You are what you eat

The last “true” non-vegetarian meal I had, I can remember almost perfectly. (Quote marks explained later.) End of July, summer of 2007. I was in B.C. with a friend, and after a day of boating, water skiing and just general hanging out, A.’s mom sent him, me and A.’s brother onto the tiny patio of the condo for dinner — salad, potatoes and ribs, which I’m pretty sure A. and E. were comparing to dinosaur or mammoth ribs (yeah, they were big).

At that point, I think I had begun to realize that I had a choice and there were other things to eat other than red meat at almost every meal, and while I put more salad and potatoes on my plate than anything else, I did take a rib or two.

After that though, I really stuck to the idea that there were other things out there for dinner other than red meat — five months later, at dinner with the same family, while I took a piece of pork tenderloin at the urging of A. and his dad, I think the best I managed to do was cut it up a little bit and not eat it at all, going rather for salad on three-quarters of my plate.

I used quote marks around “true” in the first paragraph because since then, I’ve continued to eat a little bit of chicken and fish, though less and less as the years go on. I still say, however, it was my last true non-vegetarian meal because it was one of the last times I wasn’t consciously thinking about what I was eating.

I’m a vegetarian simply because I don’t like red meat. There are other things I can be eating that are just as good for me, if not better, and I’ll probably enjoy them a lot more than a steak. Because I still eat chicken and fish, I’m one of those people helping to perpetuate the myth that vegetarians do eat chicken and fish — not true. At one point, I tried to give those last two up, but it was at the same time that I had a severe allergic reaction to dairy and I was basically subsisting on salad, pasta, soy meat and some eggs. With the exception of eggs, I was basically a vegan at that point, which was no fun, and one of the other things that bugs me — vegan and vegetarian are not interchangeable, vegetarians do eat dairy products.

Over the past year, though, I’ve quit eating a lot of chicken and fish too. It wasn’t a conscious decision, which, I think for me, was really important — the last time I tried to give it up, it was all I wanted to eat — but just something that’s happened. Using dinner leftovers for lunch is the easiest thing to do, and usually, they don’t contain meat, so I’ve quit eating chicken and fish without really noticing.

When people ask me what I do eat though, it catches me off guard. For some reason, I stumble and can’t think of anything, though I do eat breakfast in the morning, I pack a lunch even if sometimes I don’t always get time to eat it, and I make dinner at night.

Basically, it’s just anything everyone else eats, but without the meat. My grandmother makes a mean hamburger soup, so I’ve taken her recipe and made it too, just with soy meat instead. (I’ve tested it on friends — they can’t tell the difference.)

Apparently though, eating chicken and fish has been the thing over the years that has let me get away with not eating red meat, according to my mother. Last night, she read me the riot act because I told her I haven’t bought chicken and fish as part of my groceries in months — and, of course, she wanted to know then what I was eating. Not to mention that she was worried I wasn’t buying meat because it was too expensive.

No.

It’s just not something I eat anymore. If anything, I’ll eat it when I go out, just because it’s usually easier to find something on the menu with chicken or fish in it than it is to find something vegetarian (especially in Alberta, haha).

I know I can’t eat just junk — while I’ve had a crazy sugar craving for the past couple of days, I know I still have to eat well. Sometimes though, I’ll forget because I’ll have made a large batch of something, and will try to eat it before it goes bad, or will eat a lot of one thing night after night, just because it’s there, and I totally feel the effects because of it. The last time it happened, I’d been eating a lot of perogies, pasta and snack-y food, and couldn’t figure out why I just felt … off, until I thought about what I was eating. Made better choices for dinner that night and felt about a million times better right away.

It takes a lot of work, I find, to eat vegetarian, and while I don’t mind cooking, I don’t spend as much time at it as maybe I should. So yeah, if I liked meat, it would be a lot easier to put together a sandwich every day instead of finding leftovers and trying to make sure I have the appropriate amounts from all the food groups.

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