Monday, April 18, 2011

I was never an Absolutist

I've been reading books and chatting with people about vegetarian and vegan lifestyles lately. I will admit that most of my inquiry is health-based. I've read enough general nutrition books, studies and articles and met with my own nutritionist enough to know that the more plant-based a diet is the better it is for a person's overall well being.

In comparison to my husband, my life is rather leafy green. In comparison to a vegan, not so much. Meat doesn't come into my house too often, mostly because it's expensive and full of calories for smallish portions. I'd rather spend money on fruits and vegetables because I get to eat more, and let's face it, I'm a bulk eater by nature.

MacTroll on the other hand drools carnivore. And, truthfully, I have absolutely no problem with that. He makes his choices, and the more time he spends in urban environments, the more snotty he is about the high level of quality meats he wants to put in his mouth. He told me years ago that he never gets full when eating meat, but he loves it so. Hmmm, maybe medium rare filet mignon is his trigger the way I drool over baked goods?

Anyway, here's the deal. I haven't been sleeping through the local food movement. It just hasn't really come down in a price range I'm comfortable in dealing with lately. When I say I eat local, I mean I eat what's from my garden. Because the Urbana Farmer's Market is really kind of expensive (but it also starts really soon). I usually buy asparagus, corn on the cob, some lamb brats and pumpkins there throughout the season. But the five times I go each year usually sees me buying X-man his $1 popcorn as I wander around and try to find something I'm willing to pay for and then going home empty handed. It's kind of sad. Because there are foods I eat, but I just can't stomach paying 2-3 times more for them than I would at Meijer -- or even Schnuck's.

I signed up for the CSA program one year when X-man was an infant. I felt very wasteful because it was before my cooking interest started, and they gave me all kinds of things (even recipes for them) that I just didn't have the energy in my postpartum depression to muscle through. I mean, what one person can eat 2 plastic bags of rhubarb? I'd make into pies, and, seriously, never mind that Cooking Light thinks Healthy Pies are possible, they really aren't. I also remember getting 3 pints of gooseberries. Really, what the hell is a gooseberry? Now, I'd probably have no problem concocting meals of inexplicable ingredients that the farmer chose to plant. But really, I'd do much better with a lot more tomatoes and zucchini than six different kinds of salad mixtures. So, I haven't done it again.

This weekend is the turn the dirt weekend in my backyard. It was supposed to be last weekend, but the cold, ass rain made me lazy on Saturday, and then a 12-mile training run and some way more fun social scheduling kind of took precedent on Sunday. But the strange part is that I haven't decided what to plant yet. I know there will be spinach (because we eat it like no one's business, and I was reading something the other day that talked about how buying baby spinach from the store was some how ecologically worse for the earth than beef, but I have to admit, I only got the headline and lede read before I had to move on). I also know there will be plenty of salsa stuff, and the usual mint pot for MacTroll.

But last year, I had the whole thing mapped out by February and in the ground by now. I know I'll have strawberries and raspberries. We'll see how the blueberry bush does. But I keep waiting for my inspiration to come.

I feel the same way about reading these books and making a lifestyle change. Any book that has any kind of shaming involved or that leads with the concept that meat eaters are dumb and cruel and killing the earth, I put back. It might be dumb to eat meat in the copious amounts that most Americans consume it. It might be cruel the way factory farms treat their livestock. And the farm industry, particularly the cattle ranches, are doing a shitload of damage to the environment (more than even the transportation industry that's how potent cornfed cattle farts are), but I need the science I don't need the lecture to make up my mind.

As it is, I also need a lot of flexibility. If I choose a different lifestyle for myself, I'm not forcing the other two humans in my house to have it. But it is true to say that I myself will stop preparing meat-based meals, should I go that way. And if I've learned anything in the last two years it's that the more vegetables I feed MacTroll, the more likely he is to leave the leftovers in the fridge and eat out at Jimmy John's or Potbelly or Subway... If the meat is cooked at home, those fast food trips stop (or at least lessen). Funny how that works. Plus, in certain circumstances (thanks to the Common Ground Coop) I know where the meat comes from and that it's not loaded with antibiotics, nitrates, etc. But they don't carry an extensive list of meats at the Coop in the off Farmer's Season. And it is way, way more expensive to get it from Triple S in the summer than pick up the factory farm stuff at Meijer. (But we do our best with the Smart Chicken.)

My point is that in one of the books (Becoming Vegetarian) I'm reading they talk about the various kinds of vegetarianism. Then they address the stricter vegan, who are often more likely to extend their life choices to not wearing wool or silk or other animal products. I love that this book gives you the facts without the hounding, so far. And that they use the term "Near Vegan." Oooh. Maybe I could be a vegan that still eats honey, wears smartwool socks and has ice cream once a month. I wouldn't eat cheese or meat or eggs but I also probably wouldn't feel compelled to research every ingredient in my facial cream.

I guess when I started I thought I was going to have to choose and be all hard ass about my diet choice. But I don't. Others might consider this flaky, but in this world, I think there are some areas you can cut a person some slack and food is definitely one of them. There are so many choices to be made and so many social, environmental, emotional, economical and nutrition-based reasons to make them.

But the big question is, even though meat isn't a trigger food for me, how much would I miss it? I like its smell. I like its taste. But I don't usually crave it (well, except the 10 months I was pregnant). So, I'll keep reading.

The only other thing that makes me put a book back on the shelf besides shaming, by the way, is any book that promotes veganism as a method of weight loss. Eff that. Been there, done that. And I think mentioning it in a title is just a way to feed off people's insecurities.


Debra said...

I think your posts are thoughtful and well worded. I am extremely intrigued by kind of the "economics" of food. I have a hard time getting more produce in my diet while providing everyone with enough calories (especially the peanut) without buying meat. And when I say meat... I mean cheap <$2/lb meat. It is frustrating feeling like I want to do better but you are so right about the farmers market... its pretty expensive comparatively speaking and meat and pasta with veggies and fruits on the side are about the only way we can stay near budget with food. I mean, most people are not going to have their income go way up so it seems to make sense to figure out a way to get healthy things to poorer people. *sigh. End. rant.

The Fearless Freak said...

I always read stuff about saving money on groceries and they always list shopping at the farmer's market and I just don't get it! Why, in the middle of freaking farm country are we paying double for farm fresh goods compared to grocery stores? Is it that our groceries are that much cheaper than other places that the farmer's market prices are so out of line?

About the only thing I get at the farmer's market anymore are Green Zebra tomatoes, simply because they are totally delish but aren't sold in stores. I understand why. They are small (smaller than romas), they are green (limited appeal), they are finicky (they only grow in very specific conditions) and they don't tolerate green house growth (no out of season) but the reality is, as much I love them, they really aren't worth the trip for weeks in a row to maybe catch 4 or 5 tomatoes. I was thinking about getting some seeds and growing some myself, but really, it seems like a lot of effort (at least as much as going to the market) for the potential of a few tomatoes.