Confessions of a Former Vegetarian

Once upon a time, I ate meat.

Then I stopped for good.

Then I changed my mind…

Today I’m taking a break from sharing recipes to just share food thoughts.  Sometimes it’s good to step back and evaluate why we eat the things we eat. 

I’ve been back and forth all over the map about meat. 

We were carnivores growing up.  Pork chops, ground beef, chicken, turkey, fish right out of the lake, kielbasa, hotdogs, steak, bacon, you name it.

When I was an early twenty-something, I left home to tour with a performing arts group.  Every tour was an eating bash!  At every stop, host families and host churches fed us like crazy, rich foods to satisfy honored guests.  Boy was that fun!!! 

Underlying the whole thing, though, was a fear that I wouldn’t get enough to eat.  We relied completely on others for our sustenance, and I wasn’t sure what I’d have packed for me day to day.

If I’d relied on God instead of on my own stomach, I wouldn’t have lived to serve that fear.  I should have trusted Him to provide for me through those wonderful people, as He did.  I never went hungry.  But at every meal, I ate all I could fit in my belly and then some.  

I began to realize I was feeling sluggish on stage and my dance partner was having a little trouble lifting me.  Poor guy had a bad back anyway.  I could see him in the shadows during concerts, trying to work out the kinks from lifting his dance partner and I. felt. bad.

Still, I ate to my belly’s content. 

When I arrived home after my final trip, I was 20 lbs heavier than my usual weight.  I felt gross. 

It was right around Thanksgiving and the weather was just getting nice and chilly.  I started running hard almost every day, and changed my diet by removing meat from it.

This happened at the same time that I discovered some very disturbing facts about how chickens and cows in particular are raised and slaughtered for most of our store-bought meat.  I remember researching these things and just crying in my room because I had no idea that such cruelty had been used to feed my needs.

I can’t do this anymore,” I sobbed.

I decided to try a no-meat diet for 3 months and see how I liked it.

I LOVED it.  Together with my renewed exercise regimen, switching to a vegetarian diet helped me lose the added weight quickly and made me feel lighter and better than EVER.

For the next four years, I ate no meat, unless it would have been offensive to a cook if I abstained.  I still drank milk and ate eggs, and tried not to get preachy about vegetarianism.  It really bothers me when people act like that.

At the end of those four years, I delivered our first child.  It became necessary to eat meat for a little while, just to get through recovery.  I realized I had been missing it, and didn’t really mind eating it after all. 

Some textures gave me trouble.  It was all I could do to choke down half a burger for the first year. 

Now here I am, blogging about stuffing balsamic glazes underneath chicken skins with my bare hands. 

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME?!

I guess I’ve decided not to label myself.  It seems awfully unfair to demand that a person choose one diet or one style or one career, etc etc etc and love it for the rest of their life.  I could still go back to vegetarianism, because I give myself the freedom to choose.

Right now, the choice to eat meat is for our family.  It’s cheaper at this point to eat meat, because I’m not demanding organic cuts, and sometimes the vegetarian alternatives to getting protein are VERY expensive.

I’m also saving time in the kitchen by cooking one meal for all of us, instead of two – one for the boys and one for kooky Momma.

If I can save money and get more time with my family, I feel I ought to do it. 

Honestly, it still feels unnatural to eat flesh.  The sight of blood in medium-rare steak makes my stomach a little uneasy.  The feel of certain meats in my mouth can be a little trying…

But I know that during pregnancies, during nursing, and even for my own busy body’s sake, it’s better for me to eat some meat these days.

So why am I writing this?

Those who know me have been very patient with my back-and-forth choices.  I wanted to thank them for being so sweet, especially my family, who often made a vegetarian option to go along with whatever they were serving for a meal. 

And I wanted to encourage my readers to give yourselves the freedom of choice.  It isn’t wrong to experiment and try to find what works for you.  

And no matter what anyone says in words or faces, what matters is a heart at peace – to be settled between you and God that what you’re doing is okay, and it’s not making someone else stumble.  If somebody is having a really hard time with your choice, maybe someone close to you, it could be good to reevaluate. 

In the end, my time as a veggie really challenged me in good ways:

I learned not to go overboard – not to allow natural/green living to dominate my thoughts or become an idol.

I learned not to shove my own preferences down other people’s throats.

I learned to think about what I’m eating.  What will it do to my body?  What was done to it before it entered my body?

Someday I would love to be able to afford eating ONLY local, organic meat.  But I can’t right now.  Right now I can just do my best to feed myself and my family affordable, healthy meals that please everyone around the table.

By God’s grace, I will have the wisdom going forward to know what to eat and how to eat it in each season of life.

This season includes meat.

Pass the chicken, please.

Pregnant Cooking: What We Wish We Could Eat

Food!  We love ya, we hate ya.  #1 in a series.  #1 on a pregnant woman’s mind. 

Anyone who has been pregnant will tell you that FOOD is one of the hottest topics of pregnancy – not baby clothes or infant child seat safety or breastmilk vs. formula.  OUR FOOD. 

Why?

Because from the first hints of motherhood to the very last days of giant bellydome, our diet and its shrinking menu becomes a huge focus, whether we like it or not.  Therefore, there will be random photos of “yes” foods and “no” foods throughout this post.  Enjoy.

 

(Anything from this cookbook = NO.  Drat!  That’s all I want!)

For those who have never been pregnant, this is potentially a foreign and ridiculous issue.  I always thought women became pregnant, their bodies expanded magically and painlessly, and they delivered perfect bundles of joy by yelling a lot.  In part this is true. 

It’s practically magic how our bodies have been designed to accommodate a growing human being (I could feel my intestines digesting food to the left of my rib cage, since this was the only place they could find to do so at 37 weeks).  And women often deliver perfect bundles of joy by yelling and screaming and pushing hard. 

