An embarrassingly long time ago, I was asked to do a blog post about my vegetarian lifestyle. I've honestly been thinking about it this whole time, but had no idea how to go about it. I've finally decided to interview myself. (It's not as dirty as it seems, but feel free to ask your own questions if you want to get involved.)
I'll provide no citations. This is a candid conversation, after all, and who carries a list of sources in their back pocket? All my facts and figures come from reading and research Dan and I have done. Google it if you really must know.
Me: Why are you a vegetarian?
Myself: I gave up meat for 30 days starting March 2008 as part of PETA's campaign to outweigh Al Gore's meat addiction (meat is bad for the planet). My husband did the same, and we planned on eating meat again in April. After a few days, we decided we'd only eat meat at restaurants, and no meat would be kept in our house. Before the 30 days were up, we felt so much better that we knew we'd never go back to eating meat again.
Me: I've heard you ate fish.
Myself: That's true. We were "pescatarians" for a while, but only eating raw fish (never cooked fish; cooking any meat makes it more carcinogenic). We gave that up in March 2009 after eating sushi for the first time in quite a while. We were no longer able to digest it well and had a terrible stomach ache.
Me: So it's all about health? You don't care about animals?
Myself: The biggest concern is definitely my health. I've also seen some pretty horrible things about how animals are "harvested," and I can't get behind that. Fish are dumb, so it doesn't seem like as big of a deal to me, but the fishing industry is bad for the environment. We're planet-savers, too, so giving up fish also had that benefit as well. (Want to see some real footage of gross stuff they do to animals and get some good reasons to go veggie? Go to Meat.org. Also, I've seen real-live cow farms where they're all cramped in, and it makes me sad. So it's not like it only exists in PETA's imagination. The meat industry is just plain mean sometimes.)
Me: What IS it about health that makes vegetarianism better?
Myself: Humans, though they've been doing it forever, don't really have the right acids in their stomach to digest animal flesh. Tigers, lions, and bears, yes. Dan doubted this a little more than I did at first, but the fish incident proved it true. We're no longer carnivores. By eliminating meat, we've given up lots of extra fat, cholesterol, and risk of disease (heart disease, food poisoning, etc.). We have more energy. And not that this matters, but I'm convinced my fingernails have been growing faster. Annoyingly faster.
Me: What about protein?
Myself: Unless you're a rock-hard weight-lifter (and if I'm remotely associated with you, I know you're not because I've never met one in real life), you don't need extra protein. You get all the protein you need from nuts, beans, and vegetables. People who crave protein aren't doing so because their body needs it. It's an addiction. The craving is the same as that of an alcoholic or smoker. The human body does not NEED alcohol, but the alcoholic's body thinks it does. Feel better after eating a big ol' steak? So does a smoker after a nice juicy cancer stick.
Me: So what do you eat?
Myself: Gimme a break. All I've given up is cow, pig, chicken, and fish (and any other variation, such as lamb, duck, and what-have-you). I eat everything else, and that leaves a LOT of stuff. Any recipe you already love can be made vegetarian. But your soup needs chicken broth? Does your soup taste like chicken? I didn't think so. Use vegetable broth. Meat alternatives can be made with soy, wheat, or a fabulous new thing called a mycoprotein (basically a fungus) being sold as the brand Quorn. And tofu CAN taste good, once you learn how to cook it (but I like it plain, too, so I guess I'm not the right person to argue with on this). Eggplant and mushrooms are also good fresh meat alternatives.
Me: If you think you're so great, why aren't you a vegan?
Myself: I don't think I'm great; I think being a vegetarian is great. And I totally would be a vegan if I could bring myself to give up cheese. I'm not an addict; we rarely have more than a little tub of grated parmesan in the house, and whenever we make sandwiches we use a vegan cheese alternative. Pizza is my favorite food, and I would be sad without it. Ice cream, yogurts, etc: Meh. The vegan alternatives are better in my opinion. But cheese... oh, cheese. I definitely see myself being a vegan someday. (All of my baking is vegan, though. If it's a sweet treat from my house, I guarantee there are no eggs, milk, or butter in it. Even my sugar is vegan because traditional white sugar is passed through charred animal bones to make it pretty.)
Me: What should I do if I want to become a vegetarian?
Myself: You ARE a vegetarian. But everyone else should just give up meat for a little while. Take just red meat out first if you have to, then work from there. I think you'll feel so super you'll never want to go back. Read Skinny Bitch. It will convince you that meatlessness is superior, and you'll get the truth about artificial sweeteners, trans fats, and all kinds of other crap that you NEED to give up (even more than meat, I'd say).
Me: Is it hard being a vegetarian?
Myself: No. You'll have to learn how to cook a little differently, but as long as you keep meat out of your house, you'll learn to be creative.
Me: What about eating out?
Myself: This depends on where you live. If you're stuck within the confines of, say, Bucksport, Maine, then vegetarian dining can be a challenge. If you're in L.A., you're golden. There are vegan restaurants in every neighborhood here. Most big cities cater to a more diverse population, so as long as you're not stuck on Main St. in Tiny Town, USA, you'll be fine. Cuisines that are especially vegetarian-friendly are Indian, Thai, and Italian. Mexican food can be okay, but make sure there's no pork in the refried beans or chicken broth in the rice.
Me: Will you help me?
Myself: Of course! I think eating meat is a super bad idea these days, what with all the terrible food safety practices and despicable USDA standards, so I'm always willing to help out another person who wants to live a better life. Check out my old Vegetarian Recipes post for my favorite things to cook. Leave a comment or email me if you have questions.