Week 1 for an Unlikely Vegetarian
February 07, 2010
Its been a tradition the past few years to use February as a month of reflection, cleansing and post-holiday clarification.  By this I mean we typically abstain from drinking for the entire month, a rather arbitrary but useful exercise in discipline and health regimen.  I should also point out that February is always the shortest month of the year. 

This year I have decided to raise the steaks stakes.  Concerned friends are quick to point out that I eat a lot of red meat, but I might also add that I eat a fair amount of other colored meats as well.  I've always considered myself a friend to the animals, when I'm not eating them or wearing them.  In recognition of such, this February I'm going the whole the month without consuming alcohol or eating meat.  Yes, you read that correctly. 

I have many vegetarian friends, many of whom are readers of this blog.  In my mind I had historically pictured vegetarians as insufferable, politically-motivated meat-haters who had more or less decided to be unhappy.  But, with age comes wisdom and I've come appreciate that as a fine choice based on a variety of sensible rationale; humanity toward animals, cost and, quite often, taste.  

I should clarify my stance here.  I'm eliminating beef, pork, chicken and their combinations such as sausages, meatballs, etc. Where possible, I'm also avoiding foods prepared with meat-based stocks, but that's not always obvious.  If in doubt, I'll ask but I don't dwell on it.  I do eat eggs, so I suppose I'm cheating a bit here.  I've never been a fan of seafood, so it was easy to leave that off the table.  I do eat dairy, cheese, butter and the like.  I'm not a vegan, because that would just be silly. 

The journey thus far has been easier than expected.  The reality of the type of foods I typically eat on my own during the work week lend themselves well to this exercise: salads, soups, pasta and the occasional quesadilla or pizza.  Weekend dining, which is typically eating out, is only slightly more challenging.  In California, the reality is that there are no shortage of options to choose from, but there aren't always attractive options. 

I'm happy eating food that doesn't contain meat, but that does not mean to say I necessarily like vegetarian food.  Case in point: if you order a vegetarian pizza, the restaurant will likely try to compensate for the lack of pepperoni by preparing some absurdly piled on pie of hippie food; buckwheat, grass and, God forbid, broccoli.  I'm quite satisfied with a non-meat pizza of things I like such as peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, jalepenos, pineapple, etc., but please hold the sprouts.

I'm also not interested in any attempt to simulate meat.  I like tofu just fine, but I have no interest in tofu pressed into the shape of say a chicken breast or hot dog. Veggie burgers are a different animal (pun intended), but I haven't gone there just yet. I should also note that the Apple cafe has some of the finest vegetarian and vegan food around.   I'm curious about the outcomes of this experiment.  Its likely I'll lose a few pounds, but by also eliminating the alcohol I'm unable to isolate the true variables at play.  I would suggest that I'm eating more at this point.  I don't know the science here, but I understand its the fat content in food that tells your mouth to inform your brain that you're full.  Absent that, I just keep eating.  Witness last week's pasta escapade and subsequent food coma.

I'm not sure the point of this challenge beyond the challenge itself. I once asked a good friend why he was so diligent in his observation of Lent, a complicated and seemingly arbitrary set of rules.  He thought for a moment and said, more or less, that he wasn't interested in a religion of convenience.  I suppose that given my well-know reverence for a good prime rib, I too will gain clarity and a better appreciation through discipline and sacrifice.  I have a reservation at a steakhouse on March 1 where I will have a Manhattan, a bottle of red win and a ribeye. 

Until then, I'll write another update in a week or so.  I'm off to Safeway to buy some peanut butter.

tags: food: san francisco