I wrote this article as a Facebook note just about a year ago. But since I have limited time at the moment, and not too many original thoughts bouncing around in my brain today, I figured I’d just re-post it here.
So after lots of thinking about it, I’ve decided to go 100% vegetarian.
And here’s why.
Did you ever read about Inky the Octopus and his bid for freedom? I did. It then generated an interest in these ocean-dwelling animals which led me to read more about them which brought to my attention the intelligence of octopuses (no,no I know what you’re thinking and “octopi” is actually incorrect according to the science-y octopus article I’m about to mention). And then I read that article about octopus DNA being “out of this world” where it said that octopus protein strands are way more complex than any other animal’s on this earth, including humans. I read all about their uncanny ability to remember things, how they decorate their homes, their surprisingly high intelligence… And I made the decision not to eat octopus anymore. It wasn’t super easy. I actually really enjoy the taste of octopus, all buttered up and crispy and tasting like garlic….yum. And these days the culinary popularity of octopus is increasing so it’s not uncommon to see it on a menu. But I stayed firm and stopped eating the octopus.
Then I moved in with Tom, a vegetarian.
Tom is not on a high horse about not eating meat. He doesn’t care when I eat meat. He wouldn’t care if I ate meat at home. He’s even cooked me chicken breasts and steak before. But because I really enjoy cooking for him, and because it makes no sense for me to make a vegetarian and meat-eater meal, I cook meatless at home. And it quickly became evident that one of the biggest misgivings I had about becoming a vegetarian, the thought that there’s no way a meal will feel complete without the meat, is simply not true. I make some damn good meals and none of them have meat. For years I’ve shied away from tofu because I didn’t know how to cook it. But after reading different cooking articles and trying again and again, I’ve learned how to pan-fry tofu until it is crispy and delicious. I also know some great marinades to slap on tofu before baking it in the oven. I can make a mean eggplant parmesan, a delicious kale and mozzarella and toasted walnut pizza, a soul-warming Thai coconut curry noodle soup, and the crispiest honey-garlic cauliflower. Dehydrated Shiitake mushrooms are quickly becoming a favorite thing to throw into soups and rice and noodles, and I’m beginning to learn about tempeh. I’m surprising myself with how much I actually don’t miss the meat in any of my meals. I have never once thought, “This is good, but it would be better with chicken!” And these days, even in the roast meat and sausage-loving land of New Zealand, the pre-made vegetarian options at the store are increasing in variety and quality. There’s a delicious sage and maple breakfast “sausage” that Tom and I really enjoy, there’s a ton of different types of ready-to-go veggie patties in the refrigerated aisle, and Quorn (it looks like ground beef when cooked but is actually made of textured vegetable protein) just takes on the flavor of anything you put in it. I can grab a packet of taco seasoning and throw it in the pan, and Voila! it’s a taco night that doesn’t even truly feel vegetarian. New Zealand has an extremely limited amount of Mexican food products in their grocery stores but thankfully Old El Paso seems to run the gamut here and they have the same taco shells we used when I was a kid. So taco night feels almost exactly the same as when I was a kid, even without real meat. Recently Tom and I discovered coconut bacon. Does it taste exactly like real bacon? No. Is it smoky and crispy and delicious? Yes. It also brought to my attention the existence of liquid smoke, something I plan on playing with in the kitchen just as soon as I can locate it here in Auckland.
