Meat of the Vegetarian Matter

Yesterday's vegetarian chat touched on how one transitions to vegetarianism and morphed into weighty discussion of the highly personal quality of such a journey. A few leftover comments include:

Boston, Mass. "I don't think people can convert to being omnivores to vegetarian overnight. I'm not a full veggie (yet), but I started by cutting almost all red meat out of my diet and eating at least two veggie dinners per week. Next I decided I'd only eat ethically kept meat, which is more expensive, so my meat eating reduced for reasons of wallet. Once I went veggie for two weeks to try it out, and the temptation to eat meat was overwhelming. So I'm in favor of gradual life changes -- but then I'm not (too) concerned about killing animals to eat them, which I understand is a powerful motivating factor for many vegetarians."

And a reader from Colorado wrote: "Don't beat yourself up about how 'veggie' your diet is. Have respect for the animals you eat, try to get organic/sustainable and humanely raised products, and take care of yourself."


A reader from Long Beach, Calif. argues that if you're vegetarian, why not be proud of it?
"I hate fake food, and so refuse to serve many things my vegetarian friends regularly eat - like fake meat, fake ground beef, mock duck, etc. After a disgusting meal of fake lasagna at Papa Johns in my town - metallic tasting sauce filled with fake ground beef (when I expected a delicious vegetarian vegetable lasagna), I decided I would see how many things I could make for my vegetarian friends "sans fake food." I've found I outcook them hands down with whole foods, creativity, an eye to other cultures, and good old kitchen-craft. My question - WHY do vegetarians and vegans allow these processed items that taste like the very things the decry onto their plate?"

All of these readers offer provocative nibbles to chew on in this impassioned conversation, one that really depends on individual choices and understanding of those choices. Must we always be an "either" or an "or"?

If so, I suppose you could accuse me of being gastronomically bipolar. Yesterday, I was holding court with the vegetarians and later today, I'm gonna talk all about animal flesh on the radio (2:10 p.m., www.washingtonpostradio.com; 107.7 FM and 1500 AM).

Actually, swinging from one culinary arena to another is not difficult; I am a meat-eating lover of all things meat-free. I can go days and weeks on a vegetarian diet, without missing a thing. But when I miss gnawing on a chicken leg or slicing up a roast, I miss it with a visceral passion. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a woman who owned an organic store on the island of Vieques, off the coast of Puerto Rico. She was a raw foodie, meaning that she ate nothing that was prepared over 118 degrees. At such a low temperature, coffee, tea or a hot bowl of soup are out of the question. She talked about the emotional difficulty in giving up coffee, but decided in the end it was best for her. And I guess she's right. Giving up coffee would be an incredibly difficult, emotionally distressing withdrawal, but really what's brewing here is that I don't WANT to.

And so it is with meat and vegetable camps. I like to dabble in the meat-free world and even set up my tent for a while. Then at some point, I feel like a warrior and must engage in other kinds of foraging and mastication. Do what's right for you, and know that you have the right to change your mind any time.

And now, if you don't mind, I've got some steak marinating to do.

By Kim ODonnel |  May 26, 2006; 8:16 AM ET  | Category:  Vegetarian
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Kim, I just got around to reading the transcript of the veggie chat and saw the baby food cookbook question. Without a doubt, "Super Baby Food" by Ruth Yaron (go to www.superbabyfood.com) is an excellent resource. Veg-centered, but she nods to the omnivores. My two kids (now 7 and 4) came up on a modified version of her system and never ate a speck of jarred baby food; several friends also used it as well. Easy to do, easy to adapt, tasty, and nutritious stuff. It's my favorite gift to parents-to-be.

Posted by: VegLurker | May 26, 2006 01:37 PM

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