Thursday, September 4, 2008

Warning Fish Is The Gateway Meat!

My husband and I spent about ten years living on a strict vegetarian diet. No meat, no fish, no poultry, no animal products or by products like rennet in cheese, we were serious vegetarians. For example, we would ask if there was "chicken stock" in the soup at a restaurant or if a vege burger was going to be cooked on the grill with other meat or even if they would slice our cheese on a meat slicer. Believe me it was hard work. Avoiding the seemingly unavoidable, meat and meat products.

What's funny about my decision to become vegetarian was that I wasn't trying to make a political statement, I didn't attack people with People For The Ethical Treament Of Animals facts, simply enough I didn't care for meat. I was burnt out on meat and really wasn't that big on it. Sort of later on, I went through a hippy phase (once again Boulder to be credited for that) and being a vegetarian fit in wonderfully, even if I wore leather sandals. I think my mantra was they were killing the cows for meat, we best utilize the entire slaughtered animal.

Now, when I sit back and recall my life as a vegetarian, I realize how easy it was to still eat unhealthy as a vegetarian. I was young and discovering cooking, likes and dislikes. Luckily I had J along with me for this journey, but I can recall many nights especially when we lived on our own for the first time in the Adirondacks eating Lipton Noodles and grilled cheese for dinner. Super healthy. We even were fans of Burger King Whoppers sans the meat, we'd pile it up with french fries instead of ground beef burgers. What else do you do starving on a lonely highway traveling across the country, doomed by being a vegetarian?

Then we eased our way into things like ratatouille and slow cooked vege chili. Obviously when we moved to Boulder and there were vegetarian grocery stores (Wild Oats Vege Market on Pearl and 19th for those of you that are curious), vegetarian restaurants (call out to the Creative Cafe), then we started to gain balance in living as a healthy vegetarian.

Oddly enough after years and years of all the towing the line, avoiding meat, I ate a tuna sandwich. Not sure what came over me, or what the craving was, but it happened. I even have a photo sitting with a tuna sandwich in front of me, that first moment I crossed over. We joked how fish is the gateway meat. Once you try the soft stuff (fish) then you find your way at a Thanksgiving meal being passed the plate of white meat, and in the blink of an eye your opening your mouth as wide as possible to insert a juicy well done beef burger. Just like that, ten years down the drain.

My digestive system never skipped a beat when I started eating meat again. The most wonderful part of being a former vegetarian is that I don't snub my nose at alternatives to beef and potatoes. We eat meatless a couple times a week. We buy only organic and free range meats and wild caught fish. Actually I am more of a meat snob then ever. Now, when I eat out, I ask if the fish is farm raised. I'm not huge on overprocessed soy products as they are potentially just as unhealthy as a big ol' slab of factory farmed meat. Of course we try to make local food choices when they are available to us.

Aah, the beauty of being older and wiser, gives us the opportunity to make better informed decisions. Officially I believe our family's eating habits would be considered, Flexitarian. If you'd like a good read on the American Food System, pick up Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle from your local library, it may just change your life.

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14 comments:

  1. We're meat eaters, but we know exactly where our meat comes from. Beef from a local farm, chicken from another local farm, lobsters from a local lobsterman (thank god I live in Maine).

    Love that book!

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  2. sounds like my story. i was also a veg. for 10 years but just recently have delved back into the land of red meat, chicken and fish. I am also a meat snob and still won't touch certain things like hamburger, pork sausage or bacon. we do lots of meatless meals in fact only eat red meat a few times a month. i like flexitarian!

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  3. "Fish is the gateway meat." Classic!

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  4. I simply don't care much for meat either. Just usually doesn't taste good to me. "Dabbled" w/vegetarianism for around 2 years, but now eat fish occasionally, turkey every so often and red meat rarely. We also eat wild caught fish, and organically raised meats.

    Kingsolver's book is on my current reading list! I've heard a lot of great things about it.

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  5. I was a vegetarian and was on my way to becoming one again. But I'd rather eat locally raised meat than all that processed stuff that tastes like stuff.

    That book is on my reading list, for you know, when I have time to read things other than blogs.

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  6. we are meat eaters... with the hubby growing up in Brasil, they love their meat and they knooooow how to cook it. I don't think I could ever let go :)

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  7. i was a pseudo-vegetarian for a small while. i too was really unhealthy with it. you know my love hate relationship with fish, but i didn't start eating it until i met the husband. We just bought a colorado raised side of beef that should last for a couple of years.

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  8. It is very difficult to be a vegetarian in Wisconsin and even harder to be a vegan. My best friend has a difficult time finding veggie friendly restaurants and grocery stores.

    Me personally? I couldn't do it. I loves me some meat. Gotta have it. I start getting tired and cranky if I don't get enough meat. Weird, huh?

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  9. I like variety and like a meatless meal once in a while; especially when using seasonal produce. I'm not big on red meat, but I do love a good hamburger every so often. I am VERY picky about hamburgers. I am definitely into varying the diet throughout the week. I really need to pick up Barbara Kingsolver's book. Right now, I'm still trying to get through "The Omnivore's Dilemma"by Michael Pollan. Wow, that books is REALLY opening my eyes to how our meat is produced in this country. BTW, I don't know if your Costco does, but ours sells organic ground beef. I love it!

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  10. Does this mean you are out of your hippy phase? *sniff* We got lots of em down here in Durango too, though Boulder is the Mecca for Hippies.

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  11. It is so easy to be an unhealthy vegetarian. I have met a few. My friend who was a vegetarian for many many years, has the odd weakness, BACON. whe n people cook it she leaves the room, she has goven in once or twice. Smell is one of those senses that is under rated but you get that smell and you get the taste. Tuna has a strong smell too i wonder if its the same thing?

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  12. I wish I could go vegetarian. I don't really love meat (like you) and when I do eat it I'm definitely a snob (again - like you) - but if I made it off limits, I fear that I would just crave it. I know that's how it works with desserts - so I assume the same for other foods.

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  13. I always love finding other vegetarians who do it not for ethical but rather gustatory reasons (ie the "I just don't like meat" kind) - even former ones ;)

    I haven't eaten meat for, oh, um... 21 years now. Doubt I ever will, since I don't remember what it tastes like. (So any meat cravings? I won't know what I want...) I won't rule it out, but I doubt I'll be eating it. However, I DO cook meat (like I said, I have no ethics... Well, about meat eating).

    And the whole unhealthy veggie diet thing? Oh, yes, I hear you on that one. I'm pretty good for the most part, but it is also easy to not be so good. The whole being a veggie must mean you eat healthy notion? So false. So, so false...

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I always appreciate the gesture to stop and take a moment to comment. Thank you!