I love meat. And I must admit that I have had dreams about the pools of grease in cooked pepperoni on a slice of pizza. But since last October, I (mostly, couple of exceptions) have not eaten meat.
I will spare you all of the details about why I personally decided to cut meat out of my diet, but it has to do with the impact meat consumption has on our environment. I care dearly for my planet, and try to do whatever I can to keep it in a good condition for future generations (so does Bighorn!). After reading up on some information regarding the lack of sustainability associated with meat consumption, I realized I could certainly live without it. It was the easiest decision I ever made. If you care to tune in on the main driver of my vegetarianism, you can Netflix-and-chill to Cowspiracy.
Let’s get this point out of the way, the question of protein. People always ask me “how do you get protein!?”. Believe it or not, there are many sources of protein that isn’t broiled and served on a poppy seed bun. Beans, nuts, soy are just some substitutes. I have personally been experimenting with different veggie burger options (Trader Joe’s masala veggie burgers for the win), and exploring the options with soy, like tofu scrambled "eggs".
ANYWAYS! The main point of this blog post is to show you how I, “Pepperoni Pam” (not my real name), have been able to live happily without delicious bacon and hot dogs smothered in mustard.
Before cutting out meat, I was initially exposed to a few vegetarian restaurants (at first, I was very reluctant to try anything on the menu). I found that the dishes served at these places are actually super good. The “Radical Rueben” at Chicago Diner (Chicago) really was a revelation for me. It was so delicious and filling, that it became my favorite sandwich even while I was a meat eater.
I have three tips for you when trying a veggie diet. First, I really suggest if you are contemplating cutting meat out of your diet to try a vegetarian restaurant in your city with a high Yelp review. Every major city has at least one really good vegetarian location. FYI, for you Denver folk: go to City o’ City, get the buffalo “chicken” wrap, and please offer me some leftovers. And for you Chicago people, go to Chicago Diner and Pick Me Up Café. You will thank me.
My second major tip for meat eaters trying out a vegetarian diet is to try veggie crumbles. They are AMAZING! Boca, Morningstar, Gardein all have variations of this and they are readily available in traditional grocery stores. They have the texture of ground turkey/beef, are sold frozen, and are extremely versatile. I am a big fan of tex-mex and Italian food. All of these recipes at some point call for ground beef or turkey. If you need protein, you can throw this in a batch of homemade tomato sauce or throw it in some home made veggie-filled chili. Last week I made stuffed peppers with brown rice, veggies, beans, and veggie crumbles and it was fantastic. It’s my favorite meat substitute by far, and when I am missing a meaty tomato sauce I eat this and feel very good.
My third major tip is to be open minded when first trying a vegetarian restaurant or a meat substitute. I’ll tell you now that your seitan “chicken wings” won’t have bones like chicken wings, so don’t fret! Don’t try to analyze it SO much and compare it directly to the foods you once had. You’ll find that vegetarian meals have really amazing qualities without the need for meat. For instance, vegan mac and cheese probably won’t be as stringy and ooey gooey as dairy mac and cheese. But you know what? Although the texture isn’t the same, it still tastes really damn good.
So to wrap this up (so you can go eat), if you are a die-hard meat eater, try making vegetarian swaps a couple of nights a week. You’ll be surprised how good meat-free food tastes. And if you don’t believe me right now, then maybe I, Pepperoni Pam, will take you to get a Radical Reuben and may be able to change your mind!
Written by the lovely Hilary Chase. She's a PHD Chemistry Student at Northwestern University but she's also my girlfriend, and has been a part of Bighorn since the start.
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