Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Vegetarian Who Loves Meat

Did I get your attention with this post title?  I hope so.

I have written before about how tired I get from labels and stereotypes- though I am guilty of using both myself.

Can Christians be environmentalists?

Can Tomboys wear stilettos?

Can one who loves hardcore punk rock also dig Patsy Cline?

Can vegetarians eat meat?

The word "Vegetarian" is a word that has been draining me as of lately.

(Now don't panic at this point and think this post is a huge "anti-meat" rant.  It's not.)

(my tee shirt)

I am a vegetarian and I also love meat.  There, I said it.  Most labels and definitions from society would not allow me to put those two statements together in a sentence.

As a young child of the 70's and 80's, I grew up eating Shepherd's Pie and Tuna Noodle Casserole with crushed potato chips.  Meat was in EVERY meal.  My mother was a wonderful cook, but in that era, the only mushroom I knew of was what was found in cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup.  Onions and green peppers came pre-chopped in frozen bags, tomatoes were something you bought in cans, and garlic was found in the spice aisle in little shaker containers. I think as a child we only went to the fresh produce area of the grocery store to buy bananas.  A "salad" was something that had jello, Cool Whip, canned fruit and marshmallows in it. No fault to my mother, in the rising era of convenience food, that's the way moms cooked.  And, it tasted great!

In college, my now husband and I were on a date at Barnes and Noble. (Yes, we're nerds and proud of it.) I fell in love with a vegetarian cookbook because of its beautiful photos.  I thought: Surly food made only of vegetables could not taste as good as these beautiful photos made it appear.  I bought the book.

As a young married couple trying to make ends meet, we went vegetarian one meal a week to "save money."

Thirteen years later my eyes were opened to the reality of factory farming.  I'll spare you the details.  Though I had never considerd myself an animal rights activist- I knew:

1. I could no longer consume the amount of meat that I was, now knowing what I did.
2. I could not afford (but fully support those that can!) to buy meat from animals that were treated the way I believe God intended them to be treated and fed the food that I believe God intended them to be eating.

Michael Pollan writes in the Omnivore's Dilemma, "If all factory farms had glass walls, every American would be a vegetarian, or would demand something different."

So a couple of years ago my husband, children, and I began a reduced meat diet.

Was I protesting by not eating meat?  In a sense, yes, but it became so much more.

After my father was diagnosed with cancer, between all the research I had done on the factory farm industry and cancer "diets", a plant based diet was the direction our family was headed.  At the same time we gave up processed food and I began making everything from scratch.

In time, our bodies began showing us that this was the way of life for us.  My husband and I lost weight, felt better and had more energy.  We began tasting vegetables for the first time, something that was always covered up by the flavor of meat. Food tasted so much better when we could taste all the seasoning and each ingredient!

Though I still love meat, I have lost my taste for it and my body no longer processes it with ease when I do consume it.

Do I beat people over the heads with vegetarian propaganda?  No.  (At least I don't think so.)  At times I feel a bigger deal has been made by others about the way I eat.  When you go against the way society expects you to be, you can expect some backlash.

But I figure, you eat what you want and I'll eat what I want.  Since I enjoy people informing me of issues in this world, whether I agree or not, I occasionally choose to do the same.

Let's stop being quick too judge and label, and be a little slower to listen to what people are actually saying.

Now because I've got a sense of humor, I had to throw this one in... :)

Now happy cooking to ALL OF YOU.  Meat-eaters and Vegetarians alike!

Listed below are a few fantastic resources.

Cookbooks for meat-eaters looking for a reduced-meat diet:
The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman

What's Wrong With What We Eat by Mark Bittman

The Omnivore's Dilema by Michael Pollan
Food Matters by Mark Bittman
Food Polotics by Marion Nestle

Joel Salatin And Polyface Farm: Stewards of Creation from EarthEats
A Feast Fit For A King from Christianity Today

Food Inc.
Food Matters
Forks Over Knives
No Impact Man


  1. I consider myself a "flexatarian"!
    I do not eat "fast food", deep fried food or overly processed food.
    I don't eat a lot of meat but I do like me a good steak once in a while! When I was pregnant with my son I was a vegetarian...no energy...my mom came over and MADE me eat a steak...I felt sooooo much better!!!
    I really think your blog is great and more importantly you are sharing so much and not getting caught up in judging but just providing!
    This peep says "thanks"!