When we go out and eat sometimes I’ll order a meat dish but I prefer to share plates and if I order meat, then Tom and I can’t share. And again, I find myself ordering and being absolutely blown away by vegetarian dishes that I never would have even considered before. Last weekend we went to this little coffee shop in Devonport that bakes their own bread and pastries and Tom got an absolutely GIANT veggie sandwich on some fresh baked and toasted French bread and I got a roasted veggie gallette covered in goat cheese. And they were both soooo freakin’ good. But don’t get me wrong. when we get take away from Burger Fuel, I get myself a big ‘ole cheese burger…and it ain’t a veggie patty. And I’m not gonna lie, it’s delicious. And lately I’ve been craving a good chicken-fried steak smothered in gravy (something that is almost impossible to find here) and when people post pictures of their beef carpaccio or pork tacos or blackened ribs on Facebook and Instagram, yes, my mouth starts to water. Walking through the parking lot of the grocery store earlier I passed a roast meat shop and I thought, “Mmmm, that smells good.” And I’m sure it tastes delicious as well. It’ll be kind of weird and sad when I go back to Texas for the holidays and can’t eat my dad’s awesome fried chicken tacos or our Christmas morning tradition of sausage and caramelized apples cooked in corn bread (the bomb!!). I will miss meat because I do like meat, but I’ve been paying attention to the way I feel after I eat meat and it isn’t great. Okay….this is going to be waaaay too much information for some of you, but oh well, just deal. I’ve noticed that after I eat meat I feel really heavy and I don’t function too well in the bathroom. I’ve also noticed, as has my poor tortured boyfriend, that the gas I pass after eating meat is especially smelly and horrible. I used to tell myself that it wasn’t the meat. But the truth is, when I eat vegetarian my renal system functions normally and I don’t have farts that put Tom in (so he says) mortal danger. I tried to deny it, but it’s the truth….I feel healthier and function better without meat in my body.
And then there’s the morality of meat-eating. I’m somewhat hesitant to write about this because it can be such an inflammatory topic. But I’m really not preaching here so please bare with me. I’m talking about how I feel, not how the rest of the world should feel. I began thinking…why does it bother me to eat octopus but I don’t care about eating chicken or cow? And then a friend of mine sent me an article called “Consider the Lobster” which accurately and intelligently put into writing all the thoughts I had in my head and am clumsily trying to express now. I won’t go into “Consider the Lobster” much. I posted the link on Facebook recently and have included the link again below, but it did bring up some great points and it’s definitely a think piece. Don’t read it if you enjoy eating lobster as one day you might be sitting there with one on your plate and suddenly the article will pop into your head and you will feell guilty and no longer be able to fully enjoy your meal which you probably just spent a substantial amount of money on. I don’t want to inflict unwanted or unsolicited meat-eater guilt on anyone. I get super irritated by people who act like they’re morally superior because they don’t eat meat. I will work hard to never, ever be one of those “meat is murder” people. I promise I’ll never throw red paint.
Yesterday I was watching this video on Facebook. The video was of a bull who was missing the foot on his left hind leg. At the beginning of the video he was pathetically limping about his field and it just made you feel so bad for him. And then there was a montage of him being sedated and taken to a vet and fixed with a prosthetic foot and at the end of the video he’s released back into his field and is scampering about (literally) with utter joy. And I thought, “Awww…..I’m so happy for him! Look how cute and happy he is! I’m so glad he’s okay now.” I had absolutely no association between him and the cheeseburgers that I eat because that is beef and this was a bull, not at all the same thing. But then I started thinking about it. How is it that I can want that bull to be happy and fulfilled in his life and not sadly limping all about yet still eat his brethren? Why is it that I would get horrified by the idea of people slaughtering and eating a gorilla or an elephant, yet it’s okay for me to enjoy a lamb chop? It’s essentially the same thing. Just because society says that it’s different doesn’t make it so.
I’ve found myself growing increasingly uncomfortable lately on my morning walks through rural Auckland. because the cows get curious and come up to the fence to check me out as I pass by and I think they know. But seriously, I look at those big-eyed peaceful animals sticking their giant wet noses up against the fence and I can’t help but feel guilty. It’s a new feeling and one I can’t seem to shake.
So I’ve decided that since I don’t miss it in my meals, and it makes my body go all weird, and my live-in boyfriend is already a vegetarian , and I have lots of thoughts that are making me grow increasingly uncomfortable, I’m just not gonna eat meat anymore.
I’m not gonna lie, if you’re sitting across from me eating a chicken-fried steak covered in gravy I will probably be slightly envious. But on my morning walks I’ll be able to look at Bessie and Flo (aren’t those common cow names?) and say, “Uh uh, that wasn’t me eating that. You and I are cool.”
Here is the link to “Consider the Lobster”. It really is an interesting and entertaining read.
Last night a “Save our Oceans” add popped up saying they were giving away this ring to promote awareness. So I bought it (I had to pay $6.99 for shipping and handling since I’m in NZ). I thought it would be the perfect reminder of why I made my choice and help me to stick to my guns.