Saturday, April 08, 2006


The Veggie Experiment is drawing to an end, and I thought that it would be a good time to look back and assess against the goals I set myself when I started it.

Firstly, this is more about giving up meat and trying new things to replace it than it is about being strictly vegetarian. I'm doing this for me, not the animals (does that sound awful?). So, on the basis that it's on the "trying new things" list, fish is allowed. For now.

I definitely succeeded with the trying new things part, although that didn't include fish. I had a tuna salad in the first week, and that was it. In one sense that means I wasn' as adventurous as I could have been, but I was more strictly vegetarian than I'd imagined, and I tried more vegetables as a result rather than resorting to fish as a meat substitute.

Linked to this, I'm not going to be a strict vegetarian, and I won't be bothering with vegetarian cheese and scouring lists of ingredients to make sure there isn't any sort of animal product in there. If a bit of chicken stock gets through in a soup I'll survive.

I don't think any chicken stock snuck in, but I didn't go the whole hog with vegetarian cheese. I did try soy yoghurt though, for a change.

Thirdly, I might not actually do all of lent. March is a definite, as is early April, but my mother is coming over for Easter, so I might stop a day or two early once she comes to save explaining what I'm doing and forcing her to change what she cooks for me. (I may make a stand over a salad occasionally, but I'm still a wimp when it comes to standing up for what I actually want to eat).

She arrives tomorrow (hence the experiment coming to an end. I did start a week early, so it works out the same as lent but moved a week earlier. More on this one at the end.

Fourth, to stick with the trying new stuff theme there are two ways I'm planning to do this. One is that I have a vegetarian cook book and I want to try at least one new recipe each week. I'm in a bit of a cooking rut quite a lot of the time, and I really want to get into learning how to cook new things. The second is that my new Thursday pre-Spanish treat is going to be a proper meal at a vegetarian cafe I've found. Sometimes if I go out to eat I find that one unusual, untried vegetable makes me scurry back to the safe "chicken and chips" options on the menu, but if I take away that option I will be forced to try things that include things I've never tried before. I'll try to make sure I pick something different off the menu each time, to expand the range of what I eat. I went last night and enjoyed what I ate, so money permitting I'll be going back regularly.

New recipes was a huge success. Instead of one new recipe a week it turned into a new recipe every time I cooked, and a pile of more new recipes that I want to try that will probably keep me going for the rest of the year and beyond. I haven't eaten out at the vegetarian place as much as I planned - purely because I've cooked so much good stuff at home that I've needed to eat up, so ended up taking spare portions into work to reheat. I have eaten out at vegetarian places three or four times over the month though, and enjoyed it every time. The one thing this experiment was certainly not about was deprivation!

And finally, this is not an excuse to eat cheesy chips or cheese and onion pasties for a month. They may be vegetarian, but that's not why I'm doing this. I'm not going to lose sight of my goal to eat more fruit and veg, and I'm not going to try to stuff my diet with meat substitutes. I'm not giving up chicken so I can eat fake chicken, I'm giving up chicken so I can eat more vegetables instead.

I ate tofu once, other than that it's been fruit, vegetables, grains and beans all the way. Not a piece of fake meat in sight. I'm really proud of that, I've really stuck to what I wanted to do in a positive way rather than simply giving up meat.

And now? Well, Mum arrives tomorrow and we're going out to my favourite restaurant in Leeds for lunch. I love their beef stifado. I also love their spinach pie, and wouldn't mind trying their moussaka. I could make a vegetarian choice if I wanted (the spinach pie), but I'm trying to decide whether I will. It's not just a meal, it's symbolic of whether I'm going to stick to this permanently or whether I'm going to end up as "veggie-lite", essentially doing the vegetarian thing for myself but being more relaxed on holiday/when I'm with family and they are cooking for me.

I'm certainly not going to go back to eating as much meat as I did, but still have 24 hours to ponder whether this is the time to turn fully vegetarian. It's not a now or never thing I suppose, if I don't do it now I can always do it at some point in the future, and maybe if I eat meat tomorrow I'll be able to guague how much hold it still has over me.


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