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From “Moo” To Moosewood June 14, 2013

Posted by nrhatch in Food & Drink, Health & Wellness, Humor.
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People accustomed to eating meat often ask why I became a vegetarian.  If I want to avoid a sustained conversation about my lifestyle choices, I say, “I don’t like meat.”

If they seem genuinely interested and I’m not pressed for time, I expand my answer, “Being a vegetarian is better for me, better for the planet, and better for the animals that I would otherwise be consuming.”

If they press for more information, I elaborate along the following lines.

In my early teens, I read Diet for a Small Planet and learned how inefficient it is to feed the planet by growing grain for animals and then eating the animals.

If we ate the grain, and skipped “the middle man,” we would be able to feed more people, for less money, with less environmental impact, and fewer greenhouse gasses (including massive amounts of methane created by cows).

I decided to become a vegetarian.  Since I have never much liked meat, cutting it from my diet didn’t involve any supreme sacrifice.

Giving up chocolate or pizza would have been far harder.

But my mother refused to let me make such a drastic (to her) lifestyle change at such a young and tender age.  Not while living under her roof!

At home, I ate what everyone else was having.  I would fill my plate with fruits, grains, and veggies before deigning to take a tiny sliver of London Broil or a single meatball.  I learned to fly under the radar without loud pronouncements about what I would or wouldn’t eat.

But when we went out to eat, I got to “vote my conscience.”

IMGP3562bWhen we went to the Lobster Shanty for an elaborate Sunday brunch, the highlight of the meal for the rest of the family was having their steak and eggs cooked to order.

Not Me.  I wanted the buffet items ~ fresh melon, bagels, sliced oranges, waffles, fresh pineapple, pancakes, etc.

After we got settled, the waitress came around and took our orders, “Steak, rare.  Eggs, fried.”  “Steak, medium rare.  Eggs poached.”  And so on.

When she got to me, I would smile and say, “No steak, no eggs.”

My father would look at me, wondering who my real father was, and say, “The steak and eggs are the best part.”

I would look at him, wondering who my real father was, and say, “Order them anyway you want.  I don’t want eggs or steak.”

Pluto-HappySandy, our Great Dane, became the beneficiary of this brunch battle because my uneaten steak went home with us in a doggie bag.

After college, I moved in with my parents for a year before heading to law school.  I came across my copy of Diet for a Small Planet and decided, once again, to cut meat from my diet.

After a few weeks, my mother started worrying that a diet devoid of meat would cause malnutrition.  Since she continued to harp on the magic of meat at every meal, I had a series of blood tests run to alleviate her concerns.

The result?

I was not anemic.  I did not have iron poor blood.  None of the test results revealed even the slightest hint of malnutrition or dietary deficiency.

Huzzah!

Vindicated by the medical profession, I continued to omit meat from meals.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Quote:  I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals . . . I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants.  ~ A. Whitney Brown

Resources:  A Month of Meatless MealsMoosewood Cookbooks * Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) *  Care2

Comments»

1. Pix Under the Oaks - June 14, 2013

I could easily give up meat if it wasn’t for those dang cheeseburgers! Seriously. Not interested in steaks of any kind, could live without pork and chicken. I really love salmon and grouper though.. 🙂

nrhatch - June 14, 2013

That is so funny, Pix! That is exactly what I used to say. So, I become a vegetarian BUT gave myself “permission” to eat a cheeseburger if I wanted one. :mrgreen:

Life seldom has to be “all or nothing” journey.

We eat seafood a couple times a year. Most fish have a decent life with a few bad days at the end. Much better than animals raised on factory farms.

2. suzicate - June 14, 2013

While there are days I do enjoy meat, and especially seafood, I’d be happy with meals of chocolate, lol! And by the way, eating meat hasn’t had any effect on anemia for me. I still go through bouts of being iron deficient but not sure why.

nrhatch - June 14, 2013

Chocolate is a good mood food! :mrgreen: You might be interested in this article on Iron:

http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/iron.php

suzicate - June 14, 2013

Thanks, Nancy. I do eat lots of high iron veggies, Perhaps, I should try the combinations. I used to take and iron supplement but stopped years ago. I’ve never questioned it but the iron deficiency might have something to do with a factor 8 deficiency I have…then again they might be totally unrelated. (The factor 8 thing is a blood clotting issue.)

nrhatch - June 14, 2013

Sounds like it might be worth a bit of dietary exploration and experimentation to see if you can eliminate the deficiency.

