Sunday, February 10, 2008

Not Even Chicken?

I'm a vegetarian.

I don't eat meat. No, not even chicken. No, not even fish. In fact, most of my food choices are vegan, which means I don't even eat milk, dairy or eggs. So think about it. I don't eat cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, Cheetos, quesadillas, omlettes, milkshakes, most cookies or cakes including my beloved cheesecake unless they're vegan (God BLESS you Amanda at Black Sheep Bakery

So what DO you eat?

Right, that's always the next question and it always has an easy answer. EVERYTHING ELSE. Pasta, potatoes, bread, rice, everything green (kale, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini asparagus, beans, peas, lentils, pears, grapes, apples), everything red or orange (carrots, peppers, squash, yams, cabbage, oranges, apples, pears, grapes), plus nuts and seeds (peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds). I love Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, Mexican, African and Indian foods. Yum. Everything I eat has tons of flavor, color and variety. I only get bored with my food as often as anybody else would. Then I know it's time to crack open the cookbook and try something new.

Why are you a vegetarian?

My reasons are many and have been accumulated over several years of personal experience and study. Some people watch a PETA video on how animals are slaughtered and become a vegetarian on the spot vowing to never eat meat again. Maybe they keep that vow, maybe they don't. Who am I to judge? Everyone has their own journey.

For me it has been a sloooowwww process that started with a weight loss effort. I was counting calories like mad and meat was too calorically expensive. So I just ate chicken, which somehow seemed less like meat to me and was also within my meager caloric budget. My husband, who was dieting with me was not a fish or pork fan, kept those items off our plates, so chicken it was. I lost a bunch of weight that summer along with any desire to ever eat chicken again because I'd eaten it everyday twice a day for 12 weeks.

After that I read Marilu Henner's book Total Health Makeover
which included information about food combining and I realized how much easier it would be to food combine and to have a centered diet, so to speak, if meat were not part of the equation.

That Can’t Be Healthy

Scientists around the world who study the relationship between diet and cancer and heart disease agree that a plant-based diet that eschews animal products has a significantly lower risk of causing most cancers than a diet rich in animal products including meat and dairy. In fact, a plant-based diet has been found to prevent cancers and other common diseases that plague those in industrialized nations.

Then I read Food Revolution by John Robbins and that was pretty much it for me. All meat was right out. I had been abstaining from cooking and eating meat at home, but would eat it at my mom's house or with friends or if we went out for dinner if I wanted it. But at this point, my choice was clear. Meat--not for me. It was pretty easy. If I could keep eating without harming any animals, then I would. I had learned how to cook veggie meals I liked by then, so I knew it wouldn't be hard to keep doing that all the time. The hard part came when I was with my family and they pressured me to eat meat. They insisted it wasn't healthy to avoid meat. Any information from Food Revolution I gave them to the contrary was not exactly welcomed, shall we say. We don’t talk about it anymore.

Years passed merrily, as Portland is a verrrrrry veg-friendly town.

Then I recently started reading The China Study by T. Colin Campbell
, which points out that animal products, specifically the protein they studied in dairy products, casein, is directly linked to cancer, despite the fact that Campbell began his research to disprove such findings. Yet another confrontation to my eating habits, as cheese was still making its way into my diet from time to time. Parmesan on my pasta, mainly. Other than that, I could do without cheese, but parmesan? Damn. In fact, I'm about to go pick up a tofu scramble with sun dried tomatoes, spinach and veggie sausage with a little bit of cheese. It's a tough one for me to give up. I'm especially impressed with Mr. Kick in the Butt Karin, who was a Cheese-a-holic, but who is now completely vegan and reports clear sinuses for the first time in his life.

Another reason for being a veghead. Karma. What goes around comes around, baby. I can eat delicious beautiful healthy non-cholesterol-laden, non-carcinogenic foods everyday and no body has to die. I didn't used to think about things like that, but I do now and that seems to work for me.

Plus, some studies show that eating a plant-based diet all or most of the time is equivalent to driving an insanely fuel-efficient car in terms of environmental friendliness. The amount of industrial waste produced by factory farming, it has been claimed, is the leading cause of global warming, not the usurpation and burning of fossil fuels, though that certainly doesn’t help. (See The Way We Eat, Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer and Jim Mason.)

So, to recap. My Top Reasons for Being a Vegetarian/Almost Vegan:

1. It's healthy and good for my body. But let's be clear, not all of us vegetarians are pale and tragic waifs. I'm just enough overweight that strangers regularly ask me if I'm pregnant. Damn them. (note to self: lose those last 40 lbs.)
2. It's good for the animals.
3. Karma.
4. It's good for the environment.

