Walking on the Veg Side

Young meWhen I was a kid and first heard about vegetarians it didn't make sense. I couldn't imagine life without meat. It's one of those ironies of life that I'm now moving towards a vegetarian diet.

In my pre-adult world vegetables were a distraction from the main event. The only vegetables I remember liking were picked straight from the garden and eaten raw. In most cases vegetables were an unpleasantness to be avoided, and some - especially cream corn - were an ultimate evil (I couldn't eat cream corn without gagging a little). The real flavour was in meat and carbs, why bother with vegetables? I couldn't wait to grow up and escape the craziness.

The first inkling I had that veggies might actually be desirable was in the dorm while attending BCIT. Some of my dorm-mates were cooking vegetables when they didn't have to! One guy was cooking asparagus for gods sake, and no one had a gun to his head. Asparagus! Oh sure, he doused it in cheese sauce, but he said he liked asparagus. I thought he might be lying and the asparagus just an excuse for cheesy goodness, but the cheese sauce didn't look that appetizing, either. In the back of my mind I wondered if I'd missed something.

Living in Vancouver exposed me to some great food. Food I never thought I'd like. I was fortunate, I had friends who convinced me to try new things. Among the many ethic cuisines I discovered marvelous flavours. It didn't matter that many of these dishes were meatless, they tasted great!

Then as my metabolism started to slow down, my weight started to go up, and the warnings about diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol started to sink in, I started to really look at what I ate. And how I ate it. I started to collect and try "healthy" recipes. A decade before mainstream media talked about 100 mile diets and the word locavore entered the vocabulary I was checking out the Vancouver Slow Food group and learning more about the food I ate. Sadly, the effort was only half-assed and I didn't do much with the knowledge.

Not doing much did mean doing a little bit. The times I cooked at home I was often cooking meatless dishes. Sometimes they even contained vegetables. And I almost always tried to cook healthy. I just wasn't doing enough of it. The lure of the restaurant, convenience of prepackaged processed foods, and aversion to doing dishes (no dishwashing machine) meant my diet still wasn't scoring high on the health scale. But looking back, I wonder if the knowledge I was gathering was silently gaining some critical mass. Or maybe I was just waiting for the right trigger and didn't know it.

Around four months ago the status quo changed. There was a potluck and some of the guests were vegan and vegetarian. Much to my amazement, many of my standard recipes were already vegan or could be made vegan very easily. I was also exploring on the Internet and discovering vegan recipes that sounded really tasty.

Ever have one those moments when you realize a change has happened without you really intending it? Yah.

I started playing around with vegetarian and vegan recipes, and I was having fun! I can't entirely explain why. Part of it was the joy that comes from discovery and exploration. Part of it was an incredulous glee from discovering something right under my nose. Part of it was becoming a better cook (at least I think I am) by seeing how alternate ingredients work in dishes I know and love. Part of it was feeling good because I was making good on my goal of eating better, a goal I set a long time ago and have struggled with. Honestly though, the degree of happiness I felt, and still feel, doesn't entirely make sense to me.

Blueberry Bran Muffins Black Eyed Peas and Rice

Most recently I discovered a 3 week vegan "kick start" diet and I gave it a try. The first two weeks went quite smoothly and I discovered some new food I liked, like quinoa and black eyed peas. Did you know black eyed peas were actually beans? I didn't. Except for a wicked craving for deep fried fish, I found I wasn't missing meat. The craving is really strange, deep fried fish isn't something I regularly eat. I didn't maintain a purely vegan diet over the three weeks, there was an especially bad snag in the third week (*cough* fillet-o-fish *cough*), but I did eat mostly vegetarian.

Does failing the "kick start" mean I'm going to stop? Not in the least!

Quite unexpectedly I have more energy in the evenings, and I don't experience the post-lunch sleepies like I used to. I was hoping to lose weight and I am, albeit slowly. And my digestive tract is much happier (I won't spell that one out in detail). The snag I mentioned was more about not wanting to cook that day than anything else, and something I struggle with regardless of menu (where are the great vegetarian restaurants on days like that?). And the cravings? Since my goal wasn't to become a total vegetarian giving in to the odd meat or fish craving isn't be a big deal.

But.

Something else unexpected happened. It's hard to explore vegetarian and vegan eating and not think about the critters I eat. Slow Food showed me the issues with our current agribusiness farm system. I'm not a fan. My current vegetarian explorations reminded me that I've acted on my conclusions in very minimal ways. I'd like to do more. Then there are the purely ethical issues around animal slaughter. I have assumptions I've carried my entire life that I've only recently begun to think through. This part of the story has just begun.

So here I am in a place I would find inconceivable as a boy, mostly vegetarian with a very real chance of going fully vegetarian. I can't imagine what the 10 year old me would be saying right now, but I'm smiling as I type this.

9 comments

kc wrote 9 years 7 weeks ago

Hey, I'm smiling, too! What a

Hey, I'm smiling, too! What a GREAT post, Dale! Fist in the air from your biggest supporter! [And next time you get together with those vegan and veggie friends, I'd love to tag along. Nice to meet like minds!

dale wrote 9 years 7 weeks ago

kc, you've been a contributor

kc, you've been a contributor to the journey, too! Not sure if you remember some of the recipe questions last year to and from Surrey meetings.

Sadly Bo Kong on Main has closed, so the Sunday veggie Dim Sum is no longer. :( Will definitely keep you in mind when other opportunities present themselves.

Marina wrote 9 years 7 weeks ago

Vegetarian Isn't a Bad Word! :)

Great post Dale! Cooking for one is always hard - heck, cooking for two is hard sometimes, but I'm happy to hear this is going well for you! Not sure I could ever bring myself to give up my chicken but yes, I love my beans. Especially those garbanzo beans....YUM.

If you're ever looking for quick (like, no cooking required) recipes for chickpeas (I also have a great one for cold rice salad with tuna and cucumber and a portuguese potato & greenbean salad), let me know!

dale wrote 9 years 7 weeks ago

Those sound yummy, we need to

Those sound yummy, we need to talk!

Ryan wrote 9 years 7 weeks ago

Asparagus. The greatest

Asparagus. The greatest vegetable ever.

dale wrote 9 years 7 weeks ago

Still not my favourite

Still not my favourite, but I have made my peace with asparagus.

Monica (aka monnibo) wrote 9 years 7 weeks ago

Vegetarian Restaurants

I believe this calls for a Vegetarian Outing!! One of my favourite restaurants is Foundation Lounge at Main and 7th. I find a great group (on Meetup) is the Vegetarian Meetup Group. Even if you don't go to outings, the past meetups are a great resource for restaurants.

dale wrote 9 years 6 weeks ago

Sounds like fun!

Sounds like fun!

Wasn't aware of the meetup group, will check them out!

Laurie wrote 9 years 6 weeks ago

Congratulations :) We're

Congratulations :) We're making an attempt to eat vegetarian at least once a week (although we just did three-ish days this weekend).

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