This is not the first time that I have embarked upon a vegetarian lifestyle. I have been a sort of rogue vegetarian off and on since high school. At the time, it was a way to assert my independence and my sense of self. A kind of bumper sticker mentality that would hopefully (and hopelessly, as it turned out!) make this music geek more palatable to a wider variety of high school cliques. The downside of my aborted meat boycott was the 25 or so pounds that I packed on when carbs became the focus of my diet. I was incredibly naive. I thought that I could simply remove an entire food group from my diet and not suffer the physical repercussions that were inevitable. Nobody thought to school me on protein or iron deficiencies, nor did we have a complete understanding on complex carbohydrates and the difference between a good carb and a bad carb. Back then, soy and soy products were things to be ridiculed, rather than embraced. I clearly remember the shunning that took place when an aunt dared to bring a tofu cheesecake to a family dinner. Oh, the horror!! Jews and tofu simply didn't mix. I returned to a meat eating diet, albeit minus most red meat because I simply do not like the taste, in part to pacify my horrified health care professional mother, and in part to better regulate my weight, iron levels and protein issues.
I returned to vegetarianism for several summers while working at camp. Again, my reasons were somewhat less than altruistic. The food at camp sucked! And while this wonderful Reform Jewish camp didn't offer a kosher menu, (it was the Midwest of the 1970s and 80s) it did offer an alternative vegetarian menu for all of us so inclined. The food on the veggie bill of fare was marginally better than the swill emanating from the regular kitchen, so I enthusiastically signed on. The catch was that once one was labelled vegetarian, one had to remain so for the entire summer. No waffling allowed. No sneaking fried chicken on Shabbat. I had no problem adhering to the rules, but the problem was that the camp cook believed that a vegetarian diet was primarily based on the constant consumption of cheese. By the end of the summer, I had honestly forgotten that broccoli was supposed to be green in colour, carrots orange, or that protein could be found in sources outside of the cow.
The last many years have been spent outside of the realm of vegetarianism. I have still shunned most red meat, but poultry, seafood and fish are staples. I have an issue with lactose intolerance, so most of my focus has been spent trying to remain healthy after a meal, rather than worrying about the meat industry and its effects on our environment or on my body. Stomach issues are not pretty. I have been continually preaching healthy eating habits in my home for as long as anybody here can recall, but it is true that I am not a saint, and I fall off of the wagon more times than I care to recount. I have a penchant for chocolate and I love french fries. Bread is one of the great inventions in the history of mankind. It is right on up there with penicillin and the wheel, as far as I am concerned. Food is important for so many reasons to me and it is important that healthy eating doesn't forever get in the way of enjoyable eating. That is why I am taking such an intense look at this foray into vegetarianism this time around, and why it is tied up with a heightened interest in ethical eating.
Here are the ground rules as set down by the commissioner. (That would be me!) This experiment will commence on December 1st and run for at least the entire month. I will forgo all animal flesh during that time, but I will continue to consume dairy (lactose-free!) and eggs. Just call me a lacto-ovo vegetarian for the month. I will chronicle the entire process through this blog. I have numerous questions and concerns that I am hoping will be answered either by my own experiences, or by you the readers. I have asked The Husband to join me on this quest of self-discovery, and to his extremely carnivorous credit, he is giving the matter considerable thought. If he chooses not to embark on the journey, there will be no judgement. I have decided to use the month of December for very specific reasons. Firstly, we are only going to be in the northern home for another two weeks and then we head south for three more. I really wanted to live the life in a variety of situations. Secondly, we will be going on a cruise for one week during the month, and I wanted to get a handle on vacationing as a vegetarian. Anybody who has ever been on a cruise knows all too well the importance and centrality of the food. Thirdly, I have a birthday at the end of the month, and the date seemed a logical time to shoot for as a goal. Finally, much of December is food focused. Holidays, family gatherings and vacations are all intertwined with menu preparations. Could there be there a better time to focus on what is going into my body?
I don't expect this to be easy, nor do I expect to feel deprived. I simply want to look at my life and eating habits with a new and hopefully more conscientious focus. I expect the road ahead to be challenging but intriguing. Happy 300th to me!