  2. Kim, thank you so much for your VERY kind words.

  3. i'm so glad you did this post. i was a total meat-a-holic (i'm from alberta aka little texas), turned radical vegetarian turned "ethical" eater.

    with all those shifts though, it's amazing how difficult it is for people to get over the labels and boxes that they in effect lock you into. this is true not only of food and our food ways but also about everything from gender, to sex, to social class, to sexuality, etc... i think we need to live more in the grey areas of life, both at the dinner table and beyond.

    i agree that a meat based diet is not only unhealthy for our bodies but for the planet, those who produce the food, and the animals as well. but a plant based diet that's flown around the world (regardless if its organic or not) is not much better.

    ah! too much to say! I wish we could have a real conversation about this. this post though is opening that door - love it!

    My point: Glad you wrote this post. I'd also like to suggest for your list, the book "Bottomfeeder" by Taras Grescoe - it's about how to eat ethically in a world of vanishing seafood.

  4. Thank you Kristy Lynn! I was really nervous posting this but everyone has been so kind. Thank you too for your book suggestion. I just checked and my library has it, so I have it on hold. :)

  5. Fantastic post! If I had to give myself a label (and this post just reinforces the concept that labels stink)--I would agree with Kristy Lynn and call myself an 'ethical' eater. My husband and I love (grass-fed, humanely treated, preferably local) meat, but we see the incredible importance of eating MORE vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, etc.

    I grew up with the same sort of diet that you did and after changing the way I eat (cutting out sugar, switching to 'ethical' meats, eating more green stuff) I've seen a HUGE change in my energy levels, waistline, and overall health.

  6. Thank you for sharing Lori! I love that term 'ethical eater'.

  7. First of all, this is a great article. I do enjoy reading your recipes and have even considered trying quinoa again as long as it is one of your recipes. The recipe I tried was pretty awful. The quinoa was slimy.

    I just finished a steak tonight, but I also like to mix it up and do meat free meals. I decided to try and be a vegetarian in college to reduce food costs and as a self dare--I thought I couldn't so I decided to try it. I read _Diet for a Small Planet_ for recipes and read the background information. I managed to do well. I didn't lose any weight on the diet, but maybe it was because of all the combos that involved cheese that I ate.

    I am now trying a self dare to give up dairy--even butter. Diana Craft can be blamed for this latest diet experiment.

  8. Thanks for posting all of links. I love a good cookbook. We have evolved our eating over the years. I alugh now because when we were first married it was all convienince and fast food and we do a lot more scratch cooking now. I'm hoping once these crazy pregnancy cravings are over then I can get us all back to eating better. Now I have a few new resources!

  9. Thanks for this post, well said! I am a few days short of my 1 year anniversary of being a pescetarian. Thanks for being a part of that along with me and thank you for sharing all of your wonderful recipes that make up a lot of my recipe folder. Thanks also for recommending the documentary, "Food Inc." I had already been a pescetarian, but it really confirmed my decision. And I still cook meat for others as I love to cook to make people happy. :)
    Cook on and God bless!

  10. OK, so I just discovered your blog, and I LOVE this post! We are the same: healthy vegetarians simply because the cost of good meat is too high for us to justify (though sometimes we splurge for family on holidays, but we face the same digestion issues)! There is so much good food out there that doesn't include meat! I will be pointing people to your post!

    1. That is so cool! I am so happy you found my blog and pointing others here. I was reading about you preparing for the mission field... very cool and best wishes to you and your family. May God bless what you're doing.

  11. Great post! I've only been vegetarian since Christmas but don't miss meat/fish/fowl of any sort. I think what got me started was reading the Esselstyn book about reversing and preventing heart disease - I come from a long line of bad hearts! Then I saw Forks over Knives and Food, Inc as well as some other documentaries, all of which reinforced my new way of eating. I get comments about lack of protein (of course there is no lack) - I do eat a small amount of cheese and an occasional egg. I will not give up butter but have reduced it greatly. I only use Almond Breeze original milk - both on my cereal and in cooking. Which reminds me - I just made the Lemon Zucchini bread that I think you linked to and it is wonderful! I used applesauce instead of oil and Almond Breeze for the milk. That recipe is a real keeper - I got 9 mini loaves out of it! Thanks for all of your wonderful recipes - I have a list of favorites! Martha Ann