Thursday, December 12, 2013

Honoring my Vegetarian-iversary!

I don't talk much about my decision to stop eating meat, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that most everyone has thought I have been vegetarian for a long time now. The truth is that I fully committed to this lifestyle choice after Christmas 2012.  I went back and forth through my teenage years, the waves of anxiety and depression made it hard to commit to much at that time in my life. Once I became better educated about food I tried to commit for the first time only four years ago. It lasted about 4 months until one day my Mom and I hiked Mt. Monadnock and I got the hunger signals that only protein could satiate. Being naive and under-educated, I really wasn't sure how else to quell such a craving other than with meat. We ended up going to a restaurant in Amherst and I ordered the five spice beef rice, and it was the best meal EVER.

Birthday Meal 2009 - kielbasa & mac 'n cheese
I reverted back to meat eating and 80% of meat consumption was local and/or grass-fed. At this point I only ate meat about once a day and never cared for it much when I did eat it. Honestly, the buffalo sauce is the only reason I ate chicken and I enjoyed being a part of the local, grass-fed beef cycle. Yet I was still bothered by my meat consumption - animals helped me find comfort all throughout my life, and this is how I returned the favor? Not to mention all the problems with environmental degradation and fossil fuel consumption associated with meat.
2010 regression - stir fry with my garden veggies & local grass-fed beef
Thus, I decided last November to give up meat after the holidays. I was not ready to handle all of the concerns from family and friends about how I could possibly get enough protein in my diet, and I didn't want to make a big deal at the dinner table. However, with a few years of living on my own and cooking for myself, I felt adequately armed with the knowledge and know-how to follow a vegetarian lifestyle.

The transition was really easy for me and it helped to have a supportive boyfriend on this go of it. He joined me back in January, and eats vegetarian 80% of the time now. Knowing where to look for cooking inspiration, where I can get the best price on local produce, and meal planning have been essential to my success. I am not a fan of having strict ANYTHING so deciding to commit was a big decision for me. I believe there is a lot of grey area in the world, but I just can't handle contributing to the pain any longer. I am aware of the issues with the dairy industry and have largely cut back on my dairy consumption (definitely have problems digesting it) and have incorporated a lot of vegan baking methods into my kitchen repertoire. I do not buy new material goods anymore and I make sure to get my honey and eggs locally.

I do not judge others based on the foods they eat, which is one of the most personal decisions we can make. Everyone has their reasoning for what works best for them aligned with their values. And in this openness I have found success in sharing meals with people of all different backgrounds. Sometimes they like my food, and sometimes they don't. This bonding over a meal brings up so many wonderful conversations and I'm always surprised at where we end up. If you haven't gotten it yet, I love food. I love meal planning, figuring out how to use new ingredients, and most importantly....sharing!

One final point: For any doubters - I ran a marathon based on a vegetarian diet, with only vegan foods before and during the run. I never hit a wall, never crashed, and never cramped. It is SO doable and if you're thinking about making this lifestyle change, there is no reason to not commit other than fear of commitment. I made this beautiful dish for Thanksgiving and plan on recreating it for Christmas in a couple weeks - it was that good! As we cannot afford to give each other gifts this year, my boyfriend and I will be sharing a healthful and delicious meal in gratitude for all that we have together.

Here's some inspiration, if you're interested:

Until next time...

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