By Natasha Silva
You think I’m weird. That’s okay. I mean, how is it even possible to be a meat-lover and even consider vegetarianism? On the other hand, what is a “partial” vegetarian? You either are or you aren’t. I get it; the absurdity of it is just mind baffling. But allow me to explain myself.
I grew up in a “normal” meat-eating household, skipping along merrily, biltong in hand, devouring whole livestock for dinner. Time moved on swiftly and my amazing cook of a mother continued preparing me scrumptious meaty meals that adored. It was only at the age of 23 that I ever stopped to think about the possibility of no longer eating as much meat. This was by no means due to a righteous moral battle waging in my heart and head. Oh no, it was for selfish gain.
A Poor Girl’s Diet
My grocery budget was the sole reason behind my decision to cut down on the meat feasts. Like most 20-somethings carving out a career path and renting her first home, I wasn’t financially stable to say the least! Something had to give. I figured that if I saved money on grocery shopping, I would have more cash to splurge on weekend dinners and merry occasions out on the town with my friends. I soon realized the easiest way to nearly half your grocery expenses, is to cut out the meat! I’d eat vegetarian four to five days a week, and then look forward to elicit “meatings” over the weekend. How hard could it be?
I Love a Challenge!
It was more difficult than having to give your last piece of chocolate away, even to your best friend! Without meat, my dishes seemed to be missing that indescribable umami taste; a kind of savoury flavour that I just couldn’t achieve. But, this only fuelled my desire to get it right, and boy have I learnt a lot about packing a flavour punch without the need for a hunk of meat. I’ve managed to improve my cooking by increasing taste intensity, discovering and using different fresh produce, and coming up with new methods of satisfying my meaty cravings. Today, I bet that I could cook any meat-lover a vegetarian meal that they would salivate over.
After a while I truly began to value the health benefits that this partial vegetarian diet was awarding me! I began to feel more energetic and “light”. The trick to eating vegetarian is to make it tasty and to fuel your body with other protein sources. Cue eggs, grains like quinoa, beans and pulses, seed cheese and nuts (and yes, peanut butter counts. Hi-5!); all extremely versatile and rather delicious ingredients. Once I discovered my partial vegetarian diet not only tasted good but it also made me feel good, there was no looking back.
Responsible Food Sourcing
Looking back I realised that not once before deciding to make this change did I stop to think about where the meat I was eating actually came from. Terms like “free range”, “organic”, “grass fed”, “grain fed” and the like, were surely just silly jargon that fanatics used to confuse us normal people. But if you value good quality food, these things should be important.
The above terms have to do with the diet and living conditions of the animals that you eat; whether they live in fields or cages, graze naturally or eat feed which contains hormones and other chemicals. Remember the controversy behind the unveiling of strange meats and chemicals that were being
added to our mince, as well as the issue of local suppliers over processing chicken in order to make it heavier. Yup, you’re paying for water-filled chicken!
I encourage you to at least consider eating more veggie meals, and to be aware of the quality of the meat that you eat. Start with “Meatless Mondays”. Challenge yourself and learn. But never forego a good quality steak!
Image 1: Wasserfall, R., n.d., Biltong & Coriander Seeds, viewed on 4 April 2014, form http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/biltong-coriander-seeds-royalty-free-image/73554173
Image 2: GMVozd, n.d., T-Bone Steak, viewed on 4 April 2014, from http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/bone-steak-royalty-free-image/186543488
Image 3: Creative Crop, n.d., Assorted nuts, viewed on 4 April 2014, form http://www.gettyimages.com/Search/Search.aspx?contractUrl=2&language=en-US&family=creative&assetType=image&excludenudity=false&p=assorted+nuts
Featured image: Alpers, J., n.d., Big Mexican style salad with tortilla strips, viewed on 4 April 2014, from http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/big-mexican-style-salad-with-tortilla-strips-royalty-free-image/469932015#