Note: This is partly in response to Hanna Woodburn’s blog “Why I might no longer be a vegetarian”
As I write this, at 9:30pm on a Monday night, I am happily consuming a Philly Cheese Steak, complete with what seems like a pound of meat and masses of processed American cheese. Before you question my strange eating habits I will explain why this piece of information is significant: I have decided that from February 22nd, Ash Wednesday, I will give up meat for Lent.
I’ve always been one to slightly scoff at vegetarian diets, mostly because I really like food, which to me has always included meat. I only occasionally cook meat at home at the moment because of its expense and the inconvenience of cooking single servings, but I was raised in a meat-friendly home, and will not blink at consuming chicken, beef, pork, duck, rabbit, veal, venison, wild boar, or camel (it tasted a bit like salami). Sure, I have vegetarian friends, and am informed enough to have heard and watched grotesque stories about mass-produced meat, often injected with hormones, fillers, and the like, but eating questionable Mc-meat every once in a while has never phased me too much.
So why have I decided to adopt a mostly vegetarian lifestyle for at least 40-days? That question is not something I can answer concisely, but I will try and explain my thought process as much as possible. Perhaps surprisingly, it was not because I was suddenly exposed to the terrible conditions food is sometimes created in – I watched Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” regularly in 2011 and, while being slightly put-off by his discussion of meat fillers in ground beef, did not rush to stop eating burgers then. Overall, the meat I eat is not the so-called “bad stuff” anyway. I typically order meat when I am out, which is much more often at good quality restaurants than fast food establishments. And I don’t passionately believe that one person ceasing their meat intake will change a multi-billion dollar industry supported by millions of Americans. My decision to give up meat for Lent is more about me as an individual than the industry as a whole, and I will admit, is partly an exercise in self-discipline. After all, everyone takes some pride out of saying you were able to stick to a significant lifestyle change for 40-days.
After reading about the experiences of Kenji Lopez-Alt, a blogger on the popular “Serious Eats” blog who adopted a vegan lifestyle for a four weeks, I was inspired to try it myself, and eliminating just meat rather than meat, eggs, and dairy, seems easy in comparison. Having to adapt to not eating meat out of convenience, for example when I need a quick meal for lunch at work, will force me to try new recipes, and order a vegetarian option at restaurants when often I would not, due to the logic that I’d rather spend $20 on a quality meat-based dish than a vegetable-based one. Lopez-Alt’s final summary of the experienced emphasized how much meat or non-meat eating can be more a mental block than anything, that is, that one could enjoy a completely vegan meal regularly without even realizing it is vegan. I believe this experiment will also make me more aware of the type of meat I am putting into my body – something Hanna mentioned in her blog when stating she places a “a high value on the ability to know not only where my food comes from, but how it is prepared.”
I appreciate good quality meat, and sometimes I have not realized how lucky I am to have been raised partly on a British diet of hyper-local produce – I literally walk by the fields where vegetables are grown before going into our local farm shop in the UK. It is my hope that eliminating all meat for a period of time will encourage me to think about where my food comes from more, and as a bonus will be good for my health as well. I don’t plan on staying vegetarian forever (and am already planning an excursion to Rays Hell Burger as my first post-Lent meal), but adopting a more healthily and less convenience-based diet for a few weeks can’t be a bad thing.
All images my own.