Just for fun, I often try seasonal self-challenges and this summer I had a quiet urge to see if I could get back to my vegetarian roots. Since I eat lighter in hot weather anyway and have been mostly Pescatarian (a vegetarian-like person who eats fish) for many years, I figured I’d see.
(Spoiler): I failed and it’s okay because I learned some interesting things about myself along the way.
Vegetarianism was easier before I knew I was a foodie. Much easier. As a late-teen and early twenties vegetarian, I ate for fuel and had no desire WHATSOEVER to go through (what I considered) extraordinary lengths to follow gourmet recipes. Three ingredients or less was my thing, with go-to favs like beans and rice and broccoli or miso soup tricked-out with eggs and spinach. Weird huh? Except that, freakishly, I LOVE most fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts, and they were cheap, quick and, according to my dog-eared copy of Diet for a Small Planet, the best way to eat anyway.
Everything shifted though when I taught myself to cook and my hedonist emerged and demanded more flare, flavor, and especially, texture. Note to self: You can season the hell out of rice and quinoa, but can only pump so many pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and garbanzos in before it gets weird.
Vegetarianism is sort of like a part-time job. Cows graze ALL day. So do human vegetarians. It wore on me this time. Either I was eating or staging my next meal. Got tired of chewing, got tired of food prep. After a few weeks, I became a regular at Whole Foods salad-and-hot-food-bar and vegetarian Indian restaurants to cut down on fixing and ferrying a grocery bag of little meals to work each day. That is until the budget-busting aspect of eating out so much settled in.
Vegetarianism isn’t a compelling moral imperative for me. I get that it is for some though. For me, it’s about getting optimum nutrients and the right foods for my body. Another life ago, I had a vegan boyfriend who every now and then said it wasn’t cool to eat things with faces. He was also fanatical in doofy ways. One, he snuck into the kitchen when I was cooking to make sure the vegetable entrée was sufficiently segregated from my salmon. Like my salmon was going to molest his broccoli salad. Two, he didn’t like to dine out due to conspiracy theories about restaurant cooks compromising food. I ate with carnivores. Didn’t judge. Didn’t make them move their burgers away from my quinoa. I ate out. Didn’t accuse anyone of sneaking animal fat into my bean soup.
I like fish. I like meat. Not often. Not excessively. But it has an authentic, desirable heft and consistency to it that tofu and mysterious fake-meat textured soy proteins don’t. Besides, given my gluten-and-lactose sensitivities and restrictions, it gives me options and variety. I guess I knew my foray into veggie-land was over when I started dropping bits of smoked salmon into my kale-edamame salad one day and then yesterday I flat out bought a roast chicken and devoured a quarter of it like I was just off a hunger strike.
Like a favorite old dress, sometimes I need to revisit some glorified period past to see if it still fits. It didn’t. So I’m back to usually Pescatarian, and sometimes vegetarian or omnivore; a flow that seems to satisfy.