the verdict on my vegetarian summer

6 Sep

When I started my summer challenge of being a vegetarian, I think I knew I was going to like it. Between my backyard garden full of produce and my trips to the farmer’s markets, my fridge is usually busting at the seams. There is hardly room for meat even if I wanted it.

So, how was my summer as a veg-head?

Fantastic. I really, really enjoyed it. As I mentioned from the beginning, I had a few “special circumstances” which included a couple gatherings of the GDC (Gourmet Dinner Club), a meal made for me by someone who had no idea about my summer challenge, and our recent trip to Seattle (hello? This gal is not going to Seattle without some fish action). Other than those few occasions, I stayed true to my word and enjoyed every minute.

I did not find it hard at all. I never had a craving for piece of meat. Not even a piece of bacon!

Here are a few of my noticings of my summer and answers to many of the questions I received:

  • I like tofu. I’ve discovered a few different ways to prepare it that I enjoy. I realize I didn’t post many tofu recipes (or any?), so I will need to remedy that. I think it has gotten a bad rap when really, you can make is taste like just about anything.
  • My stomach likes me as a vegetarian. I’ve had a lot less “uncomfortable” moments since ditching the meat. Major bonus.
  • Eating out in smaller towns is a bit more difficult. It’s quite fascinating to read a menu and when you get through to the end, you realize there is maybe one option without meat. Even more disappointing is when it’s a crappy veggie pizza.
  • My hair did not fall out and I did not notice a lack of energy. Many of my friends were concerned about my protein intake (thank you for your concern – I really do appreciate it). I did not notice any ill effects and I think I did a great job of getting protein from non-meat sources. My major sources of protein included: tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils, greek yogurt, eggs, quinoa, nuts and vegetables (yes, they have protein too). I did make a conscious effort to always include a protein source at every meal. I can see how it would be easy to live on pasta and cereal. :)
  • My friends and family were super supportive and for that, I’m very grateful. Thank you for not shunning me or sneaking meat into my meals. You are awesome.

So, now what?

The number one question I have received from folks this last month has been, “what are you going to do once your summer is over?”

I haven’t really known the answer until now. I was having some major mental debate. The debate was about needing a label.

On one hand, I like the black and whiteness of being a vegetarian. There is no exceptions, it just is what it is and most people get it. It is a simple answer to a simple question. “Are you a vegetarian?” Yes, thanks for asking. Done and done. I have some friends that are weekday vegetarians (meaning they can have bacon on the weekend), which I think is kind of cool and still pretty easy to explain.

On the other hand, I don’t like conforming or needing a label just to explain my eating habits, ya know? I mean, if I “mess up” or really want a piece of meat, I do not want to feel like others are going to point and yell “cheater!”. ( No one I know would do that, right?) I think people can have certain feelings or principles about what they eat without needing a label to define them. Plus, there are so many labels! Vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, flexitarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, raw….I can’t keep them all straight. Do I want to explain myself all the time?

Nope, the second hand won.

If people ask me if I’m a vegetarian or any other version, I will say “No, I just like to eat good food that makes me feel good.” or something clever like that.

I’m going to continue to eat a plant based diet, but when I want to indulge in meat or seafood, I will. I see myself doing this mainly on special occasions and holidays (Christmas = Cioppino). Have you read the book Blue Zones? The book describes the habits of the world’s healthiest populations (based on longevity of life). One of their habits is eating meat only on holidays and feast days. I like that. I also like that their other habits involve wine, friendships, and not working too hard. It sounds divine.

Then there is vacation. When we travel, we like to get to know a city through it’s food. It can be tricky to do if you have a lot of rules. Since I want to experience my travels to the fullest, I will have a complete open mind when it comes to food.

A few things I will continue to be mindful of are where the meat I’m eating comes from and the impact I have on the environment. These two things go hand in hand in my opinion. I’m not going to get into a lengthy dissertation on what the processing of meat does to our lovely planet, but I will say, it’s not good. I’m also not going to get into the importance of eating local produce and supporting our local food community. Some how, I don’t think you’d be reading this blog if you didn’t understand that. Please tell me it makes sense to you the importance of eating local. Please?

So, no label. No major rules, just some principles. And in case I wasn’t clear, here are my basic food priniciples.

1. Eat local whenever possible and organic when I can. Sorry, you can’t tell me pesticides are good for you.

2. Eat a plant based diet.

3. Save meat for special occasions, holidays and travels – or just when I desperately want real bacon….or a burger….or a pot roast.

4. Be aware of where my food is coming from. This is not just about the food being local, but how were the animals treated before it got to my plate? Are they full of antibiotics (gross) and were they fattened up with corn? I’d like to avoid that.

Now that I got all of that out of my head…any questions? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your opinions and if any of you have been eating less meat. What did you notice?

Many people have asked how Brette has handled my summer challenge. I’m happy to report that he will tell you himself in an upcoming guest post!

While I’ve been writing this, he has been cooking ribs.

Tonight is a special occasion. It’s Labor Day and I haven’t had Brette’s ribs all summer. It’s time to celebrate that. Cheers!

11 Responses to “the verdict on my vegetarian summer”

  1. Steff September 6, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

    Job well done, Jen!
    Please do post some tofu recipes. I am eternally in search of good new ways to do tofu!

    • jen September 7, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

      Steff – tofu recipes coming stat!

  2. anne September 6, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    I think this is one of my favorite posts that you’ve written! Thanks to you, I’ve been really aware of my meat intake this summer too. It’s definitely decreased, and I haven’t missed it when I don’t eat it.

    • jen September 7, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

      Thanks!

  3. Ann September 6, 2010 at 8:37 pm #

    Congratulations Jennifer on your summer challenge!! Boy do those ribs look good;)

  4. Dennis September 6, 2010 at 8:42 pm #

    Congrats on a successful summer. Being an omnivore requires no explanation. I wasn’t surprised to hear you had less intestinal distress on a plant diet. As I get older I find that beef is less a comfort food. Keep up the good work!

  5. Beth Allen September 6, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    Sounds like a fabulous adventure, Jen! I fully align with all your tips ~ and always choose local, organic, free-range, etc. I remember when Kevin and I first started dating and I switched him to this style of eating he was BLOWN AWAY by how everything tasted way more delicious!

    I think you know I was a vegetarian for 12 years, and yes, eating out is HARD! Especially when you’re a non-cheese eating veg like I was! Talk about crappy veggie pizzas with NO CHEESE! ;)

    Anyhow, I started eating meat when I was 7 months preggers bc of severe anemia, and while I”m really conscious of my choices, I’m still on the meat….at least until my child-bearing years are over. Not sure what will happen after, but for now this is working for me. And yes, I still often have guilt about it! OK, I’m rambling….just happy to find my way to your blog via Twitter, and LOVE your post. You are a super star and I love and miss you tons!

    • jen September 7, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

      Bad veggie pizzas without cheese would be even worse! I remember you telling me about going back on the meat. I can’t imagine what a head game that must have been after 12 years! I’m so glad you found my blog!

  6. JackieO September 7, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    Congrats Jen!! Funny, the whole time I was reading this entry I was thinking about Brett and his smoker. Glad to see you enjoyed some ribs!! :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. revitalized! « She said. She said. - September 12, 2010

    […] lots of ideas swirling around in our heads for upcoming posts. Anne plans to write a bit about how Jen’s vegetarian summer affected her own eating habits; Anne also is planning a few posts about making your own baby food […]

  2. a year in review « She said. She said. - December 30, 2010

    […] was very successful. It helped that I had a vegetarian summer so I didn’t even need to think about it for three months. It also helps that I have hunters […]

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