Wednesday, April 2, 2014

No meat for six months

Six months ago I arrived here in St. John's, Newfoundland, and it's been six months since I've updated this blog. I've decided six months was a good amount of time to take a break from daily blogging (on my travel blog) and also a good amount of time to eat a lot of meat. (You can't get screeched in and become an honorary Newfoundlander without eating a "Newfie steak" – fried baloney – and I've enjoyed more than my share of pork, beef, chicken, and even moose. And let's not forget the delicious jiggs dinner, which includes a roast. But I feel now (maybe it's something to do with spring, or the fact that I was inspired by a couch surfer we hosted recently who is currently going vegan) that it's time to hit refresh and start working towards another bucket list item. Perhaps masochistically, I've picked a goal I know is going to be especially challenging here in a town where meat seems to be eaten by most people on most days.

So I'm going vegetarian. For six months. An arbitrary amount of time, yes, but you've got to start somewhere, and I figure if by Thanksgiving I'm still craving animal flesh and decide to go back to being an omnivore, then that will be the perfect time to chow down on the traditional turkey with all the fixings, and which I will especially enjoy if I've stuck true to my goal. (Because I sure do enjoy turkey with all the fixings.)

Anyway, this is actually Day 2. Officially I started April 1 to consciously avoid meat. On March 31 I went to McDonald's as a symbolic gesture of my "last meat meal," and had a quarter pounder. It was as gross as you'd expect (they don't make their burgers with love) and served perfectly to kick off this plan to cut beef from my diet with just the right amount of enthusiasm and self-righteousness. Yeah, I'm a vegetarian now.

Last meat meal
Tonight for dinner I ate fish with rice and veggies, which to the purist, means I'm a pescatarian, not a true vegetarian, but I'm easing into this project. I'm going to give myself at least a couple of weeks to include fish in my diet just so I don't end up eating only cereal. I think it's like quitting smoking – it's probably easiest to cut down slowly so you don't suddenly feel totally deprived. I may or may not cut out fish and I may or may not try going fully vegan and cut out eggs and dairy (and even honey!).

My reasons for wanting to become vegetarian (if only for a set amount of time) are many, and include:
  1. Health – I will be forced to eat a more nutritious plant-based diet. 
  2. Animal welfare – I will be doing my small part towards causing less suffering. 
  3. Learning about food and nutrition – I will have to do research to maintain the right amount of macro and micro nutrients in my diet and I will be forced to learn to cook for myself.
  4. Research – I'd like to be part of the on-going conversation around food and what and why we eat what we do. 
  5. Personal challenge – can I be self-disciplined enough to follow through with this for six months? (I've tried this before and it didn't stick...)
I realize food and diet is a hot topic these days and a contentious one at that. This project is going to be a total experiment, and I hope it generates discussion and maybe even debate. I'll be posting regularly about what I'm eating (recipes are very welcome if anyone has any ideas!), what I'm researching/learning (books, websites, etc.) and what it's like physically and emotionally to give up meat. I'm hoping that at worst it'll be an experiment in self-discipline, like Lent, and at best, it'll also make me super healthy and turn me into a sophisticated culinary wizard who racks up serious karma points for not eating other sentient beings.

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