I did not grow up an adventurous eater. In fact, the only green thing I would eat was green beans from a can. My parents tried to get me to eat peas, but a mother can only handle so much sighing at the dinner table so she finally gave up. In daycare, I would lick the peanut butter and raisins out of the “ants on a log” and leave the sad celery sitting on the table. When I went to England, I subsisted bread and lamb because I was afraid of anything I couldn’t pronounce and I hate fish. Subsequently, when my grandmother asked me, a hip 7th grader, every morning if I’d had a “B.M”, I had to answer in the negative. In college, I bolstered my fiber intake with Benefiber. Yes, me and that 60 year old shopping in the same fiber aisle.
Today, you don’t know me. Or, let me clarify, if you haven’t eaten a meal with me in the last year or maybe even in the last month, then you don’t know me in a gastronomical sense.
-I know you were there when spit out that raw cauliflower and scraped my tongue with my fingers in front of a group of cool girls.
-You were there all those times that I ordered a cold cut trio at Subway and just got meat, bread, and cheese. When I got to the veggie options, I would say, “That’s it.” Then, every time, the sandwich artist would say, “That’s it?”. Then I would say, “Yep, that’s it.” And then they would look at me with their crazy eyes and accidentally lose their fake fingernail in my sandwich.
-I know you were there when I mistakenly ordered a margarita pizza and had to pick the tomatoes off.
-You weren’t there, but maybe you heard about the time that I choked down a chicken wrap with spinach in it and then projectile vomited in our downstairs bathroom. Afterwards, I just laid on the floor and waited for Gracie to lick it off the walls (Dogs eat barf, don’t they? Mine doesn’t.) and then I didn’t eat spinach for a year.
– Alex was there when I gagged on the spinach stem and cried at the kitchen table by myself.
– Alex was also there (last week) when I asked him for a grape tomato, popped it in my mouth expecting it to taste like a grape tomato. After biting down on it, I realized that it LITERALLY tasted like vomit and spit it out in my hand and then cried uncontrollably for 10 minutes because it brought back repressed memories of the projectile spinach wrap situation. It was a very dramatic rendition of “Girl Eats Grape Tomato”.
Do you notice the dual theme of “vegetables and crying” here? So, imagine my mother’s surprise when I mentioned that Alex and I had become vegetarians on January 1st (briefly mentioned in this post). Two Valentine’s ago, Alex made me dinner, which included cooked bell pepper and onions. I thought they were the bomb so I started to eat bell pepper (granted, I cooked it until they were mushy). Since then, I have started to enjoy the following:
-Spinach (raw) in salads
-Avocado (sliced on sandwiches/lettuce wraps and in guacamole)
– Leeks (in soups)
-Squash (Butternut squash soup, parmesan crusted acorn squash)
– Bell pepper (al dente)
– Black beans (oh my gosh, black bean tostada goodness)
– Carrot (in smoothies!)
–Tomatoes (raw and cooked)
–Eggplant (breaded with alfredo and/or red sauce)
– Mushrooms (blended into a vegan lasagna; the texture of un-pureed mushrooms still freaks me the heck out)
– Onions (cooked- can’t do raw yet)
– Sweet potato (fries, casserole, also in the vegan lasagna)
-Hummus (store bought and fresh)
– Artichoke hearts (tried recently on a veggie burger at a restaurant)
– Cabbage (our Chinese friends introduced me to this. They make it really salty and delicous)
The things in green are veggies that I’ve started eating in the past year. Since being a vegetarian, I’ve realized a few things.
1) People are more concerned with my protein intake than I thought they were. No one said boo when I was eating 16 cheese crackers for dinner, but now that I’m eating salads and tomatoes, everyone is freaked out about my protein.
2) You have to clarifiy which kind of vegetarian you are. When I hear “vegetarian”, I think healthy people whose diet is mostly fruits and vegetables. Some people hear “vegetarian” and think of people who literally just don’t eat meat. Instead, they fill up on bread and pasta and sometimes they eat brocolli and cheese (you could technically subsist on cheese crackers and be a “vegetarian”). This became clear in my mind today when I had the following conversation with a coworker:
Coworker: Yum. That trail mix looks good.
Beth: Yeah, I had to get some to snack on so I can get some protein throughout the day. Alex and I are vegetarians now.
Coworker (clearly offended): May I ask why?
