Veggie Trials update

13_08_08Time for a brief update on the vegetarian trial I’m pleased to say I’m really enjoying. Yes I’m still “cheating.” I am meat free every breakfast and lunch and averaging 4 evening meals a week without meat or fish.

I have certainly tried dishes and ingredients I haven’t before.  We’re enjoying a lot more fish than before which I know sounds daft but we never ate it at home before and trying sustainably sourced fish is proving tasty and comparatively cheaper.  We’re having a lot more vegetables in our main courses, rather than having stodgy mince dishes which were pretty much our go-to dinner. I’ve occasionally experimented at home, for dinner parties at the like but usually my meals were pretty boring on the grand scheme of things. And I’m sure readers might think me odd if I extol the fact I’m now cooking with loads more pulses, beans, cheeses, vegetables and spices.

Over the last couple of years, I helped set up a foodbank in my town and I became hyper aware of the price of food. I’ve been a wannabe environmentalist for as long as I can remember. As a Christian I believe I’m a co-creator on this planet and tasked with a divine responsibility to look after it, all of it. Tying all of these things together in a coherent behaviour is proving a challenge. I want to make informed choices about my food, and now, the food for my husband too who is a confirmed carnivore.

So I’ve read a couple of books and read numerous blogs on the subject of vegetarianism and I’m still exploring more. I must recommend Jay Rayner’s book: A greedy man in a hungry world: why almost everything you thought you knew about food is wrong.  He talks about sustainable intensification as a process we must explore to ensure food demand is met as effectively as possible for everyone at every stage in the chain. The following quote and the chapters around it, hit me hard:

According to the United Nations, by 2030 we will need to be producing 50% more food and a system built around the trinity of local, seasonal and organic simply won’t cut it.

I am probably more confused than ever about the supposed benefits of vegetarianism, localism, sustainability and the ethics surrounding food. Meat free doesn’t necessarily mean low environmental impact.  High food mileage doesn’t mean high carbon emissions.  What I do in the home counties of England does, and doesn’t have an impact on the food availability in third world countries. Local doesn’t mean sustainable or efficient.

Everything is just a little bit more complicated than I anticipated. But complexity isn’t a vice. I do know I feel like I am coming down on the side of continuing with a vegetarian, or semi-vegetarian lifestyle because of environmental and health reasons, rather than any specific animal welfare issues, though I have a lot more investigation to do in that area.

So I am continuing, and will probably go entirely meat free for a couple of months in the autumn with the aim of seeing how my health holds up.  If you have any book recommendations or thoughts I’d love to hear them. I’m also tweeting about this with #VeggieTrials.

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Veggie adventures: following my heart & taking my brain

follow your heart copyI’ve been chuffed with the support I’ve had since blogging about my trial of vegetarianism. It is lovely to hear stories of becoming or leaving vegetarianism. I’ve been flooded with suggestions for blogs to follow and recipes to try. Even my brother was supportive!

There’s been some teasing too though! Apparently, only giving it up in stages isn’t the way to play the game.

I am trialling removing meat from my diet a bit at a time for a couple of reasons, the main one being my health. I explained in the original post of this series that I have a wickedly fast metabolism and can be quite picky in my diet. Going ‘cold turkey’ (excuse the pun) isn’t a sensible way to do this for me. I need to build up replacement foods in my diet, work out what alternatives there are and do a bunch of menu planning. I always carry sugary sweets because I get very severe sugar lows which aren’t related to diabetes but can make me quite dizzy, faint and sick. Cutting out a significant form of energy in one go isn’t wise for me.

Of course, I could do better planning and investigation before giving up meat entirely, but that’s not just me!  In the past I approach things like this quite academically, making decisions and positioning myself on issues after having done tonnes of research. But, times change and so have I.

I could read book after book, blog after blog, talk to people, plan a menu in minute detail, find massive blocks of soya on the internet for the lowest price and pack my minute kitchen full of spices and alternatives. Well firstly I don’t have the cash or time for all that at the moment! And secondly, these days when I challenge myself to something I simply have to get going so that’s why I’m doing it this way. As the photo says above, I am following my heart, but taking my brain with me. I need to look after my health, my pocket, my hubby and the planet and not necessarily in that order.

I do think those who have said giving up a bit at a time is daft are right if I was doing this for animal rights reasons. If I had decided ‘meat is murder’ then giving it up in part would be hypocritical. I haven’t come to a conclusion on that yet, I may never! I’ll be exploring the different drivers for vegetarianism as I go. That might all sound back to front, but this is a complicated world and there are no simple answers. I read recently the environment impact of producing soya is equal to that of producing meat. Where does that leave me while I explore the environmental impact of what we eat! But I can’t go around naked and hungry and one answer is never right continually so let’s see where this journey goes.