The name Floraphage has recently taken on new meaning. When I originally titled this blog, I was (mostly) thinking metaphorically—as in, “I love leaves and flowers so much, I just want to eat them up!” But after seeing this article on pig factory farming (warning: graphic) from The Humane Society of the United States on May 9, I decided it was time I stopped eating meat.
I’ve had an experiment in vegetarianism before—two summers ago, for about two months. The beginning of my graduate school program and a new relationship effectively ended that experiment, however; I just simply didn’t have the time to do much cooking myself, and I was dating a meat eater. It was just easier. Still, for years now, I’ve been limiting the amount of meat in my diet, and there’s been more that one occasion where I went a week or two, unconsciously, without consuming a bite.
This time it feels different, though. This time I’m giving it an official label, and I’m not making exceptions. For a long time, I’ve only been able to consume meat by not thinking about where it came from, what went into getting it onto my plate, and at 28 years of age, I guess I’ve finally decided to grow up. If I eat meat, I’m going to have to be comfortable about where it comes from instead of just sticking my head in the sand.
So, I’m a vegetarian—specifically, according to the chart in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Being a Vegetarian,* a lacto ovo vegetarian. That means I’m still eating dairy products and eggs. Additionally, I’m still eating fish. (I know—there’s no “pescatarian” in there. It’s an imperfect world, with imperfect terminology. How about “lacto ovo pescetarian”?) However, even with those products, I’m trying to be more careful about where they’re coming from, selecting farmers’ market (cage-free) eggs over less-humanely produced ones, and making sure that fish is sustainably sourced (thanks, Trader Joe’s, for heading in that direction—and for stocking cage-free eggs and not using genetically modified ingredients, to boot). For the moment, I’m saying no to crab and lobster entirely, as much as I love them—that whole boiling them alive thing is a bit too much for me to handle. And milk is next on my list. (In this case, I’ll be looking into direct alternatives, to see if I can’t accustom my palate to different tastes.) That still leaves cheese and other dairy products unchanged, but I’m trying to cut myself some slack as I transition into this new way of life.
All of that said, I honestly don’t know how long this will last. There are some dishes that, whenever I think about never having them again, become a sort of torture—the marinated flank steak that my parents make, a good burger (I haven’t yet met a veggie burger that really satisfied), the chicken tikka masala at my favorite local Indian joint. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if I eventually go back to eating meat while just being extremely picky about where it comes from. For the moment, though, I’m happy with my decision, and I want to see this through.
And you know what? So far, it’s been pretty great. I feel better about myself, and in the long term I’ll be healthier for it. (Do you realize how unhealthy we are as a nation—and, increasingly, as a species? I urge you to watch all for episodes of HBO’s excellent documentary The Weight of the Nation.) Besides, all of those fools who think vegetables and whole grains are boing have got it all wrong. Taco night has already evolved from a ground-beef affair to a black-bean (and whole-wheat tortilla!) one, and I was pleased to discover that Smart Dogs** are actually reasonably tasty—so much so that, with some ketchup and mustard, I could barely tell the difference. (Besides, isn’t half the joy of a hot dog in the condiments?) I’m looking forward to exploring the virtues of almond, soy, and coconut milk; tofu, tempeh, and seitan; and the numerous other foods out there I’ve yet to even hear of. I picked up The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet and Veganomicon recently, and I can’t wait to try out all of the delicious recipes therein. Until then, I’m contentedly anticipating Taco Night Part III: Return of the Taco… coming soon to a Friday night near you.
Phew! If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I now return you to your regularly scheduled (veggie) programming.
*Yes, this really is the first book I read upon making this decision. It seemed best to start with the most basic thing imaginable, because I figured there was a lot of baseline information I was probably missing. And I was right. For instance, did you know that many restaurants cook rice with chicken broth? I didn’t… but I’m glad I found out.
**Yes, I know they’re slightly orange. I think that’s a ridiculous complaint. Here’s another factoid I recently learned—that pretty-pink hot dog color is chemically created. Given the choice between completely unnecessary chemicals in my meat and something slightly orange, I’ll choose slightly orange. Besides, the texture of the Smart Dog is actually pretty close to what you’d get in your typical cheap supermarket hot dog (although it’s definitely far off from the really high-quality stuff you might get at a farmers’ market), and each one has 50 calories, 7 grams of protein, and—as you might expect—no cholesterol.