It is awkward to be a vegetarian in the company of carnivores.
I’m out to eat with my parents, in town visiting, and we’ve stopped for a bite to eat. And I am realizing for the first time since adopting my new diet what it means to be a man and a vegetarian in America. The waitress asks me if I’m a vegetarian after she takes my order. Although in the grand scheme this isn’t a big deal, I do notice that when my father orders meatloaf, she does not say, “Carnivore, huh?”
In these questionable moments when I feel like I’ve committed a social taboo, I realize how important my meat-free decision is for my own personal growth. By giving up meat and seafood for the forty days of Lent, I can challenge my religious discipline AND my own preconceived notions about the dietary expectations of an American male.
Today, I’ll examine my clumsy metamorphosis into a vegetarian. I am happy to say that although I have not slipped up and ordered a cheeseburger, I have a lot to learn about being a vegetarian. I hope to resonate with you; more experienced vegetarians, please offer a recovering meat-eater advice.
The Farewell Tour to Meat
This two-week period was my Acceptance Period and I decided to go out in style. This last-hurrah for meat tour involved one Shake Shack delicious cheeseburger. It also included a layover at my cousin’s Greek-Armenian-Cuban wedding extravaganza which provided a buffet of mouth-watering roast beef, lamb, pork, clams, oysters, clams, and shrimp – every glutton’s dream send-off.
Temptation: Why I hate my Neighbor
One important thing to remember during the transition is that the rest of the world will still eat meat. When I awoke to the smell of bacon wafting in from a neighbor’s apartment that first Saturday, I realized that keeping a vegetarian diet would be no easy feat.
This pig-lover next door continued to taunt me for two weeks, like he was slapping a sizzling a steak in my face. I craved meat so badly.
But a month later, I’ve overcome the feelings of withdrawal and reached a state of peace. When the smell of temptation wafts in every Saturday, I think, “Larry’s cooking bacon again” and then move on. Perhaps becoming a vegetarian has taught me to be a more productive person. But the jury is still out.
Vegetarian or Comatose: What’s the Distinction?
During my first two weeks, I began to shut down by about 8:30 pm. This was very disconcerting, not only because I’m 24 and in grad school, but conking out at by 9 is not conducive to living, a full life.
After a little research, I realized that I’m not the only new vegetarian to experience lethargy. From what I’ve read, it’s caused by either protein or iron deficiency.
My energy level perked up when I added more grains and eggs to my diet. Only after I corrected this problem, I realized that it is possible to be a vegetarian and feel quite alive.
Hitting All My Food Groups: A Man’s Way to Balance
As my narcolepsy example proves, it is vital to enter vegetarianism with a dietary plan with all necessary vitamins and nutrients. Although there are some very helpful blogs and vegetarian pyramids online, these guides are not always easy to follow. Instead, I created a dumbed down list.
These are my interpretation of Vegetarian for Dummies Rules:
- Protein – eggs
- Calcium – dairy
- Vitamin B-12 – milk, eggs, and cheese
- Iron - Whole grains
- Zinc - Whole grains
However, I did find myself often dependent on eggs, milk, and pasta and know that there are healthier ways to consume all of your nutrients like quinoa, nuts and beans. Also, I knew that But what else should I be incorporating in my diet?
Vegetarian Health Benefits
Although I was aware that a vegetarian lifestyle was often perceived healthier than a carnivorous diet, but I only recently looking into it.
Here’s a summary:
- Meat products are higher in saturated fats: bad.
- Vegetarian diet tends to be lower in saturated fats: good.
- Therefore, vegetarians are at lower risks of heart disease, diabetes and cancer: very good.
Become A Dare Devil
I hope using the word daredevil will transform soybean chicken into something more edgy and masculine. I decided to try at least a few faux-meat items.
My conclusion? These hybrid foods were actually not that bad. They may not look or taste like meat, but something is comfortingly familiar how they replicate the texture of meat.
Testing Out GPB Recommendations
Luckily, my fellow writers had some great recommendations for me. I had a great smoked tempeh burger at Hip City Veg, thanks to fellow Julia Knable. Erin Cooper’s Honeygrow addiction lead me to this Philly gem with great vegetarian stir-fry and salad options.
Julie also previously shared 6 baby steps into vegetarianism to ease the transition.
Mark Your Territory in the Kitchen
I decided this trial was the perfect time to test how to use my oven. (Apparently, every kitchen has one.) Although I am no Anthony Bordain, cooking for myself has really helped me have total control over the ingredients. My favorite cooking websites were Allrecipes.com and SmittenKitchen.com, both offering a diverse database.
Here were two of my favorite recipes:
- Allrecipes: Zucchini, Asparagus, and Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese.
- Smitten Kitchen: Roasted Tomato and Cipollini
One Man’s Carnivore to Vegetarian Conclusion
And this brings me to my current point in my vegetarian journey. Although my meatless experiment has broadened my notion of a filling and nutritious meal, I am not sure that I will be able to stick with a wholly vegetarian diet. Meat may come calling, yet I’ll make a concentrated effort to make a few vegetarian days a part of my routine.
Tell me readers, what you think I should do to maximize my vegetarian experience? Do you have vegetarian practices and recipes you’d recommend?