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Meat lover's foray into vegetarianism pays

Much to my carnivorous side’s dismay, my sister seems to be slowly converting me to vegetarianism.

Back in December, I interviewed my sister, Aubrey, for an In & Out of the Kitchen column about tips for vegan cooking during the holidays. When I wrote it, I was firmly in the meat-eating camp, and despite writing it I felt no desire to change my diet. I loved — still love — meat, and unfortunately love is the correct word to use in that sentence. To me, nothing says true love more than a rare rib-eye steak dripping blood and juice all over your plate, your clothes and your face.

My sudden and surprising change of heart came at the end of March, when I spent a week in Boston visiting friends. While there, I spent a day with Aubrey, and I became vegan for a day, eating what she ate — from vegan pancakes in the morning, to a stop at an all-vegan Thai restaurant for dinner.

I felt clean

It was at the restaurant, devouring a plate of “chicken” and broccoli with Jasmine rice, that I came to a realization. While I still ate enough food for probably three people my size and felt quite full, I didn’t feel bloated the way I do after I eat a double cheeseburger, or a steak wrapped in bacon, or a dozen barbecue chicken wings. The best way I can put it is, I felt clean.

The next day, driving back to Scotia, I stopped on the Mass Pike and grabbed a steak and cheese sandwich. For the rest of the three-hour drive back home, I felt awful.

When I got home, the decision had practically been made for me. It was time to cut out meat.

Admittedly, I’ve started out small. My goal was to eat only three meals a week with meat, because I’m really not mentally or physically equipped to give up meat cold turkey (ha!).

And after about a month, I haven’t even met this modest goal — a nasty bout with some kind of mutant cold a few weeks ago left me with chills, a fever and complete apathy toward my pseudo-vegetarian diet. Other weeks, while running back and forth from The Gazette office to concert reviews to band practices, I just haven’t had the time to cook for myself and have cheated at the drive-thru on more than one occasion.

But even with my haphazard commitment to cutting down on meat, I’m already starting to see results, at least on the inside. I feel better. I’ve dealt with irritable bowel syndrome for the past five or six years, and my symptoms — stomach pain, occasional nausea and other unpleasant side effects — have been greatly reduced. I’ve started to take longer walks while on break at work (a product of having more energy from my changed diet, and the extra lung power I’ve gained since quitting smoking a few months ago).

My sister is quite happy with my decision, although she doesn’t think it’s gone far enough. She thinks I should give up dairy, as well — she insists that I am lactose intolerant. I think she might be right, but I can only do one thing at a time.

One day at a time

This leads me to a question that I honestly don’t want to ask — will I quit meat all together? I’m scared to say yes, because I can’t imagine myself never eating my favorite foods ever again.

For now, as long as cutting back on eating meat makes me feel good, I’ll keep at it, one day at a time. Baby steps.

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