I can write this because D2* was a meat eater until she turned ten then, prompted by a cousin but with a good deal of serious thought, became a vegetarian. Last year she spent a semester – that’s right, she’s a student – in Canada and returned a vegan. She will forgive me if I use her as a hook for this Blog Action Day 2011 post (you can also find other contributors’ efforts through the Twitter hashtag #BAD11).
Having a vegetarian and then a vegan in the family has been a challenge that’s expanded my culinary repertoire in ways I didn’t expect and led to some interesting incidents over the years.
Here are the upsides and downsides from this amateur foodie of the three ways of eating (and cooking).
Meat (and fish) eater
- Why not? Humans are naturally omnivores – this is arguably our most ‘balanced’ diet
- Widest range of taste sensations – nothing beats the smell and taste of sizzling bacon
- It doesn’t mean only eat meat and fish – you can tuck into those wonderful veggies and fruit too
- Least hassle – you can find something to eat wherever you go
Not so hot
- Watch out for the more processed products – the cured meats, sausages and patés. Some unhealthy stuff may lurk in there
- Most likely to plunder the planet for all that protein – whether it’s feeding the domesticated beasts before we eat them or hunting the wild ones almost to extinction
- Most expensive – in money for us, in cost for the environment
- Animals don’t get bumped off directly to feed you
- Some wonderful vegetarian recipes and restaurants out there
- Cheaper – meat and fish are expensive
- If you’re ethically minded you’ll feel better for that reason alone
- Less chance of putting on weight from all that animal protein and fat
Not so hot
- Friends – get used to meat eaters sniping at your diet. Decide whether it’s something you’re going to debate or not
- Be aware the concept of food without animal products is barely understood in some countries. Chances are that in Spain ‘Ensalada mixta, por favour. Pero no carne o pescado’ (‘Mixed salad please. But no meat or fish in it’) will still arrive with a glob of tinned tuna on top
- Watch out for the vitamins and other good stuff like iron in meat and fish and make sure you still get them through your choice of vegetables and fruit. Top up with dietary supplements if necessary
- Arguably the most ethical diet – dairy products may not kill animals directly but there’s a whole industry out there where they get bumped off as a direct result and often live in confined un-natural conditions
- Some unexpectedly great cake recipes
- Plus – the other benefits of being a veggie
Not so hot
- Hard work. Goodbye all animal products. Goodbye honey. Goodbye leather belts and shoes
- Get ready to search for substitutes for things like eggs to make those wonderful cakes rise
- People – if your carnivorous friends had a go at you because you were veggie, stand by for the mickey taking when you go vegan
- Eating out – in many countries get ready to negotiate around the one vegetarian dish on the menu to get the cheese taken out. Resign yourself to more risotto than you’ve ever eaten before
- If you thought being a vegetarian needed attention to a balanced diet and the possible need for dietary supplements, don’t forget being a vegan is even more challenging.
PS – D2 has just told me that she became vegan exactly a year ago today, Blog Action Day.
* – regular readers will know that D1, D2 and D3 are my three daughters
This post is my response to Blog Action Day 2011 on the subject of Food. Regular readers wondering what it’s got to do with helping the public sector improve its performance will be disappointed. But I did warn them when I started the HelpGov blog that there’d be the occasional random post