If I were to announce to my family that we were going vegetarian – something I could actually do seeings as I do all the cooking and the shopping – you would hear cries of dismay across the country. My meat-loving husband and chop chewing daughters would be mortified. For me the idea has a certain appeal and, though I do enjoy meat, I think I could quite happily live without it. I’m not going to force my vegetarian desires on to the rest of my small tribe, but I have been shifting the balance between meat and veg in a very distinct way, more veg less meat. There are many reasons why I think this is the way to go….
1. Because I grow the stuff!
I have found that growing vegetables without any thought to how they are going to be used on the plate can lead to quite a bit of waste. I forget I have certain things growing, or neglect to pick them at the optimal time, or worse still I grow things that I don’t really want to cook with just because I had room in the garden or they were supposed to be easy to grow. I’m all for a bit of experimenting with growing new things, but if I go down this path the approach as to be two-pronged, experimenting in the garden should lead clearly to experimenting in the kitchen. I have found that if I put the veg centre-stage on the plate I get better use out of it in the garden. This has clearly been shown with the silver beet which I have found more and more uses for and often as the star ingredient instead of a piece of meat. So more and more frequently I find myself side-stepping the meat and three veg meal in favour of a veg and three veg meal, or at least a predominantly veg meal, with my home grown stuff on show. It is so much more satisfying seeing your efforts in the garden making up the bulk of the meal.
2. Vegetables are cheap(er)
I pretty hopeless at sticking to a grocery budget, though I’ve had to get a bit better at it while we’ve been down to one income. My natural tendency is to buy the product that makes me comfortable from an environmental and ethical standpoint than to buy the cheapest product on the market. I do this as much as I can and by limiting meat and replacing it to some extent with vegetables means that my ethical and environmental dollars can stretch a bit further.
3. I can buy ‘better’ meat if I limit the amount we eat each week.
My mother’s family have been beef cattle producers, agents and auctioneers for four generations, I would be shunned if I suddenly announced at the family steak off that I was a vegetarian. But I do want to buy ‘better’ meat. This especially goes for chicken and pork which are generally terribly treated animals by the major meat producers. It also makes sense that animals that are treated poorly, fed all sorts of supplements and non-natural diets and given no quality of life are going to make for inferior meat both in taste and in nutritional value. By limiting meat consumption I can spend a bit more and buy ethically raised meat, fed from a natural diet and slaughtered at a more appropriate age.
4. A vegetarian diet is better for the planet.
While I may have some difficulty convincing some of my family of this fact, it has been well documented that a vegetarian diet has far less of a negative impact on the environment. In green terms there is much more good to be done by cutting out meat than there is by cutting out food miles, though I think both certainly have a role to play in becoming a more sustainable society. This one goes especially for red meat.
5. Veggies are just plain good for you!
Miss Three may disagree with me and Mr Good may choose to ignore this fact, but it is so, eating plants is good for our health and good for our bodies. We humans may have been designed to eat meat (as my mother regularly reminds me), but we were perhaps not meat to eat it in such great proportions or such great frequency. There are plenty of good things in meat, but we don’t need the quantities that are often found in our modern western diet. Perhaps meat it more suited to a position on the side of the plate or only found on the family meal planner every couple of days instead of several times a day. Adding just a small amount of meat to a mostly vegetable stirfry seems more sensible than doing it the other way around. Or maybe some ham or bacon in a pasta, soup or quiche. A roast dinner should be more about the gorgeous pumpkin, carrots, potatoes and parsnips with a side serve of chicken, beef, pork or lamb. There are so many great ways to stretch the rest of that roast out over a few meals, all bulked up with plenty of veggies, pulses and grains.
There is also one final reason I’m drawn to a vegetarian diet (which is completely cheating as that would be six, I hope you can overlook that) and that is the cooking side of things. I’m not really into handling raw meat, especially chicken for some reason, and as I’m not so familiar with vegetarian cooking I am enjoying learning some new things. It’s great to experiment with different combinations or adjust recipes to suit what’s in the garden or at the farmer’s market.
So there are my reasons for bucking the family trend and heading to the veggies. Are there any other arguments I can add to my arsenal when facing a family of disgruntled meat eaters?
Check out Liz’s top five here.