A lot of people ask me this question, so I thought I would make a blog post about it!
I’ve always been attracted to the idea of vegetarianism. I adore animals, and it seemed a little hypocritical of me to eat them. But I didn’t want to make things difficult for my family, so I didn’t give it much thought. But then I went to college. And I realized that I could make my own food decisions that wouldn’t impact anyone else. So I decided to give vegetarianism a try. A day or two into it, I bought something with shrimp in it, so then I decided I would be a pescatarian. I felt like eating fish wasn’t as bad. I could kill and eat a fish for dinner, no problem. And then I basically just stuck with that. And I got most of my nuclear family to go pescatarian as well.
A few years into my vegetarianism, I was watching a video called “foodies kill their food,” where people were going to slaughter their own chickens. And I could not finish the video. I got so sad, looking at their cute chickens, and thinking about eating them. I couldn’t watch them die, and I said, “this is why I’m a vegetarian.” The cognitive dissonance was too much for me. And I don’t mean to be sensational or play to your emotions, but I think every person who eats meat should think about the fact that what they are eating was once alive and now is not. They should be able to look at a chicken or a pig or a cow and say, “Yeah, you’re cute, but I’m still okay with eating you.” If that causes your heart too much distress, maybe you should try eating less meat. Especially considering how big agriculture only cares about efficiency and severely reduces the quality of life of animals before they die.
And yes, I know plant agriculture isn’t perfect. Subsidized corn and soybeans are in everything we eat, which probably isn’t good for the soil. And vegetarianism isn’t cruelty-free either; some companies to take advantage of marginalized peoples for cheap labor. That is not just and needs to change. That’s one of the reasons why I’m not fully vegan (also because I don’t think I could bring myself to give up both eggs AND cheese).
On a less emotional note, another huge reason I have stuck with my vegetarianism is for the environment. Yes, climate change is largely a capitalism problem, but individual choices do make a difference. And there’s a lot of evidence out there that reducing our meat is one of the best choices we can make as individuals to help the planet. I don’t want to reiterate what other people have done a better job of saying, so I’ll be brief. Meat production is more wasteful of water and contributes a lot more to greenhouse gas emissions.
For a long time, I was bad about telling people my dietary restrictions if I was eating at their house and would end up eating meat out of politeness. There were also days when I had a cold, and if the dining halls had a delicious soup (Italian wedding soup is still my favorite), I would splurge and get some. I also would eat meat for cultural reasons. So when I went to Turkey and South Africa, I didn’t hold back. I did feel really sad after eating lamb in Turkey and probably could have done without ox intestines in South Africa. But I felt it was important to get the full cultural experience, and that included eating meat.
Repeat photo, but this vegetarian curry bread bowl in South Africa was seriously amazing.
Instead of seeing vegetarianism as a bunch of strict rules to follow, I feel a lot of freedom in my dietary restrictions. For one thing, it makes ordering at restaurants easier because it limits the options (and even with limited options, I still really struggle to make decisions). And cooking for myself is really fun. I enjoy finding new plant-based recipes and trying them. Yeah, there are times when someone’s burger smells really tempting, but on the whole, I don’t miss meat. Vegetables are so great, guys! And don’t get me started on beans and chickpeas. Also, people are starting to make really great meat alternative foods. Aldi’s vegan meatballs are exquisite. There’s a hotdog food truck at my work every once in a while, and they make an amazing apple & sage hotdog.
And look, I’m not writing this to convince you to become a vegan tomorrow (remember I’m not there yet either). Maybe try a meatless Monday (or whichever day of the week you’d prefer). Or cut out one meat source, like beef (worst for the environment, and also cows are really pretty). Look for more plant-based recipes, or try a vegetarian meal at a restaurant instead of the meat option every once in a while. Instead of thinking as plant-based meals as missing an essential element, think of them as whole in and of themselves. It doesn’t have to be a strict thing that makes you feel bad for failing if you forget and have meat. There’s grace for that. Happy vegetable eating!
Here are some of my favorite vegetarian recipes. And if you want to share some of your favorites, please do! I’m always on the lookout for great new ways to cook vegetables and legumes!
This lentil soup is SO flavorful and exquisite: https://www.theendlessmeal.com/creamy-coconut-lentil-curry/
Mushrooms and cheese and soup. Need I say more? https://www.budgetbytes.com/vegetarian-french-dip-sandwiches/
Eggplant pizzas if you’re trying to cut gluten or just want to cook more eggplant: https://kalynskitchen.com/recipe-for-julia-childs-eggplant-pizzas/
Quick meal that’s a little more exciting than a regular fried egg: https://www.kitchentreaty.com/lemony-egg-in-a-spinach-chickpea-nest/
More cheesy mushrooms (my favorite vegetable): https://cakescottage.com/2016/07/23/creamy-garlic-mushrooms/
I made this when I bought an acorn squash, but honestly now I make the stuffing fairly regularly. Seriously, there are brussel sprouts in my fridge for the sole purpose of making this: