I was 20, it was the fall of 2003. A junior in college, living in my first apartment off campus. I stopped eating most red meat, for the simple fact that I would rather spend the tiny bit of money I had on new music from Atomic Records. I knew how to cook enough to survive, but the menu consisted of mostly Lipton Sides pasta, lunch meat, bread, fruit, and veggies. I ate meat when I visited home and went out with my friends. I still liked chicken a lot and thought you would have to be crazy to stop eating it. Then I visited my first (and last) Chinese Buffet for dinner one night. All was going well until I took a huge bite of some questionable-looking grey chicken. It was terrible, and I was thoroughly grossed out. I couldn’t look at the stuff for weeks. And so, my challenge began.
What would it be like to stop eating all meat? Could I do it? In middle school I tried to be a vegetarian because I read in Bop! that the biggest heartthrob ever, Mr. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, happened to be one. It lasted about a week. I was older now, in charge of my groceries and cooking. I actually loved vegetables. I always had–as a kid, one of my favorite parts of birthday parties and get-togethers in my family were the veggies and dill + spinach dip. My grandma’s canned green beans from her garden were almost as good a treat as the ice cream my grandpa forever stocked in the freezer. So, it was official: I was going to go vegetarian, just to see if I could stick with it.
Now most of my friends and family thought this was just a phase, one of those college things. I’ll admit, I probably didn’t eat the best those first 6 months. But then something happened. The more informed I became about our food system, the more committed I was to making this lifestyle change. I tried my first black bean tostadas at Beans + Barley and fell in love. I met (and became smitten with) a cute vegetarian boy that summer of 2004. I started reading cooking magazines and cutting out recipes. My new boy began cooking delicious meals for me. It was working! And I didn’t even miss meat. I still don’t.
It’s been 9 1/2 years and becoming a vegetarian has changed my life for the better in so many ways. I’ve learned how to cook from scratch–no more Lipton Sides! We make yummy food for fun in our house, to share with each other and others. I feel good about what we are putting into our bodies and know the food we eat will sustain and nourish us. We are proactive in finding out where our food comes from, helping us to make the best decisions about what we should and shouldn’t eat. I’m not trying to sound like a food snob here, but our personal decision for our family is to eat whole, healthful meals as much as possible. After watching lots of Netflix food documentaries and doing our own research, it’s just important to us to eat real, natural food. It’s a part of our lives that we’re willing to sacrifice for because we know it will be best in the long run. It may take a few minutes longer to make homemade biscuits or brownies from scratch, but the amazing tastes make up for it all! Cooking and baking for the ones that I love is one of my favorite parts of life. I am glad I met and kept up with my challenge all those years ago, otherwise things would be much less delicious.