But until I had my own kids, I had NO CLUE what weird and wacky things a woman’s body and psyche went through in the 9 month process of pregnancy.  Not a clue.  Especially as it related to food. 

(Or this cookbook?  Not on your life.  Unless I repent deeply and sincerely afterward.  Hopefully not over the toilet.)

If you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about, here’s a menu plan for a pregnant lady.  Everyone’s different, so we’ll just say this is mine.

1st Trimester – What I Can Eat

  • almost a regular diet…except Ranch dressing, which I had strong aversion to with my first pregnancy, and I’ve never been able to eat since
  • lots and lots of carbs, because I feel like I can’t POSSIBLY get full
  • Frosted Flakes, if my husband is super nice and runs to the store to get some because I dreamed I was about to eat them, with Parmelot (I don’t know why), and didn’t get to and now I am craving this sugary treat like it’s my last meal

1st Trimester – What I Can’t Eat

  • almost everything…a contradiction, I know… but some days you walk into the kitchen, and every single food smell is heightened x20 and a nauseous, reeling feeling takes over – hence the grabbing of the first thing that will fill me up (pizza, mac and cheese) and running for another room (yeah!  I can still run!)
  • caffeine, which I really wish I could drink, tons of sweets, which I really wish I could consume, and cookie dough, because it’s full of raw egg which could harm the baby
  • cheddar cheese, which I could eat yesterday (hence why I bought a big, expensive log of it at the market) but today is making me sick to even smell…and tomorrow may be fine

(Unfortunately, this dish from a vegetarian cookbook would pass for a yummy and nutritional pregnant lady meal.  Too bad it looks like something a toddler vomited onto a highchair.)

2nd Trimester – What I Can Eat

  • anything midwife-prescribed: proteins, veggies, fruit, meat, cheese, nuts, seeds, etc

2nd Trimester – What I Can’t Eat

  • caffeine, tons of sweets (because honestly, that’s ALL I want, including a steady diet of chocolate and fruit only), cookie dough, caffeine, caffeinated coffee, caffeine…
  • anything with a cream sauce base, anything with sugary goodness, anything anyone puts out on the table at holiday time, any “rich” foods, anything “fried” or “battered” or “crispy” or pizza, or Ring Dings, or French Fries, or fish-and-chips, or cookies or chips… because any of the things I mentioned will send me to the bathroom within the hour to explode like a land mine before crashing in bed as a coma patient (just bein’ real, people)

(Same with this option.  Someone somewhere thinks this is delicious.  I think my intestines ought to be spared every single ingredient.)

3rd Trimester – What I Can Eat

  • anything midwife-prescribed: high proteins, low carbs…whole milk, cheese, yogurt, red meat, chicken, nuts, seeds, some fruits, lots of veggies, very very very whole grain bread, and maybe a few things from the 2nd trimester that my poor stomach couldn’t tolerate “way back then”
  • weird-sounding things that help my body get ready for labor and delivery: evening primrose oil, red raspberry leaf tea…  I feel like I should be chanting or something
  • daily doses of Zantac and Tums, which have become more like candy to me and are about as effective against the raging lava flow of acid as swallowing a toy car

(Chips?  Are you KIDDING me?!  No way!  We will not discuss, therefore, how the bag got ripped all the way down the side.)

3rd Trimester – What I Can’t Eat

  • a normal portion of anything – my stomach is now the size of a snail, smooshed up high in my ribcage.  I’m full after eating an appetizer-sized salad, but ravenously hungry 1/2 t0 1 hour later, when all normal people are not thinking about food anymore
  • the chocolate cake I saw in Food Magazine… because I don’t want to try to push out a 10lb baby.

(OoooooOOOooohhh that’s bad.  Naughty naughty.  I, of course, was NEVER to be found with my head stuck in the fridge, spoon in hand, unscrewing the top of this very BAD jar.  Of course not.)

So there you have it.  Pregnant cooking ends up being fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, making whatever seems healthy for you and the baby, trying to tolerate the smells of whatever it is that will satisfy both your totally weird and “magical” body and the blessedly normal cravings of your still-sane husband.

(Perhaps I could settle for these.  If it weren’t for the food dyes, I wouldn’t feel so bad.  Blasted Red #40…)

And this is just FOOD.  We’re not even discussing CLOTHING.  Or SLEEP.  Or SELF ESTEEM!!!!

In the end, what we pregnant ladies wish we could eat doesn’t matter.  There’s an end – a finish line, which, when crossed, leads to the greatest prize of all: watching your husband hold your newborn baby.  Knowing you were allowed to sacrifice your own comfort in order to give him the gift of a son or daughter.  Holding that child in your arms and knowing they are all yours, borrowed from God, coming home with you to live and grow and learn – YOURS to kiss and smooch and squeeze and repeat.

Family requires sacrifice and none is too great – especially any food.  There’s always postpartum, when you can really ask for anything, and someone will go get it for you.  Take advantage of that, ladies, if food matters to you at all once you’re holding your very own baby.

A Very Full Vine

If my life is a vine, it’s very full.  Not just with lots to do…  My life is full of blessings!  I can’t thank God enough for my husband Jon, our son Riley, and our newborn baby boy, Quinn. 

 What an incredible Creator!  Thank you, God. 

We’re really enjoying being a family of four, adjusting and relaxing together.

I’ll post Quinn’s birthday story soon.  In the meantime, welcome back to The Full Vine!  I hope you’ll enjoy the set of series I’m starting on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays:

  • Mondays: Household Heroes – everpresent and overlooked workhorses
  • Tuesdays: Inspired Shoestrings – decorating with more imagination, less money
  • Wednesdays: Pregnant Cooking – 9 months of food and funnies

Hope you’ll join me!