Today marks exactly one month that I have not eaten meat. While I haven’t been eating meat regularly since August of 2015, I had my last piece of meat on December 24, 2015, when we were in Pennsylvania for Christmas on a slice of pizza.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
-The holidays are a very hard time to make the public decision to not eat meat. Although I told myself I was “officially” starting my no meat lifestyle on January 1st, I wanted to not eat meat during the holidays as much as possible. This led me to discover that our society revolves around meat. To be fair, I did not let my relatives know ahead of time that I had made the decision to no longer eat meat. If I had, I have no doubts that they would have accommodated my choices. But at all of the holiday gatherings I noticed one thing – every dish had meat in it, besides a salad (that was delicious). So, I sufficed on salad, veggie trays, cheese, and Christmas cookies. I like to joke that I “had” to eat all the Christmas cookies. 😉 But it made me wonder…when did our culture make meat the shining star? How come so many delicious things became supporting roles?
-Eating out is still fun, but much harder. Tex mex went from chicken fajitas to bean and cheese nachos. Most restaurants are not vegetarian friendly, and I have doubts about whether those beans got cooked in animal fat or not. I can find something to eat at practically any place, but it’s usually an appetizer or a side dish. Again, the thoughts of “when did meat become the center of our eating?” crops up. That thought came up a lot in the first month of no meat. Not surprisingly, Chinese and Thai food restaurants have wonderful vegetarian options, both with tofu or without.
-I’m excited about cooking. I never really enjoyed cooking before. I love to bake, but cut back on that a lot after college (and some significant weight gain). I know how to cook, but it was never something that was fun for me. It felt more like a chore. But now that I’m not eating meat, cooking is exciting. I am cooking with ingredients I’ve never cooked with before.
I have now made tofu twice!, which was scary but fun! I bought a cookbook that I’m super stoked about. Never before in my life have I felt this zeal to be in the kitchen, trying new things and seeking out new ingredients. Speaking of new ingredients…
-For my first vegetarian cookbook, I researched and asked around. Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book “Isa Does It” kept creeping up. So, I purchased it as my foundation for vegetarian cooking (technically vegan cooking).
I decided to make a dish out of it last night for date night that required nutritional yeast. I purchase a big bulk of my groceries at Trader Joe’s, so that’s where I headed first. No yeast. No yeast at all. Not even regular yeast for baking bread. I think in my head, “There’s a Tom Thumb just across the street. I’ll try there”, not really having much hope that they would have it. I was right, no nutritional yeast. I learn that nutritional yeast is different from active yeast from the google machine on my phone. (There’s a lot to learn about food!) I figure Central Market is the only place that will have it close to where we live. I huff and I puff my way to Central Market. I like Central Market, don’t get me wrong. But I really don’t like shopping there. I had to buy some stuff there for a Thanksgiving dish and spent around $50 on, like, three items. Ridiculous! As I park in the Central Market parking lot, I sigh and think “Oh, how I miss you HEB.” (For those of you not from Texas, HEB owns Central Market, but they are NOT the same thing. HEB is fantastic. I can’t describe why. But it just is. I just asked my husband why he thinks HEB is fantastic, and I quote: “It’s a good grocery store that has everything and it’s cheap.” It’s just the best, but they are only in certain parts of the state. #BRINGHEBTONORTHTEXAS) I walk around for a bit in the flour and baking sections. No yeast. I go to the gluten free/weird stuff section – nada. I find myself in the area with the bins that you pay by the pound for the good salts and flours and grains. And there it is! The bin marked “nutritional yeast flakes” – exactly what I needed! In all it’s glory!
Oh wait. It’s COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY EMPTY. That’s right. Nothing. At all. I suppress an overwhelming need to shake my fists and curse at the vegan gods and settle for an exaggerated eye roll. I settle for Brewer’s yeast, which is not the same thing, but worked for the recipe. This is all to say: buy in bulk from Amazon. I have learned my lesson here. And maybe don’t plan your first time to cook with new ingredients overnight. Oh, and in case you were wondering – the dish was delicious.
-I find myself wanting to continue to educate myself on how vegetarianism can help save our planet. So I watched “Cowspiracy”. Enter crying on the couch and forcing my dog to snuggle with me while ducks get slaughtered. Also enter thoughts about becoming vegan. I never even thought about the fact that most dairy cows and egg bearing chickens get sold for their meat. So even eating dairy, I’m contributing to the environmental problem. But cheese pizza is so good! Enter ethical dilemma. The documentary also has some interesting and astounding facts about the effect of eating meat (in the big way that our culture does) to the environment. It’s insane! (I’m not going to post statistics or anything here, but if you’re at all interested, you should watch the movie on Netflix or google articles about it. It really is insanity.) I always watch documentaries with an open but wary mind; I know they are biased and have an agenda. But it sparked some interesting thoughts and conversations. Ultimately, I have decided not to go full vegan (at least yet), but I’m definitely working towards cutting back on my dairy consumption. This decision is mostly because I’m going to New York City in March and want to eat NYC pizza if the chance arises. Cause…really. It’s good, people.
-After watching this documentary, I had speculation about whether or not I was a hypocrite. If I’m not eating meat to save the planet and help the animals, shouldn’t I also not be eating dairy products? In the end, I decided that making the transition (still in it’s early stages) to not eating meat is hard enough. It’s all a work in progress. If eventually I make my way to veganism, great. If not, I can’t beat myself up about it because I’m human. All I can say is I’m trying; I’m learning. Also, watch this Hank Green video about why he continues to eat meat. It helps validate me on some points, validates eating meat on other points. Either way, it’s a well thought out video on the subject.
-Supplements are important. I’ve been feeling fatigued for quite some time. I’ve been chalking it up to working too much, moving, and not getting enough sleep. But after doing some research, I think it’s because I’m not getting enough (if any) B12. B12 is only found in animal products or in the soil surrounding plants and vegetables, but vegetarians/vegans don’t get the soil found B12 due to the sanitation process. So, I’m going to purchase B12 supplements and start taking them. I’m hoping that it helps me have a little more energy. I don’t feel that taking supplements means that not eating meat is a bad diet, I just think it means we have to be even more conscientious of consuming all our nutrients. (And honestly? I think even meat eaters should pay attention to this stuff.)
-I haven’t missed meat. Not one bit. I’ve been asked if I’ve had any cravings for meat, and I honestly haven’t yet. Although I did smell some fried chicken the other day and it did smell really, really good. But no, I don’t miss it. There are plenty of tasty options available to me and I do not feel limited in the slightest.
Hope these thoughts don’t seem too disjointed, but thought it would be fun to share a little bit of my journey with you all this week. Enjoy!
Happy OM’ing, and Namaste. ❤
Read about why I originally decided to cut out meat in my post Not Eating Meat: My Journey.