The human body is incredible and complex . . . it’s a miracle that any of us are walking and talking. With all the things that can go wrong, it’s amazing that so many things go right. 😉

3. katecrimmins - June 14, 2013

I’m not a vegetarian but I eat very little meat especially compared to most Americans. I just love vegetables best!

nrhatch - June 14, 2013

Same here . . . they’re delicious and nutritious! When I became a vegetarian “for good” (about 17 years ago), I went through our favorite recipes and modified them to omit the meat and up the ante of veggies.

We found that we liked most of them BETTER without the meat and, as an added bonus, they were easier and less expensive to prepare.

4. Grannymar - June 14, 2013

Mammy was always in favour of a good mixed diet. I do eat meat, but not everyday. Living alone I find I experiment with foods, some work better than others, then I spend half an hour trying to remember everything I put in the dish! 😆

nrhatch - June 14, 2013

Yes! That has happened to me too . . . where I could NOT re-create the experiment if I tried. Most notably, the time that my ginger snaps came out of the oven as YUMMY “ginger scones.” 😀

5. ericjbaker - June 14, 2013

Back in my vegetarian days (which lasted about 10 years or so), I kept my reasons to myself. People would invariably press and press until I explained more and more. At which point they would become defensive and accuse me of preaching. Being the cantankerous SOB that I am, I probably responded with, “Don’t ask questions if you don’t want to hear the f****** answer.”

I’m such a charmer.

nrhatch - June 14, 2013

OMG . . . yes! That has happened to me. Some people keep asking questions and then get angry at me for answering them honestly.

And you ARE a charmer! 😉

6. Patricia - June 14, 2013

I am moving toward vegetarianism…is that a word?…but I still occasionally eat meat. Then I feel bad…not physically…just bad that I have so little discipline.

nrhatch - June 14, 2013

As we transitioned away from meat, we ate smaller and smaller portions, less and less frequently. AND we make our meatless meals so delicious that they seemed like a REWARD not a sacrifice.

It’s what we eat 95% of the time that matters . . . the other 5% should be whatever we WANT. 😀

7. Three Well Beings - June 15, 2013

i have at times followed a strictly vegetarian diet, but I’m a lapsed one these days. 🙂 Although I will say that meat is the smallest portion of my diet, and not an everyday thing. I really do think meat is unnecessary. That much I completely agree with. I started craving meat about a year ago…that was very strange at the time, but eating a little seems to keep that from getting too strong. I think Diet for A Small Planet has definitely been an influential book through the years. I hope you still have your copy!

nrhatch - June 15, 2013

Some vegans are fanatics, going so far as to refuse soup with 1/4 tsp. of Worcestershire sauce in 8 cups of broth because anchovies are used as a base. That hardly seems worth worrying about. (They probably ingest a greater volume of insect protein in their granola and other grains). :mrgreen:

I refuse to get caught up in the “all or nothing” approach to life ~ being a Flexitarian is more fun! That said, it’s been 2 years since I’ve eaten meat ~ and that was an “accident” (pepperoni hidden UNDER the cheese on a pizza).

I no longer have my copy of Diet for a Small Planet or its companion, Recipes for a Small Planet. But I do have several FANTASTIC vegetarian cookbooks.

8. countingducks - June 15, 2013

I eat less and less meat as I grow more and more soggy about animals. As you can guess from my name, duck is off the menu as well as other animals I have become friends with

nrhatch - June 15, 2013

Glad to know that countingducks doesn’t order Duck a l’orange when celebrating! 😛

QUACK QUACK QUACK

People often have a disconnect button when it comes to their diets ~ they love their pets (dogs, cats, rabbits, ducks, etc.) but are able to chow down on cow. That’s a-moo-sing!

9. Kate - June 15, 2013

So interesting, and so funny about the relationship with your parents; I remember one of my friends announcing to her parents that she was vegetarian at about age 12, to which her mum replied ‘of course you’re not, don’t be ridiculous!’. It was about 4yrs before she was brave enough to state it again, more assertively this time..
I agree with you too about it not needing necessarily to be an ‘all or nothing’ thing; I eat much less meat than ever before in my life, but hesitate about making any definitive decisions to stop when there are things (bacon, for me..) which I would really miss.

nrhatch - June 15, 2013

Yay! You survived your survival training, Kate! Hope those chocolate bars you sewed into your coat pockets came in handy!

Thanks for sharing your friend’s tale. Most of us don’t have much say-so at age 12-13, do we? 😉

In mom’s defense, nutritionists back then thought that grains and beans and nuts and eggs had to be combined “just so” to get any benefit. With 6 mouths to feed, she didn’t want to assume responsibility for learning the ins and outs of a vegetarian diet.

