A new year's resolution to a complete lifestyle change
January 2019 I asked my husband if he would consider joining me in trying to be vegetarian for 6 months as a bit of a new year's resolution. After reading so much about the impact of eating meat on the planet, the rising cost of eating good quality that's been ethically treated and just my changing tastes it felt like a commitment I wanted to see if I could keep.
He said yes which I was pleased about since currently I have the time to do most of the cooking - not having to worry about wanting to eat different things! But also I knew it would be easier if we had shared values and outlook.
We actually made quite a few 'get-out-of-veg' clauses to our six months in the hope that it would make the transition easier. We were by no means big meat lovers, eating veggie more often than not. But if we were eating out or at a friend's for dinner then meat was usually the go to so having this as a bit of a 'joker' card to play here and there somehow felt a bit softer than going all out.
My husband also wanted to be pescatarian - still regularly eating fish during the 6 months. I sort of agreed but one month in a conversation with a friend about the fact there really isn't any sustainable large scale fishing changed my mind again. Our oceans are struggling and I didn't want to contribute to that so I opted out, voting for veg unless it was a very rare unavoidable occasion.
6 months came and went...
I have to say it was surprisingly easy. I thought I'd have some cravings, some moments where I just wanted a steak, or (my vice) a sausage roll. But no, the months went by and my love affair with veggies just seemed to deepen rather than wane. Not eating meat changed from something that was kind of a big deal to normal life for us and it just kept going as the year wore on. The longer I didn't eat meat, the less I wanted to and we smashed through the six-month target without blinking.
Apart from really not fancying any meat which I did think might happen, I've discovered a few other things along to way too. I've fallen back in love with cooking for one. I've always enjoyed it but I definitely was in a bit of a recipe rut, as life had got busier and our toddler fussier. Discovering new ways to make meal time exciting, having to consider texture, shape, cooking method, spicing etc gave me a fresh appreciation and energy for getting into the kitchen.
We've also come across some veg we wouldn't otherwise have tried I think. Celeriac and Jerusalem artichokes for two. We've switched spending on prime cuts for spending on seasonal vegetables that help us learn new techniques and flavours.
The biggest change for me personally is how unappetising I find the thought of meat now. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem in others consuming it, or having to cook it, but as the months have rolled by I have become more squeamish at the idea of eating it myself. This has completely side swiped me as I assumed that once in a while I'd have a steak as a 'treat' or something but the opposite has happened. This makes me wonder if it was an addiction? A habit? Now it's broken it wasn't really needed?
- The most amazing 9 course vegetarian tasting menu at Bulrush in Bristol. Bought for my husband's 40th birthday and one of the best meals we've ever had! Not a morsel of meat in sight -
12 months and counting
A year in to my vegetarian journey and I have to say I don't think I will ever go back to being a meat eater. I may have the odd piece of fish here and there if it is say, line caught or fully traceable but it literally will be few and far between. My husband, he's pretty committed too although he will happily eat anything to stop it from going in the bin. To him, waste is as condemnable as bad food choices. But his tastes have changed also and he's loving our veg discoveries as much as I am.
Something that started off on purely ethical and environmental grounds, has transformed the way I look at food. I'm pretty sure it's the only resolution I have ever kept and I am proud I haven't been swayed or wooed into falling off the veg-wagon. Having said that, I guess my body has taken the lead following the nudge from my brain and I love that I have learned so much along the way.
Why we all need to eat less meat
I wouldn't ever pressurise anyone into being vegetarian themselves, but I would strongly encourage you to read up on why meat production is such a drain on our planet's resources. The land required to raise livestock, the water, the feed, and then the processing and packaging. Plus the contribution to rising temperatures and global warming. This article in the Guardian highlights that;
"The researchers found a global shift to a “flexitarian” diet was needed to keep climate change even under 2C, let alone 1.5C. This flexitarian diet means the average world citizen needs to eat 75% less beef, 90% less pork and half the number of eggs, while tripling consumption of beans and pulses and quadrupling nuts and seeds."
So it's not necessarily about everyone becoming vegan over night or going cold turkey on the cold cuts. But it is about making smart choices and trying to reduce your footprint by mixing up your diet and getting creative in the kitchen!