Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reluctantly Vegetarian

Several years ago, December 10, 2007, to be precise, Erin came home and declared that she was going to be a Vegetarian.  Her reasons were all health related, not sentimental or squeamish in any respect.  Erin wasn't worried about the cute fuzzy-wuzzy animals, which was good, or we'd have had some serious talking-her-out-of-it to do.  She had considered the health history of her family in light of new information learned in Health class at school and her decision was made.  Bam.  Done.

We adjusted our menus at mealtimes slightly in order to accommodate her dietary needs.  This wasn't too difficult, just see to it that there were enough "sides" next to the main meat dish, and meatless protein of some sort.  On occasion we'd have an entirely meatless meal, just to show that it could be done and we were supporting her decision.

Then Kate and Bekah chose Vegetarianism for a trial year beginning January 1, 2009.  We were now half-and half in our home.  This became slightly more complicated for meal planning.  Or maybe not.  Bekah fell off the wagon one morning when I had cooked bacon, and she, still groggy from sleep and not entirely awake, instinctively ate a couple of pieces before she realized what she was doing.  Kate actually stuck it out, and her self-discipline in this area has been impressive to witness.

As time passed it became more natural to think about our "Veggies" as I shopped and cooked.  It was still complicated when we were having an old family favorite meat-centered meal though.  One particular meal, our very favorite chicken dish, has always been somewhat time-consuming and involved to prepare, and  now 1/3 of our household insisted upon making a tofu version, with veggie, instead of chicken, broth in the sauce, alongside the traditional version.  Now even with assistance in the kitchen that gets to be a bit much, and standing room at the stove is limited.  sigh.

So, thinking about Vegetarian meals was becoming routine, but cooking for them still required some extra doing on my part.

Skip to this summer when Jim went to camp with Isaac for a week, and then a few short weeks later he went with Erin for a week.  The camp food at Isaac's camp was pretty, well, brutal, on Jim's system.  In order to recover from that and express his solidarity with Erin he chose to eat a Vegetarian diet while at camp with her.  Now, early on in our marriage Jim had often threatened expressed interest in becoming a Vegetarian, so this wasn't much of a stretch for him.  When he realized how much better than normal he was feeling, he decided to stick with his new diet upon returning home.

The noose tightened.

Since Kate and Bekah are no longer living at home our household was now evenly divided between the meat and non-meat eaters.  Isaac and I would go for an occasional burger or steak wrap at Chipotle- yum- and the meat budget at the grocery store was shrinking.  He and I would consult on what he wanted to eat for dinner and we'd make it work.

And then the bombshell.  Yup, you've seen this coming haven't you?

Driving Isaac home from Cross Country practice one day I hear those now-familiar words, "Mom, I'm going to be a Vegetarian."

I almost hit a tree.

His coach had mentioned that the upset tummy he sometimes gets while running might be due to any meat he has eaten taking longer to digest, and his conclusion was swift.  Isaac has seen his sisters and now his Dad eating a Vegetarian diet and so it wasn't much of a stretch for him to go there as well.  My partner in carne was going over to the veggie side.

Now I am the one accommodated at mealtime.  The lone meat-eater.  The last holdout.  Stubborn, resistant to change, favoring the old ways and menus, and chicken...

It's all very well to declare an allegiance to a particular dietary lifestyle when you aren't the primary cook providing the food three times a day, every day.  Many people now ask me for advice on Vegetarian meal planning, but some days I honestly just don't know what to make.  We get stuck in a narrow rut of repeated meals on a regular basis.  With the change of season and the colder weather my appetite naturally turns to the old standard comfort foods like soups, stews, and things involving gravy.  Mmmmm,... gravy.  Instead of cooking these, I'm needing to make a point to get some meat at some point during each week before my system adjusts to being meat-free and attacks me the next time I consume chicken, turkey, or beef!  (For the record, I did discover that pork was giving me trouble, so I cut that out a while ago. sniff, sniff)

After that whiny, complaint-laden paragraph I feel compelled to point out that I'm not actually complaining here.  I just get bewildered at times.  During the recent week without power due to the October snowstorm, a couple of friends invited us to come over for a warm meal, which I had to politely decline, because their meals were, naturally, meat-based.  (One friend who realized our dilemma pulled out her recipes and figured out a meatless menu for us and blessed us with a fully Vegetarian dinner.)

A few weeks ago as Isaac and I were driving somewhere, (So many significant conversations occur while driving places with the teenagers- off the point, but reasonable to insert here.) he asked me, "What are you going to do about Thanksgiving?"  Oh indeed, what will I do?  Small turkey, maybe just a chicken, change the dressing recipe, veggie-based gravy...  Besides those, most of our traditional dishes will be fine.

I read an article months ago in which the author described himself as a "Flexitarian", meaning that he sometimes ate meat, many times not.  That's me.  I'm glad that everyone is enjoying the benefits of their meatless diets, really, I am.  I am willing to continue to figure out ways to make mealtime interesting and delicious for them.  I do miss the ease of meal planning that I enjoyed years ago, but if this is causing me to think more consciously about our health, then this is fine.  Maybe my brain is being forced to be more active, which will keep my mind more nimble for longer in the future.

And I can always pop into Five Guys when I feel the craving for a really good burger- without messing with the grill here at home.

And finally, in the "God has a sense of humor" department; the week after Isaac changed his diet, my Mom sent us two cases of wonderfully delicious, frozen, meatballs.  And two chicken pies.  I'll be eating these tennis-ball-size meatballs, one at a time, until 2013.


Janet Oberholtzer said...

Interesting how each one made their own choice. And what a great wife/mom/cook you are to adapt your cooking for the others.

So is Bekah now eating a vegetarian diet or does the bacon continue to win?

I'm trying this meatless dish today: Pueblo Corn Pie.

Barbaranne said...

Rebekah has returned to the land of meat- being a Culinary student it would be difficult to remain a vegetarian- not impossible, just difficult. Thanks for the recipe- I will have to give it a try! Enjoy those rolls- good thing you're running a lot... butter!