For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, let me explain. This post is my input, my two cents about meat-eating, vegetarianism, and veganism. I grew up eating meat, probably like most of you. Not only did I eat meat, but I hate some rather strange meat. My mom cooked meat 3 to 4 times a week. We would mostly have beef. Cow’s tongue was my brother’s favorite so unfortunately I had to eat that. We would have steak, roast beef, hachis-parmentier, which was similar to Shepherd’s pie, spaghetti a la Bolognese, etc. I never liked the taste of beef so my mom would have to get me chicken breast instead. We’d also have rabbit, duck, lamb, chicken, and fish on a regular basis. At Christmas time, we would have foie gras, all sorts of fish and fish spread, turkey, quails, etc. Wow. Now that I think about it, it sounds horrible. But wait, there is worst. Once my dad took us to a restaurant and one of my family members ordered kangaroo. So I tried kangaroo. I think that was peer pressure. Eating escargots and frog legs was peer pressure too because I neither do find them appealing nor tasty. My mother would eat liver and my uncle once invited us over for Christmas Eve and we had to eat blood sausage. I nearly vomited.
So that’s my background. Raised a meat eater! In college, once I was free from my mom’s cooking, I stopped eating beef. The only time I would have beef again would be when I was pregnant and had horrible meat craving. I knew I was pregnant before the test confirmed it because I kept wanting to go to go out to eat a hamburger! But mainly I switched to chicken and fish. We cooked meat maybe once a week. I had significantly reduced my dairy intake as well since I realized that all the discomfort I had during childhood was coming from me being lactose intolerant. I would still eat some cheese and butter though. I didn’t consider being a vegetarian until 2002 when I unfortunately went through a health crisis. Once I returned from surgery, we started eating macrobiotics. My husband and I read the Cancer Prevention Diet by Michio Kushi and had our eyes open for the first time. The book was fascinating to me. I had just gone through a horrible ordeal with a tumor and I was convinced that food and stress had caused it.
I felt blessed in a way to have gone through that because it gave me a new perspective on life and food. I stopped eating meat when I went macrobiotics. For those who do not know, macrobiotics is a lifestyle that is pretty much 60% grain, beans, vegetables, no meat, no sweets, no alcohol except for beer that is sometimes allowed. It cuts all the refined food, sugar, artificial anything from your diet. It is NOT a raw diet though. Our family pretty much ate macrobiotic from that point on. Our 2 year old at the time learned to eat healthy and ate everything put in front of her. Then, I got tired of it so we ate, mostly macrobiotics but cheating once in a while but grains, beans and veggies were still our main source of food. I tried to be entirely vegetarian but I could not tolerate the soy burgers, tacos, etc. Those were evil to my body. It would make me angry and make my breast triple in size. Because my tumor was an ovarian one and I had major hormone problems, I decided to never touch soy again. Soy is very bad for you unless it is fermented but there is only so much natto and tempeh you can eat. I do make delicious lettuce wraps with tempeh and you can pretty much use tempeh in any dish you would use ground beef or ground turkey!
Fast forward to us moving to California where the real change happened. California is an amazing place to live if you want to eat less meat. We are so lucky to have so many farms and so many fresh fruits and vegetables. We have farmer’s markets everywhere, on any day of the week. Vegetarian and Vegan restaurants are on every corner and you can pretty much substitute regular milk with soy, rice or almond milk in most places (I said MOST!). Things really changed for me when I watched Earthlings. The documentary shows how animal are treated before and while they are being slaughtered. There are many other documentaries out there, such as Vegucated that will show you the same ideology but Earthlings is the most shocking. We cried when we watched it. When I was done watching it, it was so easy to give up meat. I was personally shocked about the kosher meat industry. Watching the secret footage inside the kosher plants just made me sick. I realized back then that it was hard to even trust kosher or organic food. The only way to really avoid being part of these horrible practices was to become a Vegetarian or at best, a Vegan!
