Chicken, pork, beef, fish, and processed meats landed on our table accompanied by the best side dishes and sweets that should’ve graced the pages of best-selling cookbooks. Meats were deep-fried, pan-fried, sautéed, baked and eaten with the perfect amount of seasonings to warm the heart of any true meat lover. I am a side dish junky.
Over the years, I dreamed of becoming a vegetarian. I’ve always preferred my spaghetti loaded with vegetables. I eat my side dishes first then entertain the meat on my plate. My idea of a perfect balanced meal is a plate that is 95% mashed potatoes and vegetables with a small piece of meat. I drove my mom crazy eating meat. I couldn’t bite into a piece of chicken without picking it apart first. Pork chops and steaks require too much chewing for my lazy palette.
In January 2016, I decided to try labeling myself a vegetarian. First, I needed to get a clear definition before I commit to this lifestyle. I googled vegetarian and got a search return that yielded thousands of opinions of what vegetarian means. So I decided to eliminate chicken, pork, beef and processed meats from my diet.
Eliminating the majority of meats from my diet has been an experience I never imagined. I thought the process would be easy simply because I never cared much for most meats anyway. At times, it has been a recipe for disaster. Showing up at events without vegetarian options has put me in awkward situations such as standing with a growling stomach, rudely picking the meat out the dish, or bravely holding a chicken leg in my hand.
When people ask why I stopped eating the majority of meats, my answer is tailored to fit the person’s personality. If the person is vegan, I would say something like; I’m not for poor animal treatment. If the person is a meat lover, I’ll say, I didn’t completely eliminate all meats because I eat fish products. If the person is my perception of a healthy eater, I’ll say eliminating certain meats will improve my overall health for reasons such as reducing fibroids and improving digestion by eliminating toxins from my system. The latter is the closest to the truth. I’m sure it’s apparent, I’m looking for approval and rather not have a debate about my eating habits.
After much thought and soul-searching, I’ve decided meat is not the enemy. I’m my worst critic. There is no reason I should seek approval for the food I like. I will continue to do what’s right for me, embrace my complicated taste buds and just eat fish and my side dishes. Call me a vegetarian if you will. I’m just enjoying the foods that make my heart sing. Now, pass the potatoes!