Sunday, October 20, 2013


Vegetarian.  The stigma of the word is starting to wear off for me.

A few years ago it was something obscure and impractical for people who valued animal life more than human life, and were paranoid to the extreme (my view anyway).  There are/were quite a number of other connotations that went along with it.  It was far away from me.  I remember being vegetarian for a day freshman year of college just to see what it was like, and it was basically miserable.  I was hungry all day.  My salad didn't fill me up.

A year later my dad had a heart attack.  That only added to the bad heart health in my history.  I began to pay attention to sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat levels in my food.  The days of lucky charms for breakfast, and Alfredo sauce at dinner were a thing of the past (mostly).  I figured if I made small changes to my diet early, I wouldn't have to make the radical changes that people end up having to make to their diets post heart attack.

In Germany, I read Born to Run by Chris Mcdougall.  One of the main characters was Scott Jurek, a vegan ultramarathon runner.  My earlier vegetarian experiment had failed because I didn't know how to cook properly, and... I didn't like beans (and I hadn't even heard of quinoa yet).  I had lunch meat on my sandwiches most of that year, because they were free and beggars can't be choosers, but I started experimenting with vegetarian dinners sometimes.  I got used to the idea that a meal could still be a meal, even without meat.

I heard a TED Talk by Graham Hill about being a "weekday vegetarian."  It intrigued me, because it was sort of what I was doing already.  I had kind of decided that meat was fine and all, but that we eat too much of it, so I ate it just once or twice a week "on the weekends."  Mostly I loved that I never got a food coma from vegetarian meals.  I could pretty much eat and then go out on a long run a few minutes later - the time I needed to tie my shoes.  Another term for that is being a "meat-reducer"

Then I discovered black bean burgers!

So much more flavor than a beef burger!

I eventually added fried rice made with tofu, and a couple variations of rice and beans, and reached a point where I was making all of my meals vegetarian.  Pretty much the only time I ate meat was when others prepared the food, or sometimes in restaurants.  Even those times though, I think I really ate the meat because I didn't want to be a vegetarian, because frankly... vegetarians annoy me.  I didn't want to be associated with it, and so occasionally people would ask if I was vegetarian, and I would quickly reply, "no, I just don't eat a lot of meat," which was the truth.  I suppose I don't like labels.  The only label I take readily is that of "Christian" although even that label cannot be applied without an inner struggle.

Sustainability.  Unlike some I don't fear running out of resources really, but I don't like being frivolous.  I'm an engineer.  I like efficiency.  Nutrients come from the ground through plants which we can eat.  If animals eat the plants and we eat the animals, it takes about seven times as much plant to get us our nutrients because of inefficiencies in the food chain.  Of course, there are some areas that are good for animal grazing and not good for planting human food, so it goes both ways.

I read a section of a book called The China Study in which the premise was that yes, carcinogens cause cancer, but only in the presence of animal protein.  Carcinogens are almost impossible to avoid entirely, but animal protein can be avoided.  I only read a section, and a lot of it went over my head, but it was interesting.  They did an in depth study of many regions in china because the government had a lot of data, and since people eat very locally, most people in the same county ate the same foods, so making correlations became easier, at least that was what I understood.

I started adding vegetarian meals to my week so slowly, that it wasn't really difficult at all.  That brings an interesting phenomenon into play that is really obvious.  If something is hard, you need a lot of motivation to do it, but if it's easy, you need very little.  Since it was easy, I didn't need much motivation.

Healthwise, I have some decent motivation to eat less meat.  Morally I take most of my cues from the Bible.  In the Bible, God initially gave us only plants to eat, but after the fall of mankind he permitted the eating of animals, so I don't think eating meat is sinful.  The Bible also says that all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial (1 Corinthians 10).  The context there is actually talking about eating meat offered to idols.  At the same time, I think if we are fully capable of living with relative ease without needing to unnaturally raise and then kill animals, then there might be value to that.  I know that in some areas of the world, they can only survive by living off of animals and I am totally okay with that, but in places where it's easy to avoid, I figure it's worth avoiding.  I'm not sure where the dividing line is between easy and hard so I'm not going to make a moral judgement on the matter.  It does intrigue me though that before the fall of man, we were vegetarian.  Of course we were also naked... so I'm not suggesting we try and imitate that time period.

Some of my vegetarian meals are vegan like this amazing chili:

Others like the black bean burgers require an egg.  Eating vegan meals is more challenging, and it's not a priority right now, but in my book, a vegan meal is a bonus I suppose.  Maybe over time, the survival of the fittest in my recipe book will make me a vegan.  I bought chocolate soy milk for the first time today.  Of course it is a little bit pricey which makes it less convenient so I can't afford it all of the time right now.

So I don't know where this story will end.  I suppose I am a vegetarian in denial, and may eventually find myself being a vegan in denial.  I don't really know.  This concludes a summary of a journey I never saw myself taking.  I am not telling you to take it, though I appreciate having other people to bounce ideas off of, and if you are willing to accept that a meal without meat is still a meal, it will make it much easier for me to invite you into my home.  My home is great.  If I'm at your home, I will gladly eat your meat and I promise not to judge you.  I care about you much more than I care about my diet.  I value people high above animals.

That's all I have to say now.

1 comment:

Mark Weber said...

I just took a theology of the environment class and I was shocked to read that the best way to reduce our carbon footprint was to become a vegetarian. Being a good neighbor in our global community has made me really want to rethink how much meat I eat and someday I would like to develop a posture similar to yours. Right now its tough when you have a three year old who you cant get to eat anything. I think you're on the right track.