Sunday, February 20, 2011

Going Almost-Vegetarian Part 2

A year and a half ago I wrote here about my difficulty in sticking to a diet relatively free of factory-farmed meat. I've been having a lot more success with this lately. Partly because I no longer live with a meat-eater and have more control over what I eat, but also partly because I experienced a mental shift toward vegetarianism.

For years I lived with an avid carnivore and consequently ate plenty of meat. At home I cooked a lot of quality grass fed/sustainably raised meat from farmers markets. Braised lamb shanks. Meatballs. Bison steak. G rilled pork chops. Perfectly crisp bacon for curing hangovers. And so on. For dinners out, I often ate at Brooklyn's many new-american-local-seasonal restaurants where I was happy to order meat. But I also found myself at average restaurants with lackluster vegetarian options or at family or friend's homes where I felt bad turning down non-vegetarian food they'd prepared - which is where it got tricky.

When I started cooking for just myself several months ago, I decided to eat less meat - only when my body craved it for nutrients. However, I realized that I rarely crave it. Instead, I'm eating a lot of roasted vegetables, eggs, cheese (pizza!), and beans, which satisfies me. When I go to the farmers market, I have no desire to buy meat for myself, nor do I want to spend the added expense on it. Moreover, I've even found that when I try a bite of a friend's sandwich or sample a free meat and cheese plate at work, it doesn't taste as satisfying as I expect - for the most part. Every now and then I'll still enjoy meat, like Fette Sau barbecue last week, which is oh so good and comes from organic and small family farms.

I don't think it's realistic for everyone to become a vegetarian. I just think we should be more conscious about where the meat on our plate comes from and eat less of it. So many people go to a deli and mindlessly order a turkey sandwich without thinking about all the implications.

On top of all the water pollution, excessive antibiotic usage, deforestation, and methane and carbon dioxide emissions related to factory farming, I also recently learned that meat eaters intake higher levels of carcinogenic chemicals called dioxins - industrial byproducts that end up in the air, water, and soil, and in higher levels in animals because they are bio-accumulative. Something to think about next time you're ordering lunch at the deli.


  1. There are times when I think about becoming a vegetarian. Sometimes the thought of eating an animal makes me feel too queasy. Other times, I can't imagine not having roast beef, bacon, a cheeseburger etc again. It's an interesting debate and I'm sure I'll swing back and forth for many years to come.

  2. living with a meat-eater def makes it tough to continue vegetarian living. Esp convincing the husband to avoid manager specials on Johnsonville brats(yuck!) at the grocery store. Luckily, the moosewood cookbook came in to our lives and since then its been a lot easier finding vegetarian/protein friendly foods for my carnivore husband.

  3. Congrats on making the shift! It's interesting how it can happen organically when there's no one pushing you one way or the other.

  4. My dad is a VP of a major beef packing company so I've really learned a lot about the whole beef process. It's also really interesting to get it from the source - someone in the industry.

    my best friend is a vegetarian and we went to a vegan restaurant called "Strictly Roots" in Harlem. If you're ever up there, you should check it out!

  5. i am lucky enough to have a partner that is also vegetarian, but i totally agree with what you say about if people just ate less and were more conscious of their choices. when j and i first started attempting to become vegetarians, we thought eventually we'd come back to organic meats and just eat a lot less (if only everyone could do that and reduce the demand) but then eventually after educating outselves, we couldn't look back. it's been 4 years and now we're considering veganism but we'll see!

  6. Amen. I'm just grateful that there are so many people thinking and discussing. It used to feel so black and white to me - either you were vegetarian or you weren't and you had to choose a side and there was a lot of guilt involved. I spent a little over a year forcing myself to be a vegetarian, even though my pre-vegetarian diet had been very light on meat already. (I grew up eating meat once or twice a month.)

    Turns out I am a miserable vegetarian (cannot keep my iron up no matter how many leafy greens and legumes I eat) but a very happy near-vegetarian. And the nice thing about being a near vegetarian is that I can afford to splurge on good, more ethical meat when I do eat it.

    Although I'll admit that restaurant burgers are my weakness. I'm lucky that several of the places I love do source more ethical meat, but not all of them do.

  7. Rachel - so true, it is becoming more of a mainstream option to be an almost vegetarian, so people don't think it's weird when i explain it to them.

    coley - wow good luck with the veganism. reducing the demand is the key...

    very married - my sister lives near harlem, i'll have to mention that restaurant to her, thanks.

    walking barefoot - yea i was almost vegetarian when first learning to cook before i met my exboyfriend, so i think it makes sense that i've gone back to that.

    E - oh i definitely can't imagine life without ever having bacon again...

    M - yes, the trick is finding vegetarian meals that make the meat eaters happy...i found a few that worked for my ex, but without me planning them he'd default to meat.

  8. so perfectly true. I keep having to chat with Andrew about eating less meat. Not becoming vegetarian, but eating less meat for the reasons you just stated. :)
    It's hard- mostly because I'm so fussy and he really likes meat. But we're moving there.