I am starting to realize that I should count myself among the lucky. I grew up with grandparents who grew gardens every year (and still do). I knew what fresh vegetables were supposed to taste like. I was able to eat freshly made salsa out of the pot while helping my grandmother to can it. When I was home with my mom, during weekdays we ate a lot of boxed dinners and casseroles. But on weekends, we would go crazy cooking food. Sometimes, it was the southern traditional food like barbecue or hamburgers, but other times we would make stuffed bell peppers or something else healthy. We always had fresh fruit and vegetables around. That is the real reason why I am lucky. I didn't grow up eating only processed foods.
I began to realize how lucky this made me when Richard started commenting on how he had never had certain foods fresh before, like cauliflower. He grew up in a family that pretty much always ate food from a box, with the exception of holidays. When I introduced him to all of my crazy cooking, he was amazed to find that he liked foods he thought he didn't. I finally got him to enjoy eating a stuffed red pepper the other night, it was his third try. It's really difficult to adjust to a vegetarian lifestyle if you don't know how to add fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet.
I used to tell my mom that I could be a vegetarian easily, if I wanted. However, growing up in that family, it would have been more difficult than I thought. It was mid-way through sophomore year of college before I made good on that statement. I decided I was going to be healthier, so I became a full-fledged vegetarian and started going to the gym every other day. It wasn't as hard to adjust as people made it out to be. I didn't ever like red meat that much anyways, so I only missed chicken, shrimp, and sushi. For about eight months I was a vegetarian. Then I got tired of the occasional cravings for protein and decided to become a pescatarian. So, I supplemented my diet with fish and shrimp. There are people who say pescatarianism is the healthiest diet. I stopped craving protein even though I only ate seafood about once a week. It was the best decision I could make for my diet.
Richard isn't taking being a pescatarian quite as well as me. He craves fried chicken on a weekly basis. I don't even understand what could be missing from his diet to make him crave that. So, occasionally I break down and buy a chicken from CLG, which I end up cooking in three or four different meals. My favorite being chicken and dumplings.
Today, we watched the TEDtalk by Graham Hill about becoming a weekday vegetarian. When it finished Richard immediately exclaimed, "See! That would be so much easier!" I could only shake my head at him. On reflection, though, being a weekday vegetarian is definitely an improvement from his old lifestyle. It would probably also mean he didn't consciously miss eating meat. So, maybe that would be an easier way for him to transition.
I would definitely recommend becoming a weekday vegetarian as a starting point. I know several people who have tried giving themselves a New Years resolution to become vegetarian and quickly failed. It's the age old problem where when you deny yourself something, you want it so much more. So, instead of denying yourself completely, try to limit your intake to the weekends. On top of that, buy local organic meats, which are better for you and the environment. I have to say, chicken from CLG definitely makes me miss the diversity of dishes you can make when you add meat to the plate. In the past year, I have had a number of slip ups with eating meat. Curried goat and lamb is just too delicious to pass up every time I eat at an Indian restaurant. Admittedly, it all started with a roasted leg of lamb in Paris, France. So, I think it is okay.
For the most part, I plan to be pescatarian this year. Or perhaps I will become a weekday vegetarian, reserving seafood, poultry, and deer for the weekends. Otherwise, I'll stay away from red meat. The smell of it makes me gag anyway. I will make a concession for meats that are locally produced, or shot in the wild, since my main problem with meat is the conditions in which animals are kept.
I am glad to have grown up in a family who taught me what fresh food tastes like. I am also glad to have taught myself how to cook proficiently, so that the transition away from meat was made that much easier.