Beth: Well, Alex has done lots of research about the western diet and it’s healthier and Americans eat too much prot….
Coworker (interrupting): Actually, it’s not healthier. It’s not.
Beth: YOU’RE PROBABLY RIGHT. I should just throw in the towel and go stuff myself with hormone-ridden Big Macs and 9 Jack in the Box tacos and then eat 1000 calories of processed crap for lunch. Doesn’t all lettuce have salmonella? Whew, that was a close one. Thanks for saving me.
(Note: the last part didn’t happen. I don’t remember what I said. Probably nothing.)
Here are some of our reasons for choosing to be vegetarians (Alex is more vegan than I am):
– There is some compelling evidence proving that plant-based diets can do amazing things, like cure cancer and prevent other diseases. It makes sense that these amazing bodies we’ve been given have healing powers that can be bottled or unlocked based on the fuel we’re giving them. For more info on this, watch (or read) “Forks Over Knives”, The Omnivore’s Dilemna, documentary “The Gerson Miracle”, documentary “Dying to Have Known”, and book and documentary “Food Matters”. Am I saying that we’re going to live forever and never get sick? Of course not. Am I saying that I think your diet can affect your overall health and wellness? Absolutely. At the very least, more fresh stuff can’t hurt you.
– Vegetarians are eating a diet that is environmentally sustainable. Granted, factory farms can strip the soil of nutrients and taint the water supply with pesticides, but if you buy locally and organic (like we’re trying to), then you drastically reduce your carbon footprint. It takes a lot of effort (grain, water, fuel, energy) to produce one pound of beef. You can learn more about this by watching “Forks Over Knives” or “Dive! Living Off America’s Waste”. Alex and I are going to join a CSA (community supported agriculture) co-op that delivers organic produce to drop-off spots around Dallas every two weeks. All of these veggies are organic and they’re working on making sure they’re all local, so the fuel costs of transporting our food will go way down (bye bye, pears from Chile). If you’re interested, take a look at Urban Acres in Dallas. What’s really cool is that if you can’t pick up your order one week, they will donate the fresh produce to a food bank so that people who might not be able to afford organic food will get a chance at some really high-quality, delcious food.
– Even though I am not known as an animal afficionado (the only dog I like is my own, even if she doesn’t eat my vomit so I don’t have to clean it up), I do care about animal welfare. I find the documentary “Food Inc” hard to watch. Aside from the fact that these animals are pumped full of hormones so that they grow at a super fast rate and are pumped full of antibiotics because they’re so unhealthy, they simply aren’t treated like living beings by the companies who are “raising” them. Before you accuse me of advancing the PETA agenda, I’m not saying that I am against eating meat. I am against treating animals like a commodity (a thing) instead of treating them with the respect that they deserve for providing us with life-giving meat. If I did eat meat, I would choose to eat meat that was grass fed, free range, hormone free. There is something to that “Happy Cow” California cow campaign. I haven’t yet broken into the organic cheese/milk/yogurt world, but I’ll get there.
– Since becoming a vegetarian, I’ve had more energy. So much energy that I’m jumping around the living room at night annoying Alex. Literally. I haven’t once felt bloated or sick (like I do after a trip to Cici’s Pizza). I feel “clean”.
– Being a vegetarian makes me feel better emotionally. I’m proud of myself for eating all of these vegetables. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. It also frees me up to eat things that I actually truly enjoy, without feeling guilty. For example, I had alfredo sauce with my eggplant tonight because I had black beans for breakfast and potato soup and couscous for lunch.
– (Unexpected benefit) Even though vegetables cost more (probably 70 percent of what we buy doesn’t have a barcode), we’re eating all of the food that we buy on a weekly basis. Our fridge is bare when it gets to Friday, which means we aren’t wasting money and more importantly, aren’t wasting food. We’re being better stewards of what we’ve bought for the week.
– (Unexpected benefit) We spend more time in the kitchen together. Sure, it takes a little more time to prepare food but we’re slicing and dicing together. The extra prep time has allowed us to spend more time cooking together than we normally would have. Bam!
So there. That’s why we made our decision. We’re going to meet with a nutritionist soon to make sure we’re getting all the right nutrients and calories but we’re both trucking along feeling great.
Don’t be afraid. I will still be your friend, even if you eat meat.
Let the unsolicited advice about how I need protein commence.