my very carnivorous husband, I allow the occasional veggie-meat cross-contamination, and I don’t always insist that soups be free of chicken stock.  But no worries – none of that fleshy stuff makes its way onto my plate.  So, you might wonder, what do I eat?

Confession #2:  Vegetarians have a way of making others stress out over what to serve at dinners, which restaurants to visit, how to select a menu for parties, and even what foods to prepare while we’re hanging around.

First, I’ve got to say, my friends and family are great about this.  Although I’m usually the only intentional vegetarian, the people around me are always willing to try new meatless dishes.  I often hear the normal round of harmless jokes about my herbivorous ways, but that doesn’t bother me.  However, believe me that there are still a lot of people out there to whom the idea of excluding meat from one’s diet is completely radical and foreign.  In the early years my grandmother would often implore me to just “look at a piece of steak like it was a piece of cake”.  Don’t worry, Grandma, I turned out okay!  But, seriously, I’ve actually had the experience of telling someone who invited me for dinner that “I’m vegetarian”, and the response was something like “That’s okay – we’re serving chicken!” (Remember that scene from the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”?  It was exactly like that.)  I’ve even been met with scorn and borderline ridicule about what I eat from the more ignorant sort.  In fact, many acquaintances, strangers even, expressed deep concern while I was pregnant with my son about how he was going to turn out without ever having tasted meat while in utero.  I know they meant well, so I simply assured them that my son and I were very healthy and well-nourished.

Confession #3:  My son is not a vegetarian.

I understand that my dietary habits put me in the minority.  And to me, being vegetarian is a personal choice and not something that I want to force upon others.  Humans have been eating animal flesh for thousands of years, just not nearly as much as is consumed by the average American today.  In our house, meat is not served every day, but rather a couple times a week.  And instead of quantity, we focus on quality – natural and organic poultry, grass-fed beef, etc., purchased from local farmers when possible.  The funny thing is that my kid almost always prefers fruits, veggies, and legumes over meat.  I often have to bribe him with green beans to finish his chicken!  With or without meat on the table, our meals are comprised of a variety of protein sources, and over the years I have built up a pretty decent repertoire of vegetarian, seafood, or meat-optional dishes that are high in nutrients and protein, but are still palatable to the omnivores in the house.

So getting back to the original question – why did I become a vegetarian?  One might expect a clear, concise answer to this – reasons of morality, environmental concerns, a religious mandate, or perhaps a health restriction?  No, not me.  Religion has nothing to do with it, and there’s no one way for me to answer this.  I started shying away from meat as a young environmental and animal-rights advocate when I began learning about the conditions under which much of the livestock that fed our country was grown and slaughtered.  This was also around the time that red meat was being blamed for about every health problem known to man.  I had also recently entered puberty and found my more mature body to be less compatible with my life in the ballet studio, so I jumped on the bandwagon of an animal by-product-free diet that was probably more destructive than anything else (no offense to the Vegans – I just didn’t know enough at the time about how to properly supplement my diet).  So burgers and other bovine products dropped out of my life entirely, and I began to mistrust the sources of other meat that I ate.  Over time, I pretty much lost all taste for meat, so that by the time I reached adulthood, it was out of my life completely.  I still, however, had an aching fondness for fish and other seafood that, my mother explains, began well before I was born (she says she craved it constantly when pregnant with me).  Anyway, enough about me…..whether you are vegetarian, know a vegetarian, or just want to start eating less meat, I want you to know a few things:

1 – I have found many meals and dishes that are satisfying to both meat eaters and non-meat eaters alike, which I intend to share with you over time.

2 – If you stay away from the large chain restaurants, most eateries these days do offer vegetarian dishes, or at least they will be willing to come up with something that is veggie-friendly.  In fact, I find it to be helpful when I look at a menu with a hundred choices to know that my options have already been narrowed down for me.

3 – I like living a vegetarian lifestyle.  I focus of eating the best foods I can find and afford, and I believe that I am healthier for it.  I hope that you will find some value in the tips and recipes that I want to share with you so be sure to subscribe to our blog so that you don’t miss a thing!

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