I am not much of a vegetarian evangelist. An “evegalist,” if you will. That is, I don’t do much to recruit omnivores, but I will gladly provide information if requested. So when someone asks me why I became a vegetarian, I start out slowly. My typical reply is “for a variety of health and ethical reasons.” From there, I can gauge how much a person really wants to know. The last thing I want to do is turn anyone off to vegetarianism and vegetarians. There is a perception among many that we can be pretty obnoxious (and condescending) about our diet.
The process to becoming a vegetarian was pretty simple and easy, actually. I never really cared much for meat. As a child, I had issues with the texture of ground beef and chicken and was pretty queasy about bones and whole cooked animals. During my teen years, I got to know some vegetarians and discovered alternative proteins, such as tofu. I learned that it could really be good as long as it was prepared properly. A block of plain tofu is pretty unappetizing, but it’s delicious fried!
I still didn’t go all the way for quite a while, though. But one day, I was shopping for books and came across “Garden Cuisine,” by the creator of Gardenburgers. Gardenburgers had been a staple of my diet for some time because they were easy and delicious. This wasn’t just a cookbook, though; there was a fair amount of information included on factory farming and other unsavory facts about meat and dairy production. It was enough to turn me off for good. I decided right away that I would not eat meat again as well as significantly cut back on dairy products and eggs.
However, I quickly gained about five pounds and realized I was less a vegetarian than a pastatarian. So I researched ways to have a healthy, meat-free diet. I cut out a lot of white pasta, bread and refined sugar in favor of whole grains and well-prepared vegetables, beans and soy products. I still indulge once in a while, but overall, I have a very healthy diet.
These days, I tend to get different questions. I suppose because more people are aware of vegetarianism, know more vegetarians and have learned about factory farming. The questions I get now are:
“So, do you eat chicken and fish?” Uh, no. People who eat chicken and fish are omnivores, not vegetarians.
“Don’t you miss meat?” I’ll admit that I miss raw oysters, really good sushi and fast food roast beef sandwiches. Otherwise, no.
“What about your husband and daughter?” My husband gratefully and graciously eats whatever I make, and I don’t cook with meat, so he’s vegetarian at home. He’s otherwise an omnivore, though. As for my daughter, she’ll be vegetarian until she can make her own choices about food.
“What do you eat?” That’s the easiest question of all! This: lesleyeats.com. I’m a big fan of eating seasonally and locally, so check out some of my more popular fall recipes: pasta with butternut squash cream sauce, squash soup, beer cheese soup and Venezuelan arepas, empanadas and pigeon peas and rice. These are all recipes that are so good, you won’t even miss the meat.
And be sure to check out the World Vegetarian Day website. There’s even a contest for omnivores who pledge to go meat-free during the month of October. You could be a winner even if you go meat-free for just one day!