Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day 197: Eat Your Veggies

For those of you who have been reading (and obviously enjoying) this blog since the first day, you know that I haven't been scared to try new foods.

Beets, anchovies, octopus. This blog has been about expanding my horizons, and, in doing so, I’ve also expanded my palate.

In fact, tasting new foods is the easiest challenge to tackle when the day is drawing to a close and I haven’t done anything that I haven’t done before.

But could I, I wondered, eliminate a food group entirely from my diet?

Duh, of course I can.

On Days 197-208, the thing I’ve never done before was to eat like a vegetarian.

I made this particular challenge last longer than a day because I felt, as I’m sure you do, that giving up meat for one day is a pretty easy thing to do. I aimed to eat vegetarian style for one week, assuming I would likely face all of the challenges one would face when changing their diet: I went to work, ate out with friends, went to a fast food restaurant, all with one premise: no meat.

My friend and former colleague Dena suggested I go vegetarian when the blog started. She and her husband had recently become vegetarians and she passed along a lot of recipe ideas and literature about making the transition.

Unbeknownst to me, there are varying degrees of vegetarianism, so if you care, I should tell you that I was an octo lavo vegetarian during this exercise, meaning I did not eat any beef, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish or animal flesh of any kind, but did consume dairy and egg products.

Veganism prohibits not only meat and shellfish, but also dairy and egg products. I’m pretty sure I could’ve eliminate eggs from my diet and been alright. But cheese? I’m not quite ready to give up cheese. Ever. Even for the blog.

But there’s also Pescetarianism (no meat, seafood is ok), Fruitarianism (permits only fruit, nuts and seeds that can be gathered without harming the plant), and Raw Vegetarianism (only uncooked vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds).

Apparently I had already been practicing Flexitarianism since I really don’t eat a whole lot of red meat; I just had no idea that’s what it was called.

Despite my already limited meat diet, I was still apparently concerned that becoming a ovo lacto vegetarian might increase my chances for starvation. When I went to the grocery store on the morning of Day 197, I filled my cart with nearly every vegetable, fruit, bean and seed that I could find, spending entirely too much money on enough food to feed a family of four for a week.

I’m lucky, though, I thought, because I genuinely like most vegetables (except beets unless they are covered in salad dressing and goat cheese) and all fruits. I knew I would not go hungry.

I still walked by the meat aisle feeling sorry for myself, forgetting altogether that I don't eat that much meat as it is, and I rarely, if ever, prepare meat dishes at my house. But somehow now that I couldn't have them, ribs, pork chops, and filet mignon were all I could think about.

My menu for the next twelve days was full of variety and quite good. For breakfast I usually ate cereal with fruit. For lunch and dinner, I ate a variety of things: peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat bread, green salads, bean salads, hummus, carrots. All super healthy, meat-free options, but none that stretched too far out of my comfort zone.

I learned to cook meat free as well, and some of my experiences made for other blog entries, preparing eggplant parmesan and tofu curry for the first time.

When I went fast food eating, I opted for an Egg McMuffin, sans ham from McDonald’s and a veggie sub from Subway (these items were purchased on Day 202, at the same time making one of that day’s things I’ve never done before to buy breakfast and lunch at the exact same time).

Later that same night (gross, I know, but it was a long day) I ordered a late-night portabello mushroom sandwich instead my usual chicken sandwich. Thankfully, I thought, during that particular outing, french fries are meat free. So is chocolate.

When I ate Mexican food before going to a concert on Day 208, I opted for a cheese quesadilla, which was both cheap and delicious. Not surprising, what I love most about Mexican food (tequila and cheese) can be enjoyed with or without meat.

The 12 days weren't completely easy, though. Like most people, when I'm told I can't have something it just makes me want it that much more.

Chuck, my desk mate at work, eats Chick-fil-A for lunch nearly everyday. Watching him return to his desk, with the smell of fried chicken wofting from his bag became increasingly difficult. Not because I necessarily eat a lot of Chick-fil-A, but because it is so freaking good and I knew I couldn't have it.

And there were times when appetizers intended for everyone at the table were off limits to me for having meat in them. Damn you, Brewhouse, for adding bacon to nachos.

I'm ashamed that on Day 209, I blew my vegetarian diet not with a ceremonious and classy surf ‘n turf meal, but with a White Castle cheeseburger that my friend Mendy heated up in a microwave. Not exactly the best way to end my run as a vegetarian, but it was tasty. And just like that, I'd beaten Day 197 and the twelve days that followed.

I was proud of myself. And I did feel better. I'm not sure it was because I wasn't eating meat or if it was because I'd added so much fresh food to my diet. Regardless, I've made the fruits and vegetables a permanent thing, meat or not.

It’s nice to know that if forced to eat vegetarian for the rest of my life, I could do it.

I just don’t want to.

1 comment:

  1. mm-hmm! i spent 2 weeks in VietNam last year and wasn't brave enough to eat meat over there... so the first stop once we got back in the States was Burger King!!! A Whopper, and ice in my soda (sanitary conditions for water/ice in VN are questionable to Americans) were a wonderful welcome home! Yeah, I could do it, but I agree, I don't want to.