I recently decided to go vegetarian for a week. This was down to a number of factors – mostly because I feel a lot of omnivourous guilt and know deep down that vegetarianism is the right thing to do. I really love animals, and I’ve always felt guilty about eating my furry friends (this billboard campaign really resonated with me – see, PETA? You can make compelling pro-veggie adverts without highly-sexualised women!). Not just the killing, but the fact that these animals live such desolate, painful lives before being slaughtered for human use is very upsetting.
I’m also very aware of the health benefits of going veggie – not that meat itself is necessarily fattening, but food made with meat is often fattening (e.g. beef lasagne). When you can’t eat standard meaty foods, it does force you to incorporate more vegetables into your meals and eat a generally healthier diet (though, again, this isn’t necessarily true – I had a friend in school who went veggie for a short while, but she didn’t like vegetables so mainly lived on chips, crisps, cheese, and chocolate!).
I’ve never tried vegetarianism for any longer than a day at a time, because I’m not a very good cook, and it always seemed so daunting to completely cut out meat – what would I eat if I couldn’t fall back on chicken or beef? I also live in a house of meat-eaters, so I can’t control what food gets bought. As someone who comes from a family where meat is the staple component of every meal, I knew that an entire week without meat would be pretty tough. I decided to take part during my week off, when I had more time to myself to experiment with veggie foods. I’ve written a little diary of my experiences this week.
Day 1 – Sunday
Beans on toast for breakfast – a normal breakfast for me anyway. Then I travelled to Swansea for a Swansea Feminist Network meeting. On the way home 3 hours later, I was very hungry and wanted to grab something warm and tasty to eat on the walk to the train station. I guiltily sloped into the nearest fast food chain, McDonalds, which was one of the most horrible experiences I’ve experienced for a good while. What a hot, dirty, disorganised place that is! There were no veggie options listed on the illustrated menus above the tills, so I had to push through the crowd (it wasn’t an orderly queue so much as a sweaty throng of people) to see the complete menu on the far wall. There were only three veggie options on that menu – fries, a plain salad, or a vegetable deli sandwich. I toyed with the idea of getting fries, but it seemed like such a faff to queue for something so small that I left and didn’t bother buying anything. It’s not as if I was really expecting to find an appetising veggie option in McDonalds… maybe some sort of veggie burger would’ve been nice?
When I got home, my parents were making a roast pork dinner, and had forgotten about my veggie venture. I had to cook veggie Glamorgan sausages to go with my vegetables and potatoes. I couldn’t even have any gravy, because all the gravies in the house were made from meat. Despite the faff involved in making my own food, it was lovely, and my mum remarked on how much nicer it smelled than their food.
Day 2 – Monday
Beans on toast for breakfast again. I had a Linda McCartney piri piri burger for lunch, with some chips and a salad made from a few bits from the garden that I’d grown myself. Yummy!
Day 3 – Tuesday
I was really hankering for a bacon sandwich today. Decided to try something completely different and have pancakes for breakfast, since we had some pancake mix leftover from shrove Tuesday. Linda McCartney lasagne for lunch. Although I generally think that meat lasagne tastes better, veggie lasagne always has a much nicer texture – I hate the texture of minced beef, and I hate how so many beef dishes are slightly gristly. I went to a SFN meeting tonight, and when I got home, my mum had made the family homemade fish and chips.
“Have you made anything for me?”, I asked.
“But I can’t eat fish, remember?”
“Vegetarians don’t eat fish!”
“I thought vegetarians did eat fish – fish isn’t meat!”
“Yes it is! Pescatarians eat fish, vegetarians don’t…”
“But a fish isn’t an animal!”
“Uh, what else would it be?”
Etc. I had beans and egg with my chips instead, so it turned out fine in the end.
Day 4 – Wednesday
Breakfast was a triumph today – I was sick of toast, and we had no cereals, so in a moment of creativity, I made cheese-toasted mushrooms and a spring onion omlette! Om! I would’ve taken a photo for you, but it was too delicious-looking so I ate it instead. Pasta for lunch, and a tofu and vegetable stir fry for dinner, which I cooked for myself and my parents. I tried tofu for the first time about 6 weeks ago, and I really loved it. There’s no taste at all to it (I think it tastes like an eraser), but the texture is very yummy. My parents eat a lot of meat, especially my dad, so I wasn’t sure how well tofu would go down with them. My mum didn’t really mind it – like me, she enjoyed the texture but had to admit that there was no proper taste. When I asked my dad if he enjoyed it, he replied with,
“I’ll eat any old shit, me.“ Um… success?
Day 5 – Thursday
I spent the whole day at the Swansea Feminist Network International Women’s Day event today, and had a fantastic time (you can read my write-up of the event at the SFN blog)! We had a lovely vegetarian buffet, which was promptly demolished by 50 hungry feminists (and a few hungry passers-by who had obviously wandered in for the free food and legged it once they’d eaten – rude!). The highlights of the buffet were onion bhajis, pizza slices, and the chips and dips.
Day 6 – Friday
I stayed in today to catch up on my to-do list, and grazed all day on fruit and veg. Dinner was another successful experiment – I made the whole family butternut squash, chickpea and spinach curry with garlic and coriander naan bread. It was gorgeous, and my parents admitted that they didn’t miss the meat in that meal. I got the recipe from Eat Like A Girl.
Day 7 – Saturday
I had my cheese-toasted mushrooms again for breakfast, and made them for my mum too (my dad turned his nose up at them, opting for a bacon sandwich instead). She admitted that they were delicious, and very filling – hurrah! I went shopping with my mum in the afternoon, where I found a tray of Marks & Spencer’s vegetarian sushi marked down to 80p! It was bloody delicious – I’ve been on the fence about sushi for ages, but recently I can’t get enough of it. My mum looked at my sushi with suspicion, and asked,
“Are you eating raw fish?”
“No, that’s sashimi – sushi is just the yummy rice and seaweed bit.”
But she still wasn’t interested in trying it. You win some, you lose some.
Afterwards I went to a dinner party with my friends, where the host had laid on a mostly veggie buffet. Yay!
I actually found the experience very enjoyable, and not too difficult. My meals were generally far healthier, and much more creative. I’m definitely going to try to hugely cut down on my meat intake, until I can eventually cut it out altogether. Send me your favourite vegetarian recipes, and I’ll try them out sometime!