So, what are you, and why?
-I'm an omnivore: I eat everything.
-I'm a vegetarian + fish/chicken/cheese/eggs.
-I'm a vegetarian + cheese/eggs.
-I'm a vegetarian + cheese.
-I'm vegan.
Or some other terrific combination?
Everybody has a story or relationship with food. Why do you eat what you eat?


Rebel said...

I'm an evil omnivore. In the summer I try to eat local though, and I adore the farmer's market.

Karin said...

I do so love the Farmer's Market. Just a few more weeks and it'll be open again!

gl. said...

i eat almost anything. beets & liver are equally detestable, though.

since living with sven i've gained a new appreciation & admiration of vegetarian/vegan folks, though, and am so glad portland is a place that supports it fairly well. (unlike, say, colorado, where i'm from). i used to say, "at least you're not a vegan!" while learning to cook vegetarian, but then i also went off meat & dairy for a while when i was put on lipitor for high cholesterol. cheese & sour cream are really hard for me to give up!

Michael5000 said...

Mmm, did somebody say Cheetos?!?! Oh yeah....

I am option two, "a vegetarian + fish/chicken/cheese/eggs." Fairly light on the first two, perhaps one serving of seafood and three of poultry in a week. Lots of cheese and eggs.

I'm always surprised when I remember that people still eat red meat; it seems like an odd custom, but whatever.

And as you know quite well, Karin, I am here to testify and exemplify that you can restrict meat in your diet without getting especially concerned with nutritious eating.

Karin said...

gl: I'm with you. I played a character once who ate beets voraciously. Gack. And, I don't think people who eat liver fully understand the function of a liver, they can't possibly.

M5K: It's true, my diet soda swilling, Ben & Jerry's for lunch eating friend. Not meat does not equal healthy.

gl. said...

oo, oo, cheetos!

sven & i often talk about the tasty vegetarian restaurant we will open someday, but we are quite aware it won't be a -healthy- vegetarian restaurant. :)

mydogischelsea said...

I'm a vegetarian + dairy/eggs, with the exception of when I am at my mother's house or when someone goes to the trouble of cooking me food with meat in it without knowing I don't eat it and I feel too rude to refuse it. Also, I occasionally order fish at a restaurant. Usually I just tell people I'm "mostly vegetarian."

Tereza said...

I eat everything except for beef and shellfish, but I don't feel that aligns with my heart. I crave meat and enjoy the taste of it, but know it's not the healthiest and best for me or the planet. I also feel terrible for eating animals that are treated cruelly and killed. I was a vegetarian for several years, then started eating meat. I need to start eating the way that is aligned with my beliefs again. I know that will take some time though.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible to be a vegetarian at heart?

I went vegetarian 2 years ago for about 8 months. I was vegetarian + fish/eggs/dairy. I did it while my husband was deployed, but when he came back, it didn't make much sense to cook two meals (he insists on meat for dinner), so I went back to eating meat (that, plus I had a huge craving for Taco Bell taco meat!). Now I want to go veggie again. For me, it's mostly about how meat tastes and makes my body feel.

DrSchnell said...

I'm a vegetarian + eggs/dairy. Main exceptions are when I travel, I (as a cultural geographer, for what it's worth) invoke the "cultural exception:" if there's something that's culturally unique about where I'm traveling, I'll eat it (i.e., sashimi/sushi in Japan). Also, if I somehow end up in a restaurant where the only thing on the menu is an iceberg lettuce salad. I was in Ghana (visiting my now-wife who was in the Peace Corps), for example, and the villagers had a going-away party in my honor, and slaughtered a goat as part of the festivities for dinner. That'd be kinda rude not to eat it, I thought, and ate the goat. I also occasionally break down when in a good coastal city and get a good seafood dinner, because I grew up a) in Oklahoma and b) loving seafood. Not too things that mesh well together. And yes, I know that the fisheries are collapsing, but still.. . . it's not often. I've contemplated on occasion going back to some meat as long as it's local/grass fed, etc., but haven't done that yet. But there's certainly a case to be made that, in moderation, it would be desirable. Try to eat local whenever possible, regardless of what I eat. Thankfully, CSA/Farmers Market season is just about upon us (first asparagus of the season is out around here!)

Omar Poppenlander said...

I'm an evil omnivore. I wish I had the courage to become a vegetarian because I think it is probably the right thing to do, but I have yet to cross that line.