Now, we know that, if we eat a varied diet, we get all the protein we need from fruits, veggies, etc.. The body stores essential amino acids so magic combinations and complex formulas aren’t needed to prepare nutritious and delicious recipes.

I believe we should eat what we want, but we should do so mindfully, with our eyes wide open. 😯 The more conscious we are as consumers, the better choices we make.

10. Perfecting Motherhood - June 15, 2013

I haven’t eaten beef or pork (or lamb) for over 20 years and I don’t miss it one bit. I saw pigs and lambs getting killed in front of my eyes at summer camps and then they got cooked on the pit. That was it for me. My mother gave me the same grief as your mom over and over, that I’d literally collapse and die if I didn’t eat those meats. Funny since many people who eat too much beef or pork collapse and die. I did suffer from anemia for years and years, even with iron supplements. Until last year, when I read that something in black tea binds to the iron you eat and prevents it from getting absorbed. I drink tea the whole day so I started taking my vitamins at night instead of the morning. No more anemia. No doctor helped me figure that one out, by the way. Thanks, Google!

I don’t think my kids have ever had beef. When they have the opportunity to eat a burger, they can’t stand the smell so they decline. They have eaten bacon (and ham, I think) but they also eat turkey bacon just the same. It’s really the smoke flavor they like. We still eat poultry a couple of times a week, eggs and seafood.

nrhatch - June 15, 2013

That is so interesting about how you solved your anemia with such a quick fix! Yay, Google!

Socialization plays a huge roll in what we view as food. People who chow down on cow are horrified at the idea of eating horse, dog, or cat. It’s their inner disconnect button, I’m sure. 😉

But bacon smells good to everyone. 😀

Perfecting Motherhood - June 15, 2013

I don’t preach people who eat beef or pork because I still eat poultry. But I can’t stand the taste or smell of beef and I’ve seen too many cows being slaughtered to even want to eat one again. Horsemeat smells and tastes gross too, by the way (French people still eat it…).

nrhatch - June 15, 2013

I try not to preach either ~ it tends to make people dig in their heels and get defensive, “you can’t tell ME what to do!”

11. two engaging goldens - June 15, 2013

Four nights a week I cook two meals – the meat version for my husband and the veggie version for me. The rest of the time he gets a veggie or pasta meal or gets his own 😦 The cruelty of the Australian live export trade and the way pigs and chickens are factory farmed here means I cannot face to eat an animal. However, I confess, our neighbour has organic pigs (pets rather) and I do eat her bacon. Delish 🙂

nrhatch - June 16, 2013

Having different dietary preferences makes meal time FUN, eh? When I cook something that one of us enjoys more than the other, I freeze single portion servings to pull out on short notice at a later date . . . but that would be tough to do 4 days a week.

Everybody loves bacon! :mrgreen:

12. yogaleigh - June 16, 2013

Diet for a Small Planet made me a vegetarian too but unfortunately it didn’t work out as well for me — turns out I’m a body type that needs red meat. It took years to figure out the role it played in my health problems. I still believe in the principles but I believe in being healthy too and I can’t figure out how to accomplish both. I’ve had disbelievers watch, amazed, while color flooded back into my face after only a few bites of red meat and my energy obviously pumped up… Funny, my parents didn’t care when I became a vegetarian.

nrhatch - June 16, 2013

Maybe you’re a vampire? . . . I vant to suck your blood. 😛

Perhaps there is another dietary source for whatever your body gets from red meat?

13. Booksphotographsandartwork - June 18, 2013

As I told my dad last week, I don’t think it’s right to eat anything else that has eyeballs!

nrhatch - June 18, 2013

I am much happier sticking with fruits, veggies, grains, seeds, and nuts. And I feel better too. It’s a win for me and a win for the animals.

14. shreejacob - June 21, 2013

Thanks for sharing the idea behind becoming a vegetarian from the book you read. It makes sense actually. People who are vegetarians (that I know of) do claim to feel lighter and cleaner. Sometimes I think for those who eat meat, maybe moderation is the key…then there wouldn’t be the need to have too many animals bred for their meat..you know?
Over here we have “fake meats” made from soy for vegetarians..I feel it defeats it’s purpose because of the amount of preservatives and stuff added into it!

nrhatch - June 21, 2013

We don’t eat many of the “fake meats” because we don’t really miss meat. But, once in a while, we grill a Veggie Dog or a Veggie Burger.

I definitely feel cleaner and lighter as a result of the dietary changes we made.


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