Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Vegetarian Failure! Dealing with the guilt.

It was a long struggle to make the choice to go vegetarian but once the decision was made, I found it surprisingly easy.
When I moved to London as a student, I rarely ate meat because it was expensive. Then as I learned more about factory farming and how food animals are usually treated (pumped with chemicals, piled on top of each other in cramped and filthy conditions) I began to eat only free range or organic meat. And so even when I was no longer a student, meat was still an occasional treat.

I love the taste of meat. I very much appreciate that it's delicious. I loved extremely rare steaks, sausages, chorizo, prosciutto. My biggest weaknesses are for fried chicken, lamb kebabs (ohhh donner meat and chips, my filthy friend) and salmon (particularly raw salmon sushi).

About 10 years passed before I made the decision to go vegetarian early last year.

Rice fried with broad beans and onions topped with egg and sriracha - vegetarian home cooking adventures!

The thing that made it easy was the lift in guilt. I often felt quite aware that meat/fish used to be alive, that I was eating something that had died. Making sure I bought meat from animals that had (hopefully) been well treated eased that guilt for a while. Once I stopped eating any meat, my guilt dropped substantially. It felt freeing to know that I wasn't eating dead creatures. I'm uncomfortable with death and with the idea of a living creature dying for me to eat it. These are my main reasons but there are many more reasons for my choice.

I understand that other people have other priorities and beliefs and requirements. Please don't feel I judge meat eaters/others for not sharing my views. Likewise, I hope I won't be judged for my personal choice here either!

Stu made this vegetarian kebab - halloumi, pickled red cabbage, tomatoes, watercress and pita

Anyway, I already ate meat so occasionally that it was quite a gentle shift in eating habits. There is so much I can still eat that tastes wonderful. I appreciate the deliciousness of vegetables as much as meat. I also love eggs (free range) and tofu and pulses and pretend meats. I just love food. So as long as I have decent vegetarian food to eat, I'm perfectly happy and not having meat is a breeze.

But if I don't have decent food and people are around me eating decent meaty food, it's hard.

This is mainly an issue in other countries where vegetarians are less catered for than they are here in the UK and you have to seek out specifically vegetarian restaurants or eat sides or self cater. (Yeah, lots of places here only give the option of a mushroom risotto or something involving goats cheese, but at least the option is there and you can eat out with your meat eating friends and family without being a massive inconvenience!)

I've made it through quite a few trips with poor veggie options this year but in the end, I cracked right here in England.

Another of mine - rice topped with ginger fried black cabbage and broad beans with baked peanut/coconut tofu

There is a kebab shop I adore. They toss their donner meat in an amazing hot chilli sauce with coriander and deliciousness. I procrastinated on vegetarianism for a long time because of this kebab. They don't really do vegetarian food in this kebab shop. They are also a curry place and there are one or two vegetable curries. I should have got one but I didn't. I had told Hobs about this kebab and so Friday before last, I bought donner meat and chips (fries) for Hobs and Stu, just chips for me and carted it up to the Scatterbrain workshop in an insulated bag.

The chips went soggy. The meat was fine. And I love that meat. And I broke and I ate some of their meat (quite a lot of their meat). And it tasted amazing. And right then I did not give a shit. I called it a naughty day. I was being wilfully naughty. Right then, it felt worth it.

Now? I don't think it was. Except that I realised something. I don't want to do that again.

Super quick veggie dish - pasta, peas and broccoli with lemon parsley pesto

Over that weekend, the guilt kicked in. I'm a terrible vegetarian! I ate a dead sheep! Booooo! Am I so weak? Do my morals count for nothing? I'm a massive hypocrite! Naughty day!? What kind of concept is that? Do I believe in being a vegetarian or do I not? What if I had a naughty day off being married? Where do I draw the lines? What really matters to me?

I was pretty disappointed with myself.

I don't beat myself up for genuine mistakes. Say if a restaurant or family member unintentionally gave me food containing parmesan or gelatine. But this was deliberate and so I was ashamed. I lacked integrity that Friday. That matters to me. That's not who I want to be. I don't want to cheat on my beliefs. I guess vegetarianism has become more important to me than I realised. I didn't realise how much I was letting myself down.

And a rice topped with rocket, cubed root veg, roasted peppers and tofu marinated in a mix of soysauce, vinegar and sesame. I love topping bowls of rice with vegetables and tofu!

I'm alright now. It's done and can't be undone. I just won't be doing it again. (I certainly hope!)

So I'm still a vegetarian. 12 days meat free and hopefully many more to come, as long as I remain healthy and as long as I feel this is what is right. It'll be fine.

What's your weakness? What would/do you find hard to give up?

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