Vegetarianism Ramblings

I've Had Vegetarians in my Past
Stolen from Brian Andreas' StoryPeople site. I can post this since I was one of those vegetarians in my past. And because vegetarians are not in my past anyway and if they were I'd be very unhappy.

In or around 1976, I attended a family picnic in which a whole pig was roasted. I stopped eating meat that day and declared myself a vegetarian. When I told my mother she said she wasn’t going to cook any differently so I’d better learn to cook. I took that as a challenge, purchased two books about vegetarianism: Diet for a Small Planet and Recipes for a Small Planet. I read all about why vegetarianism was a better option for the Earth than diets that included meat. The book told me that it took much more land to grow food for someone who ate steaks than for those who ate vegetables. It also told me some things that later were proved incorrect, like having to eat complimentary proteins at one sitting. This was later changed to eating complimentary proteins over the course of one day.

I also learned that there were different types of vegetarianism. Since I chose to still eat dairy and eggs I was what was called an ovo-lacto vegetarian. I made sure to make that distinction when I spoke to others especially other vegetarians (although in the late 1970’s they were hard to find), not wanting to have people think I was being a hypocrite — that I knew my place.

I don’t think I was too obnoxious as a vegetarian that time, but I probably was to some people. I do remember a Thanksgiving where my Aunt Leila and I got into a shouting match in which she asked if I thought I was too good to eat the food on the table. We didn’t speak again until she was dying of lung cancer.

I began to eat meat again as a testament that I was a different person after a 3-month stay in England and after breaking up with my fiancé. It was on a British Airways flight from London. The meal was beef tips. It was probably awful (1979’s British airplane food) but I ate it and ate meat for the next few years afterwards.

The second time I quit eating meat was when my boyfriend (now husband) and I lived in Pittsburgh. I don’t recall the reason or length of time I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian this time, but it was a while. Now that I think about it, I think it was until our honeymoon in Europe. I figured it would be hard to be a vegetarian on a budget whirlwind tour of Europe.

The third, and final, time I quit eating meat was at an event on the National Mall in Washington DC. I came across a PETA tent and stopped to look at the displays. That night I announced to my husband I was done eating meat. By this time I’d acquired several books, in addition to the Diet for a Small Planet books. I had a copy of Lauren’s Kitchen and at least one of the Moosewood cookbooks, so I had a lot to choose from. This time I was a little more obnoxious about my diet. I remember telling a workmate that I was a vegetarian so many times that she finally told me to shut up about it.

At some point, however I decided to start eating fish again. Then I even added poultry to my diet (even though the PETA display involved chickens). At this point I knew I was not a vegetarian any longer, but a person who didn’t eat red meat. I’d gone from someone who altered my diet because of my concern for animals to one who was more concerned about my health and red meat was linked to colon cancer and possibly connective tissue disease. When I discovered I was pregnant with my first child I gave up the red meat restriction, claiming I was concerned that I wouldn’t get enough nutrition to the baby without meat.

These days it is so much easier to be a vegetarian or vegan or ovo-lacto vegetarian or even pescatarian. More people believe in it. More restaurants cater to it. More friends and family members are willing to alter menus for their vegetarian friends.

Except if you turn to the Internet, which I did the other day to get ready for a gathering for which I’d be serving appetizers, dinner and desert to a group of friends, three of which are some degree of vegetarian. I knew I’d make two cottage/shepherd’s pies: One was a lentil shepherd’s pie and one would contain beef.  I also knew I’d serve various cheeses from England for appetizers and  a trifle for dessert.

I always use Jello in my trifles butI didn’t want to serve it to vegetarians so looked for recipes for vegetarian trifles. I learned that unless one uses artificial sweeteners they cannot make even an ovo-lacto vegetarian trifle. It seems that most white sugar is filtered through bone charcoal. I didn’t tell my guests about the sugar thing — and served it without Jello.

So, what was the point of this post? Not much. Just some things I’ve been thinking about lately.

4 thoughts on “Vegetarianism Ramblings

  1. I can relate… as I have what I like to call “Former Vegetarian Guilt”. I was never a big red meat eater, even as a child. All through high school and college I would eat chicken and turkey – but that was it. I wasn’t into pork, and definitely not beef.
    When I was 22, and started cooking for myself, I became a vegetarian (lacto-ovo, as well)… and this lasted for 6 years. My decision was based on the treatment of animals, as well as my skeeviness at handling raw meat. I thought, “If I don’t want to touch it raw, I shouldn’t eat it cooked”.
    While living in England, a friend, Jamie (Oliver), pressured me to eat raw Ahi Tuna, and I did. (At the time Jamie was VERY anti-vegetarian, and was a good friend of my boyfriend (now ex) at the time). Hey – If a world famous chef wants to feed me – go for it, right? After that I would eat fish *very occasionally* and when pressed would call myself a “Pescatarian”. When this all took place 10 years ago, it was quite difficult to be a vegetarian here back in the States. (England, however, was a brilliant place to be a veggie). Moving back home was culture shock for a number of reasons, but I stuck with it, remaining a vegetarian until January of 2007. At that time I was bored with being a veggie (great convictions, huh?), and I had just moved in with my carnivorous boyfriend. I was without a job for about 6 mos after my move, and eating meat just became easier. So, I started eating meat without regard for where it came from. We were on a budget, and there were no funds for my fancy-shmancy organic/veggie products.

    Fast forward to now, and thankfully I am not like that anymore. These days I eat meat about 1x/week and seafood about 2x/month. I purchase all organic meat products, and mostly local. I have a farm that sells at my Farmers Market that is located less than 50 miles away, which supplies my chicken and beef. Another farm has pork products, and yet another that I get my eggs from. (I will never buy commercial eggs again, but that’s another story for another time). I also have tofu about 1x/month. (Which I love, but I have some fears of soy consumption). I stay away from HFCS, and all corn by-products. And I feel healthier now. I think my body likes meat. Could I be a vegetarian again? Sure. (But I could never be vegan). But when I talk to the farmers who raise my meat, and I make sure that they roam free, are grass fed, pasture raised, humanely slaughtered, etc, etc, etc. I’m okay with it. But I still do think… “you hypocrite” about myself sometimes.

    ~

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      1. I do. Or rather, I did. When I lived in England (and for some time after) I dated a guy named Leigh, who grew up with Jamie. In the late 90’s/early ’00s they had a band together. They were coming off the high of a one-hit-wonder when I moved there and met them all. It’s funny to think back at the circles I used to run around in…. we would be at Jamie’s restaurant (Fifteen) often, rubbing elbows with “Fatboy Slim” and J.K. (“Jamiroquai”). My “claim to fame” is that I am mentioned in one of Jamie’s cookbooks. I knew two of Jamie’s (now) four children; and used to wander around Borough Market bright and early on Saturday mornings with his oldest daughter Poppy on my hip. This was all about 9-10 years ago though, and I probably haven’t seen him in about 6 or 7 years. Things certainly change! But yes, basically I can blame him for the downfall of my vegetarianism! ha,ha.

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