Now, becoming a vegetarian was easy for me. I do not like meat that much. I really only liked white meat but after having to prepare a turkey for the first time, I had no problem giving that up. There is nothing more horrific to me than cleaning a turkey and preparing it. I was so grossed out by the raw meat smell, I never touched it again. Everytime I would get a rotisserie chicken, I would be annoyed by the fact I had to dismember the poor little dead animal for my own eating pleasure. So, see, I always felt kind of bad. I grew up with my grandma killing rabbits in front of me, peeling their skin and then handing the tail to me for good luck and was always a little petrified but it was part of life. Being a grown up now, and having more awareness, I realize that we do not need meat to survive. A nice part of Vegucated is talking about our historic need for meat, etc. People will argue that we are carnivore but I disagree. We can very well survive and thrive on other food. We will not only reduce our carbon footprint but we will also be more humane to animals. My grandma had a farm, she had two dairy cows. She loved her cows and treated them well. As a child, I thought it was cool to be on the farm and watch my grandma milk the cows. I saw a baby cow being born. I also would walk the fields with my grandma, boots on, walking in the muddy trails until we reached the field where cows were awaiting their lunch. We would feed them, pumping water, etc. My brother, cousins and I would play games in the hay or around the farm. It was the best. I would pick up fresh eggs from the hens. I would watch my grandma make her own cheese. Farms are no longer like this. Our demand for meat had made us partner in crime with the farming factories. The more we eat, the more crowded animals will be. It is not human for pigs, cows, chicken to be thrown on top of one another while they are waiting to be slaughtered. Many get diseased or die before they are even massacred. There is some raw footage in Earthlings and Vegucated that will most likely shock you. I know it shocked me. The viciousness of some of the workers is disgusting.I sometimes ask people to picture this: imagine it is far in the future. We have been colonized by a foreign alien people who sees us as “their animals” (for the record, I want to believe that if ET life does make it here, they will hopefully have more wisdom that us), gathers us, puts us in farms, artificially impregnates us women so that we can keep lactating for them (because we all know that colostrum is the best for your baby…right…hopefully I do not need to spend a whole hour on this simple fact). Imagine the sadness and suffering we would go through when they take our child away from us. Imagine hearing how they killed our baby boy for meat. Imagine getting sick and not having care or being killed because of it. Picture yourself next to a fellow human, asking each other, why are they doing this to us, there is so much other kind of food they could eat. Why do they think we are less than them? Maybe the ET people thinks we do not feel pain, maybe they think we are less than them because we do not communicate in the same way. But how do they truly know? Think about it. That is what we do to animals when we send them to slaughter, eat them, or drink their milk.
Listen, I am not a mean person. I even think Peta’s approach is a little too strong (I still support them but sometimes distance myself from them). I am aware of how hard it is to be a vegetarian or for me a vegan. My goal is to be a Vegan but I love cheese and butter too much. I never liked cow’s milk and eggs so that’s easy for me. I have been baking without eggs and milk forever. What we do is what we can. We try to do our homework before we buy a product. I still think I am irresponsible for eating cheese, knowing how a poor goat has to have babies just so I can eat yummy cheese, but I am a work in progress. We limit the amount of goat cheese we eat. Only once in a blue moon will we have regular cow’s cheese and we always try to get local cheese. It costs us an arm and aleg but it is only a small price to pay for the cruelty animals had to go through to bring us that cheese. We also mix it up and do eat other type of cheese such as nut cheese. Butter. Well I can go without it but again, I go through phases where I have to have it. Otherwise, we use olive oil and grapeseed oil for high temperature. We stay away from corn or canola oil. Earth balance is ok so we would sometimes have that. So as a general rule, we eat cheese and butter for cravings and treats. Being a Vegan is not easy. I mean, if you love chocolate, it is difficult. I am a chocoaholic and Lindt is one of my favorite. The creamy milk chocolate bar is out of this world and I feel bad about it because it has milk in it. Don’t get me wrong, I buy vegan chocolate….and it’s good. I can bake with vegan chocolate but around Christmas time, I gotta have my Lindt. It is easier to avoid gelatin and buy vegan clothes or shoes for me than avoiding chocolate!My point is that nobody is perfect but what we can all do is do our best. Some of us can be vegan in a split second. Some people can only be vegetarian. That’s ok. I would recommend however to just at least try to get the most human eggs and milk. It is possible. Do your homework, call the companies you shop from and ask questions, visit a farm. If you eat meat, do the same. Eat organic and from a local farm. If you do not adopt a vegetarian diet, at least try to make up for it by reducing your carbon footprint and encouraging others to do the same. The time you will give will somehow compensate.
I am not one to judge those who eat meat if they do not know what truly happens. Buying meat is so easy. It’s prepackaged and no one thinks how an animal’s life was taken becaused of it. A lot of us would rather not know because the truth hurts too much and once we know and continue eating meat, we become active participants in the mistreatment of animals. Awareness is important. Educating ourselves and our children is important so that we can hopefully change our attitude. Children who are raised vegetarian find it easy. The more we can raise vegetarian or vegan children, the more we are helping our planet and saving future generations. I think that taking children to see animals (not in a zoo!) in sanctuaries is a great idea. They usually befriend the animals and see that they have feelings. My kid is the one who made me stop eating lamb because she burst into tears when I explained that lamb was a baby sheep. Ironically enough, I had gone through the same ordeal as a young child but was desensitized because of my meat eating culture. Us, those who grew up eating meat might always have challenges but we can do our best as long as we have patience. Do not punish yourself if you cheat. I once had to have meat. I felt my body needed it. I did. I was so mad at myself but then I though, oh well, I will not do it next time. Temptation will always be there if you once loved meat. One step at a time. Start by reducing your meat and dairy intake and then slowly move to a more vegetarian diet. You will not become vegetarian overnight. Also you need to allow yourself to explore all the yummy dishes you can make while being a vegetarian or vegan. It does not have to be boring or bland. Trust me. I make the most out of this world desserts and dishes! Sometimes people don’t realize they are eating vegan desserts!
In my next posts in this categories, I will go into more details about how you can live a happy Vegetarian or Vegan life. I will share recipes, ideas and more links.
Leaving you with a few other documentaries to watch: