We talk a lot about the concept of part-time vegetarianism here at Casual Kitchen. The term simply means taking advantage of the benefits of vegetarian food but not committing solely to vegetarianism.
Vegetarian cuisine features foods that are low in fat and high in fiber and antioxidants. Even better, vegetarian meals are almost always significantly cheaper than meat-centered meals. Bottom line: this cuisine is cheap and good for you.
So why don't I just shut up and convert over to full vegetarianism?
I hate to admit it, but until now, I honestly never really gave a lot of thought to that question. I'm not a real vegetarian, I just like the food.
But the more I thought about this, the more I wanted to hear what others thought about their reasons for considering, and ultimately rejecting, full vegetarianism. So I decided to take an informal poll of five of my favorite food bloggers, all of whom are meat-eaters. I asked them to answer this question:
Have you been a vegetarian or ever seriously considered going veggie? What to you were the key pros and cons, and what made you choose against it?
Their answers were characteristically blunt, honest and thought-provoking. I came away from this project with quite an education and a great deal of gratitude for the insights of some of the best food bloggers out there.
Here are their thoughts:
Kris, author of Cheap Healthy Good:
In the past, vegetarianism wasn't a consideration for two reasons: I loved meat and hated vegetables. Nowadays, as I'm eating healthier and there's much more variety in my diet, I would definitely give it a shot. As for why, my boyfriend was one for six years, and I have two friends coming up on two decades each. Not coincidentally, they're some of the best cooks I know, because they're forced to be more creative and adventurous with their food. If I could pull off what they do on regular basis, vegetarianism is absolutely a possibility.
Jules, author of stonesoup:
There have been three occasions in my life where I've dabbled in vegetarianism: When I was about 15 and I gave up meat for lent, when I went vegan for a week as part of a detox program, and when I experienced what it was like to be vegetarian for just a week.
The pros for me were ecological and ethical. I grew up on a sheep farm and helped my Dad slaughter lambs on many occasions. I know exactly what's involved in getting meat to the table and that it can be done in a respectful and humane manner.
But when it comes to why I haven't continued being a vego, Vincent from Pulp Fiction sums it up nicely: 'Bacon tastes good, Pork chops taste good'. For me it's all about the flavour. It's the pleasure that I get from chowing down on a juicy steak or a flavour packed chorizo that wins. So I choose to continue to eat meat and I'm happy with that. To balance out my ethical concerns I make sure I source my meat from producers who care for and respect their animals and the path they take to get to my plate. Just because I eat meat doesn't mean it needs to happen every day or in huge quantities. It's all about balance.
Pam, author of For the Love of Cooking:
I have often thought about becoming a vegetarian simply because I hate the thought of animals dying. I used to have a hard time dealing with raw meat and seafood but the more I cook, the less it bothers me. I have never followed through with becoming a vegetarian or vegan because I really love the taste of meat--especially beef, pork, chicken and seafood. I try to use organic or free range when I can and I always use lean cuts except when I splurge on a rib eye. I don't cook meat with every meal and we often eat vegetarian dishes. I like to balance our diet with meat, vegetables, whole grain, fruits and dairy.
Tara, author of Beach Eats:
Part of me has always been attracted to the idea of going vegetarian ... and the other part of me really loves cheese steaks. While I doubt that I will ever fully commit to going veggie, I resolve the two sides of my nature by cooking meatless meals more often. For me, the key pros are the health benefits inherent in a veg-heavy diet--i.e. more fiber, less fat and cholesterol etc.--and the lessened environmental impact. I have real concerns about the effects of agribusiness on the environment and to the extent that I eat meat, I tend to buy organic or locally raised as much as possible. The downside of a veggie lifestyle, for me, would be the loss of some beloved foods--see cheese steaks above--and, perhaps, a concern about reduced protein intake.
Joy, author of What I Weigh Today, and author of the cookbook Almost Meatless:
I was a vegetarian from the time I was in high school until I was about 26. For me it was mostly about not liking the taste and texture of meat--that all changed when I was exposed to better quality, better prepared ingredients. It's relatively easy to eat an ethical vegetarian diet. You don't need to go to the trouble of sourcing healthier, humanely raised meats. Another pro of a vegetarian diet is that it's harder to mess up vegetarian food. If I'm stuck in a chain restaurant, for example, you can bet I will be ordering vegetarian dishes.
A major con to the vegetarian diet is that it isn't as diverse, nutritionally or in terms of pleasure. There are many nutrients found exclusively in meats. Our most ancient food cultures feature meat, and I for one do not want to lose that. In my experience, a vegetarian diet can quickly collapse into an unsatisfying convenience-food diet that leads to weight gain and other maladies.
Finally, I met my husband--a major food enthusiast--and I wanted to share meals with him and his family. Then there was my career as a food writer. I knew that part of excelling in that field meant that I had to open my mind and become willing to taste everything. That was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I now see food as a way to better understand myself, other people, and the world. I still love and eat a lot of vegetarian food and eat a mostly vegetarian diet when I'm not reviewing restaurants.
Readers, how many of you out there have considered going vegetarian? What are your thoughts?
Posts at Casual Kitchen tagged with vegetarianism
The Pros and Cons of a High-Carb/Low-Fat Diet
Ten Strategies to Stop Mindless Eating
41 Ways You Can Help the Environment From Your Kitchen
When High-Fat Food Can Actually Be Healthy For You
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