Eat your words, Tom

Yup, we tried to go vegetarian. Or at least vegetarian-until-the-next-steak. The ground rules were simple: No eating meat for a month except if it was served at a friend’s house. Only veggie meals at home and restaurants.

Easy enough, right? Nope. It was tougher than my mom’s overcooked pot roast.

For one thing, it made planning meals more complicated. I quickly realized that I had an asparagus-thin definition of vegetarianism. I couldn’t just eat pasta or salad every night, so I had to dig around for recipes. This meant thinking about the menu more than an hour before eating — always a challenge for me.

Then there was the challenge of eating out. Sure most places have one or two vegetarian dishes (often buried on the menu), but many of these dishes seem to be traditional meat-focused fare minus the chicken or beef.  You may get a few extra carrots, but nothing else. So you end up with a dish that looks as if it’s missing something. And here’s a fun fact: one restaurant said it uses a meat-based broth for its meat-less dishes. Considering the potato-leak soup? Ask how it’s made.

I think I was in Week 2 of the experiment when I realized I was cheating. I blindly ordered the macaroni special for lunch and got a heaping plate of pasta and ground beef. The next night, as I scrambled from one meeting to another, I ordered takeout chili. I ate half of it before I realized it too had beef (well, it was advertised as ground beef). Clearly I needed a daily reminder that I was now a vegetarian.

The month came and went. Curiously, it ended with the thud of new food books, including How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. I like Pollan’s manifesto: Eat (real) food, not too much, mostly plants. If my experiment taught me anything it’s that I need to think more about what I eat. Where did the veggies on my plate come from? What’s in the beef? Am I using meat simply as filler?

We’ll see how this goes.

Happy New Year

…and let’s eat!