Being (mostly) vegetarian is cool

Grace shares her love for fibre-based foods and the small way in which she’s helping make the world a more delicious place.

You can probably tell by the title of this piece my stance on vegetarianism. I’m aware of the controversy that talking about nutritional choices arouses. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on an anti-carnivore rant or try and convince you that plants emit a subharmonic scream when eaten or taken from the ground/plant. In fact, it would be hypocritical and disreputable of me to enter into that kind of discussion. Firstly, because your choices are your own and it’s my choice not to judge what you eat. Secondly, because I lack the scientific knowledge to either prove or disprove whether a carrot cries when torn from it’s earthy womb. Lastly, and most importantly, I’m not entirely vegetarian myself.

What you talking bout, Willis?

I love fruit and vegetables. I always have. In kindergarten, when asked what my favourite food was, I smugly touted “Spinach pie”. You can image the deluge of shyte from my classmates. But their taunts never diminished my love for healthy foods (oh, the broccoli!). In fact, I often set myself the goal of eating at least 10 different fruits, vegetables, legumes, fungi, etc everyday and it’s really not as tricky as it sounds. As much as I hate labels (except nutritional advice labels when trying to shed kgs), let’s call a spade a spade – I am proud to describe myself as a Week Day Vegetarian, or Flexitarian.

I made the call about 6 months ago to have a crack at reducing my flesh intake and it wasn’t a difficult transition. Growing up in a household that was kind of at odds with the typical meat & three vege (my mum is from somewhere super exotic), we never really binged out on loads of meat, even at Christmas. Dinners usually contained a small amount of meat/eggs, rice or pasta, a good dose of vegetables, loads of spicy sauces and a hella 80’s side salad. You know the one. Iceberg lettuce, tomato, cucumber, white vinegar/lemon and salt and pepper – quelle sophistiquées! Maybe these habits influenced me more than I could have anticipated; even as a grown up, I’ve never been a massive carnivore. I’m not really one to indulge in vast quantities of meat super often, unless there’s a reason. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like meat (I actually own a t-shirt that says “I love bacon”), it’s more that in recent times, I’ve made a decision to put my ethics before my taste buds.

I’m vego Mon-Fri (mostly, unless there are limited options, or on those rare occasions when I actually leave the house after the sun goes down) and indulge in reasonable amounts of meat-products on the weekends. It’s a small way I’m working on reducing my environmental impact. Whilst this didn’t seem so outlandish to me, it sometimes causes mixed reactions from friends (even close ones), loved ones and other people that have to eat near me. The most common response to my decision is disbelief. I can see the questions belying this expression, such as:

 

“Are you *Franking* serious?!”

“Is this a joke? It’s not funny.”

“What did (Kevin) bacon ever do to you?”

“How long will this phase last?”

“How can I convince you to stop this nonesense?”

“What’s wrong with you?”

However, acceptance usually follows, which is nice. Sometimes I wonder whether anyone would raise an eyebrow if I decided to either detox, shred, diet or lose weight? I suspect any of these dietry choices would be met with approval and even congratulations. That’s not to say that I’m in need of any of the above (maybe I am?! Who can say?) but more a question of why those things are more acceptable than say, changing my eating habits to reduce carbon emissions.

I don’t feel any great need to either justify my own choices or to influence yours, but given that it’s Earth month, here’s some food for thought…

 

 

Most of us like animals. I like animals a lot. I like them so much that I don’t really want to eat one every day. Because they die so that I can eat them. There’s the other argument that the only reason a lot of animals are born and experience life is so they can be consumed as produce. I get both sides of the argument. The turning point for me was when I started wondering how many animals had died to satisfy random cravings for cheeseburgers, lasange, surf & turf, etc. Was I totally impressed with the number of creatures that had died for me to eat? No. What’s the difference between eating a prawn and eating a really cute puppy? Arguably, there isn’t one. What does this have to do with Earth month? It’s our responsibility to care for nature and other creatures – even the ones that aren’t cute, and especially the ones that are delicious. This point was made most succinctly and compellingly by this tiny but wise person. It’s worth thinking about.

 

As a (privileged) society, we eat a lot of meat. Have a think about some of the ways you might have interacted with friends/family during your life. Having a BBQ with friends. Turkey/ham or prawns at Christmas. Sunday roast. Meat pies. Bacon at breaky. Pulled pork buns with coleslaw (hipster tradition!). Meat on a stick at a multicultural festival. Going out for a curry (who doesn’t like butter chicken?!). Cheap schnitzel/steak night. Dare I suggest, a dagwood dog (we’ve all been there)! Not everyone eats this way, but these are some of the culturally embedded traditions, or even icons of Australian life. Not everyone consumes all of these things, and we don’t all eat them all the time, however it’s worth stopping to think about how much meat you’ve eaten lately. Once you’ve done that, have a quick think about the resources that went into that delicious rare beef & seeded mustard sandwich on rye. It’s a lot of energy, water, time and other resources, as well as the associated emissions. I’m most definitely not trying to undercut farmers here, however if looking at the bigger picture, is it sustainable to eat as much meat as we do? Or is it a better idea to reduce intake now, so that future generations can enjoy a locally fished, smoked salmon handroll? Is it a better idea to meat less often, to shift the focus on quantity to quality and to buy local and sustainable sourced produce? Personally, I’d rather have one, locally grown/raised, healthy steak once a week, than a truckload of mince that I can’t account for either quality or origin. This simple reduction in meat-intake might also reduce your grocery bill and also put a few extra dollars in the pocket of your local butcher.

Obviously I’m not shopping or cooking for any dependents, so this might be starting to sound a bit tricky to achieve. Please don’t think that I’m judging you! I’m not. Just putting in a polite request to think about reduction. Another, perhaps more achievable option might be to consider the idea popularised by the McCartney’s (our good pals, Linda and Paul). Meat Free Monday. A you have to do is not eat meat on Mondays. So easy, even celebrities can do it! I think this is a really great starting point. It’s a small sacrifice to make, with much broader implications – you get a whole day of fibre and, if you do it all year, reduce your meat intake (and emissions etc) by 1/7th. All this, PLUS maintaining your regular diet, keeping farmers in a work, letting a few more animals live happily ever after (for a while) and being kind to the environment. It’s definitely a good starting point, especially if you’re curious. To quote one of the videos I’ve referenced above, image if all us ate half as much meat – half of us would be vegetarian. Interesting, huh?

 

I’m not a nutritionalist, an activist or a hardcore vegetarian by any means. I’m not seeking to change your behaviour or opinion as a result of having read this. All I’m requesting is that you take a moment to think about your choices. That’s all. No pressure! If you find you want to think or talk about it some more, have a look at some educational material, or have a chat with your GP or even a nutritionist. Or pop into your local vegetarian restaurant and just see if you like it. There’s a saying that vegetarians are usually good cooks… so why not invite yourself round to a vegetarian friend’s place for dinner? Just don’t tell them I sent you.

 

Say hi to Grace, if you like!

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Emma

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