Every year I decide to give up something for Lent. No I’m not religious, I just feel that it is good for the soul to deprive yourself of something you crave, enjoy, desire or any other number of synonyms for the word ‘want’. In the past I have tended to give up chocolate and various other sweet treats, especially after the gluttony of Christmas, I enjoy gorging on throughout the year. This has been too easy a test and is completed with minimal effort. This year I decided to raise the bar and really test myself, so set upon the idea of giving up meat and fish for Lent.
I have several vegetarian and vegan friends, most of them liberal in their views, but some are hardcore, regularly filling my Facebook newsfeed with pictures of slaughtered animals or undisclosed facts about the meat and dairy industry. Like all my friends I respect their lifestyle even if I don’t necessarily agree with their point of view…but then again maybe they are right. Maybe ‘meat is murder’ and we should feel guilty about how we treat our animal cousins, but I admit I would find it hard to give up meat and cheese. Either way I decided to try a vegetarian diet for Lent to see how difficult it was to adjust. I also persuaded my parents to join me in this venture as they have been vegetarian at times in their life and so have experience in this type of lifestyle change.
The first thing I noticed is that my focus on the dinner plate changed. When we meat-eaters cook, we are usually so interested in how we will season, marinade and prepare the meat that we forget about the vegetables. I found myself searching my neural culinary database for ideas on how to make vegetables more interested and thusly experimented with various herbs and spices or simply tried to enjoy the vegetables ‘au natural’. (I’m sorry I have never been able to stomach aubergine unless it is cut up into incredibly small chunks and hidden in a huge stir-fry.)
When eating at home I found that I didn’t really miss meat that much. My father is skilled in cooking and so was able to whip up all kinds of tasty vegetarian food from simple vegetable stir-frys to more elaborate Mediterranean, tomato-based meat-free delights. We ate a lot of Greek salad which is great because I absolutely love Greek salad. The only time I realised that I missed meat was when I either saw an advert on TV, I rarely watch TV, or when I could smell it being cooked. This usually sent my saliva glands into overload and I would dribble and foam at the mouth like a rabid dog.
Eating out at restaurants also became more difficult. I found that in most eating establishments, catering for vegetarians was clearly an afterthought. I was usually offered a vegetarian lasagne, veggie burger or salad consisting of a few lettuce leaves, slices of red onion, tomatoes and maybe a slice of avocado if I was lucky. Most of the time the food was bland and I felt quite angry at how poorly I was being catered for. Should we judge restaurants by how they cater for vegetarians and vegans?
I didn’t lose any weight during my forty days and forty nights but that is possibly because I substituted meat for carbs. One of the issues I found was that I was always bloody hungry. No matter how many vegetables I ate, my appetite was never sated. So I began to eat more potatoes, rice and pasta. It was a good job I didn’t end up constipated.
Maybe next year I’ll try veganism. Although I don’t think my parents would join me on that venture but it would be a damn good challenge.
Now I must go…the aromas of roast lamb being cooked with rosemary, thyme and garlic are wafting up the stairs and my stomach is protesting that I am not moving in that direction.