Monday, April 07, 2008

Lessons learned from my vegetarian stint

Without further adieu, here's how my mostly meatless Lenten period panned out...

Probably most shocking was that, except for isolated instances like driving through Koreatown (ugh!), I didn't really find myself missing meat and that had time to appreciate a greater range of vegetables, fruits and traditionally meat-free dishes such as pasta with pesto sauce, flatbreads with hummus, Indian lentil dishes and minestrone soup. You may even say I delved into veganism, though I did consume dairy and eggs with some regularity.

Another surprise is how easy it was to go veggie while shopping & eating out. It's actually even a bit liberating, since I am not bombarded with dozens of different menu options and faced with choice paralysis. With only a handful of vegetarian items in most mainstream eateries, it's pretty easy for me to decide what I want.

But that doesn't mean it was a breeze all the time -- during Lent (and not on a Sunday) I went to a friend's birthday celebration at Cheesecake Factory, but managed to get away with their meatfree (but nonetheless filling) tamale cakes and the non-meat items from the appetizer platter. When my parents celebrated their birthdays at a steakhouse, however, it was pretty depressing for me to just have salad & baked potato.

And of course, I had lots of fun trying & inventing new recipes -- my favorite being the
caprese-style sandwich from the previous entry (though I had enough heart to stick a little proscuitto in my friends' sandwiches) and a tofu and eggplant green curry with brown rice.

I am not sure if I changed much healthwise while on this month and a half spree; I'm basically eating the same number of calories but able to eat a bit more food since veggies are generally less calorie-dense. On the other hand, it was a bitch working proteins in (which is the only reason I resorted to eating fake meats on occasion, but found some to be not bad.) And without going way TMI, let's just say my BM's consistency did change a bit...

Even though Easter came and passed, I don't think I'm going to fully lapse back to my old ways. Now, I like certain meats too much to fully give it up (sushi, Korean BBQ, sukiyaki, shabu shabu & meaty dumplings, just to name a few), but I would consider going
flexitarian, eating mostly vegetarian except when I get the craving for meat (which would be about every 10 days, if my Lenten experience was any indicator) or the occasion calls for it (i.e. the steakhouse!). But most of the times I'll probably just roll with my vegetarian half, especially when things get as delicious as the velvety cold sesame noodle salad at Real Food Daily.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), it was around this time that I finished reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I've relegated to my book shelf for the better part of the two years I've owned it. I don't think I'll be as hyperaware as Mr. Pollan was in learning how the food was grown, gathered and treated before it wounds up on the plate, but the text is definitely some good food for thought.


Anonymous said...

To tell you the truth, I've discovered so much more amazing food in Los Angeles since going vegan than I ever have before in my food eating life, in part because the challenge of being vegan has forced me to be so much more aware of what I eat, and of what is available. There are just so many genuinely delicious options that I haven't missed my meat eating days one bit. Even giving up dairy which I figured would be a real challenge basically hasn't been one. Sure I get the occasional cravings, but in a city with so many vegetarian and vegan-friendly possibilities, it's actually been quite easy... and a lot of fun.

I'll also disprove the myth that all vegans and vegetarians are skinny and starving, because I've always got plenty of food to eat... and have put on more pounds than I'd like to admit since going vegan. I'm blaming this entirely on the fact that there are so many amazing vegan restaurants to eat at (and that I am hopelessly addicted to wanting to eat at them ALL)!

glutster said...

For some reason, I naturally lean toward a more vegetable-based side wherever and whenever I eat, maybe it is because of everything I am constantly reading about (food this, meat that...) but sometimes I feel like I am a 'closeted vegan' or something. But the whole deprivation thing doesn't seem right when food is just so damn great.

I'm really glad that you discovered many of the great veggie joys along L.A along with its philosophy.

Pirikara said...

" BM's consistency did change a bit..."

I can only imagine. =P

Yeah, I tried going veg for a week a looong time ago. It was a lil painful. Glad you had an easier time.


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