Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Virgin says no to meat

#21 Never Have I Ever: Gone vegetarian for at least a week.

Foreplay: My diet is generally healthy. I never go grocery shopping while hungry lest I want to come home with four Toblerone bars and a pound of brie. I exclusively buy chicken or fish and only gorge on four-legged creatures outside my kitchen. I work through a pound of spinach a week, creatively injecting it into almost every meal (spinach brownies, anyone?). But the nutritional benefits of animal flesh obviously pale in comparison to fruits and vegetables.

Although I love cooking yellow curry chicken and lemon-pepper salmon and occasionally wolfing down carne asada quesadillas post bar crawls, I know I could be eating healthier. I pushed aside my hesitation about surviving on salads and I turned in my meat cleaver in exchange for pruning sheers for a week.

The Down and Dirty: I'm thoroughly convinced that vegetarianism is just another way of saying "I'm going to relentlessly stuff my face with carbs until I shit yeast" because that's exactly what I did.

Grocery shopping was by far the hardest part of vegetarianism. I didn't realize how expensive fresh fruits and vegetables were until I started piling up my shopping cart with them. How is it that soy chicken costs so much more than real chicken? It couldn't have even pecked my eye out at any point!

At first I didn't even miss meat. I was happy chowing down on margherita pizza, vegetarian chili, garlic-roasted veggie pasta, and other animal-friendly foods. It didn't really hit me until 3 days in. I arrived during lunch time for my teaching job at the high school and having been in such a rush that morning, I had only eaten a few spoonfuls of my Multigrain Cheerios. The aroma of mushy spaghetti noodles slathered with greasy bolognese sauce was so mouthwatering. Never in my life had I ever wanted substandard cafeteria food so much. A fellow teacher insisted we snag a free plate and I made no motion to tell her about my special diet. Thank goodness for my vegetarianism and my arteries, they ran out by the time we walked over.

That night I went to The Spot, a cozy shack of a vegetarian restaurant, and ordered an overwhelming plate of their tempeh enchiladas. Although tempeh has the texture of a potato, my meat craving was immediately satiated -- those were some of the best enchiladas I've ever had. Just the familiar flavor of enchilada sauce and cheese quelled my hankering for animal flesh.

It was smooth sailing from there on out. A funny result of shopping and cooking vegetarian is that I made myself eat healthier. I figured if I'm going to be eating tons of veggies, I might as well invest in some whole grain pasta and brown rice while I'm at it. I added as many vegetables as I could to every possible dish in a race to beat their impending expiration date.

The Afterglow: I've never thought so much about food before. Usually when I come home from work I'll defrost some chicken or salmon, pop brown rice into my rice cooker, and sauté some spinach. But this time I had to sit down and think about what veggies were going to go bad first, and what would fill me up.

Unfortunately, I don't feel any healthier or more energized that I did when I was an omnivore. Perhaps because I was already a relatively conscious eater who loved vegetables. I definitely need to calm it down with the carbohydrates -- fasho.

I don't miss meat too much. There were even times I even forgot I was a vegetarian until someone offered me a meat-laced bite to try. And ya know, I didn't have a single salad all week!

Vegetarianism -- no big deal. Next step: veganism. Goodbye, delicious cheese! Hello, bland tofu!

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