Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lesson & Thoughts As I Gradually Re-embrace Meat . . .

Nigiri Trio #1
So, seven months after I embarked on an animal-free April (which transpired into meatless May, jumping off flesh June and so on...), I finally gently slid off the vegetarian wagon and went back to eating meat, starting with sushi @ SugarFISH Downtown. Was it an epic struggle? A profound epiphany? Not really (and I say the same thing about starting and maintaining my months-long vegetariaism,) I simply craved sushi and decided now was just as good a time as any... it's half a year longer than my planned monthlong experiment, anyways.

No surprise to anyone, during the veg-stint most people asked me "WHY?" And as I've replied numerous times before, the short answer is really "no reason in particular" or "to see if I can do it and for how long." The slightly longer answer involves animal-eating's impact on health, the environment and humane treatment of animals. Now, I'm not PETA vigilant about any of those aspects (but I do give them kudos for their very helpful online resource on transitioning into & maintaining an animal-free diet,) but those factors combined did make me want to rethink my relationship with meat (and the quantities I, and everyone else in the U.S., get served of it nowadays.)

According to MyPyramid, someone of my height (5' 5.5"), weight (145) & age (28) should be eating around six ounces of protein a day (in meat portions, that's about two decks of playing cards worth, before cooking.) And note that I said protein, since that category (and my recommended 6 ounces a day) includes meat (land, sea or airborne), beans, eggs, nuts and seeds.

Speaking of nutrition and health, for most part my body didn't change -- I didn't drop any weight (thanks my love of dairy and desserts) and I didn't take on a sickly pallor or lose muscle mass, though my blood-iron has been on the low side (always just a bit under the requirement to donate blood) despite my regular consumption of iron-rich plant-based foods. So, in returning to meat-eating (and its easier-to-absorb heme-iron,) I look forward to making my regular pint donations again.

Having read and watched a good deal of books, essays and documentaries about the food industry, which usually pays special attention to how animals are raised, farmed, caught and slaughtered, I definitely want to be more conscientious about the meat that I do consume, and going vegetarian for this length of time helped recalibrate my food mentality; namely, that I don't need a dead animal on my plate to consider it a real meal. Heck, moving forward I may even be a "weekday vegetarian" (though unlikely to label myself as such.)

Of course, re-embracing meat in a humane, healthful and planet-friendly way is gonna be a learning process (for example, at the SUGARFISH dinner I found out towards the end of the meal that the featured seafood came from all over the world; not exactly eco-friendly in terms of carbon footprint; and as divinely delicious as the meal was, this is surely something I'll take into consideration for future sushi outings, which is simple as asking "which seafood on the menu is locally and sustainably caught/farmed?" or keeping a Seafood Watch pocket guide or smartphone app handy. Or just enjoy in moderation.)

But I definitely look forward to sharing those lessons with you here as I gradually and conscientiously step back into an animal-including diet. But in the meantime, I'll follow Michael Pollan's simple, sagely advice to "Eat [real] Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants."

And in closing this post, my favorite vegetarian meal during this animal-free period -- the chef's tasting @ Melisse (with the omnivorous Mr. Grumpy)
Melisse Collage


Corazon said...

Welcome back to the world of omnivorism!

Love your post. I have the same ethical and health views on consuming meat, and have had my own stints of vegetarian/veganism, but being an active person (as you are), my body craves meat as a big shot of protein that non-flesh sources was never able to satisfy. I'm a personal believer in being the conscientious omnivore ;)

Andee (LAEasyMeals) said...

I also went veg from March until a month ago. Although I could have kept going, my body was really missing the nutrients only found in meat source. I was constantly tired and lacking energy especially since we are runners. I went back to eating meat again and all is well. When I do eat meat, I try to eat organic or see where it came from. And it's not like I eat meat everyday, but I don't like to "label" myself as vegetarian anymore when sometimes I might crave a juicy steak :)

H. C. said...

@Corazon & @Andee - oddly enough I've never had a big meat craving throughout, though I notice my energy/performance have waned a bit.

But yeah, I'm definitely making an attempt to be a sensitive omnivore.

kevinEats said...

What has Mr. Grumpy been up to these days? Haven't heard anything from him since the breakup.

Food GPS said...

Glad to hear that you didn't suffer too badly during your hiatus.

Joel D said...

Post simply love the story and the vivid imagery.