Was it the way I was brought up or was I born this way? Is there such a thing as a vegetarian gene? This week’s Meatless Monday chronicles my ascent into vegetarianhood. (Cue dramatic music).
My journey began when I came face to face with the McDonald’s cheeseburger I thought I had loved so much. I was 16 and freshly returned from a family trip to Europe where meat I had ordered in restaurants bore little resemblance to the meat I ate while growing up. I was immediately disgusted by the site of this pastel, stringy facsimile of beef and quit eating red meat cold turkey. Several years later I followed suit with poultry and seafood. Again there was a travel connection in this decision.
While gallivanting around the South Pacific and South East Asia I adopted a ‘vegetarian’ diet. After several months with virtually no chicken or fish I noticed that I didn’t miss it at all. (I admit to having a brief interlude with barramundi, a type of fish, and a terrible chicken pot pie in Australia. The latter was key in me swearing off chicken all together.)
Upon my return to Canada, I ate the foods I always enjoyed: beans, bread and chocolate. To this day these foods make up the staple of my diet which I supplement with the best natural produce that my limited supply of money can buy. I do still eat animal-related products such as quality honey of good repute (I favour the vast New Zealand variety of honey), the occasional organic egg and some organic dairy. Otherwise my diet is devoid of animal products. When I look back on my younger years I realized that I didn’t particularly like meat at all. I ate it because it was there. I didn’t like the gnawing required to break it down and the heavy feeling I had once the meat finally made its way to the pit of my stomach.
While living in Vancouver I officially declared myself vegetarian and had a short stint as a vegan. I then became exposed to the cruelty to animals in certain farming practices as well as the health benefits and eco-friendliness of a vegetarian-based diet. These plus the overwhelming research supporting the merits of vegetarian eating keep me proudly vegetarian! While I still have my vegan moments I have found a comfortable place for me on the vegetarian spectrum. Compassion for animals should include the human race too. We each have our own healthy-eating journey to take. Whether that road leads to vegetarianism or veganism it would be compassionate of us to respect the choice of others (and let’s hope they all join us here on the meatless side).
Are you vegetarian or vegan?
Have you always been that way?
If not, how did you become vegetarian/vegan?
So to answer the title Nurture vs. Nature...I believe it’s a bit of both: my experience with meat growing up turned me off wanting to keep it in my diet and I naturally gravitated anyways towards a vegetarian diet.
Other bonuses I have experienced as a vegetarian:
- You can get creative with food. The colours, tastes and textures of fresh produce and grains can inspire your imagination to run wild. Who says bacon, cheese and salt need to be used to make everything taste better?!
- You learn more about nutrition. When first starting out, my vegetarian starter kit said to combine a grain with a legume to make a complete protein e.g. beans and rice. I also learned that B12 can be obtained from non-meat sources i.e. yeast.
- You know how your food is obtained. Whether dining out or shopping to eat in, you tend to ask more questions about where the food comes from and how it is processed in order to ascertain whether it truly is vegetarian/vegan. This leads to a greater awareness of where your food really comes from.