This week I had one of those defining moments: I decided to be vegetarian.
I don’t judge others who eat meat. People are full of contradictions, and I’m included.
I’ve never been much of a meat eater. My parents grew up on farms. They were used to well-raised, healthy animals being slaughtered in a humane way for their meat and skins.
When I was a child, on Sundays, we would have our main meal after church, some type of cooked meat dish with potatoes and vegetables. Sunday night was a lighter meal with home baked buns and a choice of fillings: liverwurst, sliced deli meat, cheese, tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, homemade jam.
I always preferred cheese to meat on those trays. Later, I learned about sulphites used in the production of deli meats that caused me to overlook them even more.
I never liked handling meat for cooking. It comes to our kitchens somewhat sanitized, but I think about the animals. I’ve seen overcrowded birds at a chicken farm. They would peck at and trample each other, so the dead birds had to be removed daily and bulldozed into the ground. I shudder when passing barns that house masses of chickens never to see the light of day. How can we stomach what we are doing to these living beings?
I’ve also seen an organic turkey farm. The birds were crowded and soiled, and that was much better than typical factory farms. So much different than the treatment enjoyed by the turkeys rescued by California writer Karen Dawn, seen in this video.
Yet when someone puts a plate of food in front of me, it can be hard to resist.
This week I had two meat dishes in one day, which was very unusual. I woke up at 5 a.m. the next morning with intense abdominal pain. I'll spare you the details of that excruciating hour. I tried breathing. I prayed. I thought about calling for help, but figured that based on the familiar locus of the pain, it wasn’t needed. But the pain was acute.
While I prayed, I made one of those compacts that people often make with God: “If you want me to give up meat completely now, I will.” The pain eased a bit then and I knew it was the right decision.
It won’t always be easy. But I’ve learned that there are so many protein sources that we don’t need meat. I use pecans, cashews, lima beans, chick peas, black beans, green and red lentils. Occasionally a bit of goat feta cheese or sometimes uncoloured aged cheddar. Sometimes organic eggs. I’m on the road to vegan, but not quite there yet.
A local Seventh Day Adventist Church has a regular Vegan Supper Club. I learned some tips there, but I didn’t need to know how to make food that seems like meat. I prefer dishes like stews and chili that are vegan and proud of it.
It costs a lot less to eat this way. It’s easier on the environment. It’s kinder to animals. And it tends to be a lot healthier. I wish more people were aware of that.
- Irene Plett
Photo: Black bean sweet potato stew, recipe from Chef Del Sroufe's Better Than Vegan: 101 Favorite Low-Fat, Plant-Based Recipes That Helped Me Lose Over 200 Pounds
Topics: Vegan food, vegetarian food, animal welfare, turkey rescue, chicken farming, turkey farming