On Moving Toward Vegetarianism

It wasn't so long ago many people in North America thought vegetarians were weird, lived in hippie communes and lived off of tofu and brown rice. Our cultural ideas have shifted enough in the last decade that this concept has mostly fallen away. We realize that vegetarians live in all segments of society and it's a pretty regular thing. Now wonderful vegetarian options are readily available at restaurants, grocery stores and indeed, in people's homes.

There's no question that more people are embracing a vegetarian diet, especially in the under 30 age group, but there is still resistance to it in the rest of the population. There are many people out there who are flummoxed by the idea of cooking and eating a meal without meat. I'd like to change that. The goal is to move toward vegetarianism. I don't intend to bully you, or guilt you, or scare you into becoming total vegetarians. I don't expect you to read my columns and eschew the Thanksgiving turkey, but every week I am going to try to make you think a bit more about what you eat and what it means in a larger context. In the coming weeks I'll be writing about all aspects of vegetarianism; personal, social, ecological, and political.

In the interest of journalistic honesty, I have to say up front that I am not a vegetarian, although I eat very little meat. I started out by cutting down on the amount of red meat that I ate for health reasons. My husband and I started eating a lot more chicken and added a bit more fish, but after reading more about chicken processing and fishery problems, we moved even further away from meat and fish. Now, at the very most, we eat meat once a week and we don't notice its absence the rest of the time. When I do buy meat I don't go to the grocery store and pick up those plastic wrapped bits of whatever, I go to an organic butcher, where I can ask about it's provenance.

There is so much to say on this particular topic and I'm interested in what you, the reader, has to say as well. If there is an aspect you would like to see covered, I'll look into it. If you have questions, I'll try to answer them. I'd like to move the discussion of food from the realm of discovering tasty recipes (although there will be plenty of those, too), to the larger issues of the choices and decisions that we make everyday about what we put into our bodies.

Each week I will set you a challenge, a bit of homework, if you will.

The challenge this week: Eat just one dinner without meat or fish in it. You don't have to go hard-core and eat tofu if that alarms you. You can make spaghetti without meatballs, or make a chickpea salad sandwich rather than tuna. See, that wasn't so hard.

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Tags: Cooking | Diet | Ethical | Recipes | Vegetarian