I have to admit every time I cook a meal, by habit, I’ll go for a chicken filet or ground beef or (my favorite) fresh Italian sausage. Unfortunately, the more I read and learn about how we mass farm meat, the more I understand why people are going vegetarian. I’m not looking at this from an animal’s rights perspective – don’t get me wrong, I don’t think squeezing chickens into tiny cages is right, but I wear leather, eat meat and kill insects, so it would be hypocritical of me to look at it from that angle – instead I see it from an environmental perspective as well as a health perspective…well, sorta…
First, I’ll get the environmental aspect of going vegetarian. It’s understood that farm-raised cattle/livestock is responsible for a quarter of man-made methane emissions worldwide, contributing to the Green House effect. Also raising livestock can waste natural resources such as water and land through deforestation. Not to mention all the pollution that is caused by feeding, keeping, butchering and transporting livestock.
And in terms of health, it’s frightening to think about some of the ways animals are raised and what they are fed, which in turn can adversely affect our health. Feeding animals excessive amounts of antibiotics can do damage in the long run when the viruses that the antibiotics are meant to treat become immune, and we won’t be able to fight of food-born illnesses if we undercook a pork chop because the medicine we have at hand is pretty useless.
So with this in mind, you’d think I’d become a full-vegetarian. Well, unfortunately, no I’m not. Admittedly I’m a bit of a hypocrite in that I know the facts of the collateral damage of meat production, and yet I’ll participate in this disastrous cycle. It reminds me of a HuffPo post by actress/activist/hottie, Ashley Judd, who recognized the self-contradiction of protesting the abusive labor conditions of the copper mines in Africa, but still purchase items that use said copper.
I now do meatless Mondays at home. Once a week, my partner and I will eat meatless dishes throughout the day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – all vegetarian. After the novelty wore off, I realized I was struggling to cook dishes that were vegetarian and interesting. My scope was limited to pasta, which was okay, but defeated the whole idea of eating healthy (even whole wheat pasta eaten over and over again ends up being kind of fattening).
So, because I love reading cookbooks, I’ve been on a bit of a tear getting vegetarian cookbooks and seeing how they can help me. Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian is a beautiful, big green book, but I found it pretty lacking in actual meal planning and recipes. Still, it was a great read and interesting; even if the recipes were too simple, I still found a lot of valuable information in the book. My favorite vegetarian cookbook which I use pretty often is Kim O’Donnell’s The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour. This is perfect for my kind of cooking because the recipes feature strong flavors and often some of the meals are good rip-off’s of meat dishes. My partner and I have a rule not to eat fake meat – soy products that purport to simulate the taste of meat (i.e. soy sausages or soy bacon, etc). But substituting a Portobello mushroom cap in place of a hamburger patty is a great idea.
I still feel bad, though that despite my best intentions, I’m still contributing to the Green House effect by eating meat on the other 6 days. I also feel bad that when I cook vegetarian meals, I still overload on carbs, butter and oil. Still I’m hoping the idea of doing a little bit is better than not doing anything at all is applicable.