My experiment as a temporary vegetarian started with the morning of February 15 after a “last meal” at Hot Dog World the previous evening. (Don’t judge. Their tater tots are fantastic and it’s totally romantic for Valentine’s Day.)
Breakfasts were no sweat. My usual granola with yogurt was fine. Maybe an English muffin or bagel on the weekends.
Lunches typically consisted of a salad and peanut butter crackers in the dining hall at work. If that got boring, I might venture out for tater tots, pad Thai or mushroom and Swiss panini.
Dinner really allowed me to get creative.
Portobello mushrooms stuffed with cashews, panko and herbs. Sauteed green beans with garlic. Tomato pie with pesto and three cheeses. Black bean tacos with guacamole slaw.
Dining out proved the biggest challenge.
What other juices might be floating around on the grill where that mushroom and Swiss panini was pressed? What kind of oil were those tater tots fried in?
The only time a meat product (other than eggs, which were allowed because no animal died to produce them) ever crossed my lips was at a Thai restaurant where the waiter served a soup made with chicken broth. I’d told him I was a vegetarian and asked about a few of the vegetarian options on the menu before ordering. One mouthful of soup and I put my spoon down, knowing he’d made a mistake. The soup and a complimentary egg roll were apologetically replaced with diet-safe versions.
One night, I met up with my mom and her husband for dinner. The restaurant they chose had one (seriously? ONE? in this day and age?) vegetarian dish on the menu. And it wasn’t even a salad. And it wasn’t an entree. It was an appetizer portion of fried green tomatoes over cheese grits. Fortunately, it was plenty of food when paired with a side of baked apples.
A few things surprised me.
Only a couple colleagues noticed any change in my eating habits, and I eat lunch with them most work days.
The fiance who had moaned and groaned about all the meatless dinners he would have to endure actually enjoyed the vegetarian meals (especially when they involved cheese).
I didn’t miss meat very much at all. Except for an occasional craving for fish or shrimp, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. In fact, in the absence of meat, I remembered how much I enjoy vegetables. Simple steamed broccoli with a splash of soy sauce? Divine.
Now that the month has ended, I won’t be completely eliminating meat from my diet anytime soon, but the experiment has made me more conscious of my eating habits. More color and variety is continuing to find its way to my plate. The meat to vegetables ratio has shifted, and I couldn’t be happier with the change.