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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Becoming Vegetarian

First, it's NOT easy. Usually, it's a long journey that starts with an odd feeling when eating meat, compounded by realizing that in some parts of the world people eat cats, dogs and horses...which, mostly likely, will create a gagging sensation in most Americans. Then it becomes an ethical issue: If I eat any animal with a brain/heart, doesn't that make me the same as those who eat dogs, cats and horses?

Or maybe you witnessed a particularly grizzly slaughter in the meat industry, on a small farm, or saw a movie depicting the cruelty we subject animals to. The reasons for becoming vegetarian/vegan are as varied as individuals.

For me, I lost my taste for meat when I turned 50. At that time, I was on a diet and realized that eating veggies was the simple, easy way of losing weight. When I would eat meat, especially with a lot of fat, it brought on an attack of acid I gradually almost cut out meat.

However, DH still loved his meat and I always prepared separate dishes at our meals. NOT easy to do. When we moved to the farm, I had less time to concentrate on food preparation and started eating a bit of meat again. (We had a horse farm, did not raise animals for food, but did have a large summer garden.)

Then DH had a heart attack, no doubt partly due to the high cholesterol consumption all his life.

I'll never forget the night he had the heart attack: We had just sat down to a meal of hamburger steaks, potato, salad. He looked pale, and wouldn't eat. I asked if something was wrong with the food, and then he said he thought he was experiencing the beginning of a heart attack.

I rushed him to the ER, where indeed, he was in the first stages of a heart attack. While on the ER table, and when the cardiologist arrived quickly, he began to have the heart attack and was given a life-saving clot-buster shot. That was the beginning of a long few weeks, but after 5 stints, and loads of (in my opinion) serious, life-destroying drugs/statins, etc. he came home and resumed his life.

That night, when I came home from the ER, I'll never forget my FURY as I raked all the fatty hamburger steaks into the garbage. It made me nauseous to look at it, smell it, and to some degree I still feel that way today, especially since DH died a year later.

Once a widow/alone, I didn't eat much meat...just occasional white chicken meat. But being in a confused state, I often bought can stuff -- convenience foods like can chicken, soups with meat, etc. That was bad, of course, due to the fat AND sodium. While working at the newspaper, pressed for time, I continued that habit.

But in the last six months I've gradually changed my eating habits to be healthier. And then...about a month ago, I decided I could no longer eat any kind of meat. Right now I'll still have an occasional egg, sometimes soy milk with my breakfast cereal. I eat a lot of salads, veggie patties, vegetables, and take supplements just in case.

The main thing though is that I have started actually COOKING again. And I'm having fun exploring the world of vegetarian cooking; it's amazing how much nutrition you can get without slaughtered animals on your plate. For example, beans and brown rice/cornbread are a complete protein! I like beans and rice, yum. I also learned how to make my own veggie patties from black beans, rice, etc.

Giving up the can stuff was the most difficult! Mainly due to the convenience. I haven't eaten fast foods since DH died; that was, no doubt, part of his heart problem: all those trans fats added to the cholesterol of meat fast foods. Before he died, we would only eat fast food, at most, once every couple of weeks (same for restaurants, most don't offer healthy food). He, however, ate lunch at fast food joints all his working life -- 30+ years!

Here's a few links for those who want to explore the world of becoming vegetarian:

TRY VEG: Great website what wide variety of information

Quick & Easy Veggie Recipe Group

Another veggie recipe group

I have two fig trees in my backyard. Figs ripen on these about a month apart, and one has been loaded down lately with ripe figs. I found an online recipe for freezing figs (with honey, touch of lemon juice) so I can save them to have with cereal during the coming year. My freezer bottom is covered with small individual bags of frozen figs! (Courtesy of the vegetarian food info resources).

I have been buying from the local farmer's market, and enjoying all kinds of veggies: squash, tomatoes, new red potatoes, local honey, etc. Next year I plan to advertise for bartering the large garden space in my backyard to anyone who will till/work/maintain a veggie garden in exchange for my small supply of fresh garden vegetables!

Otherwise, I'm still into my summer routine: walking the dogs late in the afternoon, biking, and just living life day to day. Is there any other way in these hard economic times? By the way, vegetarian eating/cooking WILL save you big bucks too. And who couldn't benefit from that?

One last thought: I was surprised to learn how many famous people (celebs, writers and brainy scientists) are/were vegetarians. For an interesting look at these folks, here's a link:

Famous Vegetarians

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