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A Vegetarian for Lent

 
 
Thomas
 
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:05 pm
Back where I come from, in Munich, Germany, people still practice the tradition of lent. During the 40 days before Easter, they abstain from something they value. This "something" can be cigarettes for some, alcohol for others; yet others live on the budget they would have if they were on welfare. It’s up to you. If you hold it dear as part of your life, and if you live without it for those 40 days, you’re in business as far as lent is concerned.

Although I've never been a Catholic, I like this tradition, and sometimes practice it myself. I keep learning one of two valuable lessons at the end of those 40 days. I either learn I didn’t even miss the thing I’d been abstaining from. In that case, good riddance. Or I find that I did miss it, and spend the rest of the year more appreciative of having it. Either way, it’s a win for me.

So what should I do without this year? It just so happened that the beginning of lent coincided with my reading of Peter Singer’s book The Ethics of What we Eat. It examines, very critically, the diet we have gotten accustomed to in Western civilization, and stops just short of advocating strict veganism as the only ethically defensible diet. I have never fully bought into Singer’s reasoning. But it did make me curious to find out how much of a sacrifice a meatless life would actually be for me. A carnivore for all my life, I honestly didn’t know. So I decided that this year, for the 40 days leading up to Easter, I’ll go vegetarian.

This thread is a protocol of how it’s going. Comments are welcome, as are questions, insults, speculations about my sanity, and all those other forms of feedback we so love about A2K.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 19 • Views: 5,312 • Replies: 83
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Green Witch
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:14 pm
@Thomas,
Can't hurt. Although, I believe eating some (ethically raised) meat is fine. Meat can be sustainable and environmentally correct when not handled by companies like Perdue and Jimmy Dean. I would suggest you get a nice little pile of tasty recipes to try. I've always like The Moosewood Cookbooks, but you can just Google around for all kinds dishes. I would also suggest you stick to what is in season for reasons of quality and maybe treat yourself to some artisan cheeses. You can justify buying the best because you will be saving money by passing up the butcher. Some people experience more hunger when they remove meat protein from their diets, so you might want to consider keeping some nuts around for stablizing blood sugar lows. Enjoy.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:18 pm
@Thomas,
Ah, I like Peter Singer. Haven't read him for a while.

I used to do lent as a catholic. I know that should be capitalized but I don't obey that stuff any more.

I think of lenten season as late winter, an arena for certain food choices that make sense with the climate. Many, maybe most, associate soup with winter. I make soup all year. But, in lenten season, soup can make sense with both myself and the weather.

When I was a kid in Evanston, the family across the street saved eggshells. That is, they somehow drained the egg out of the shell by a small hole at one end, dyed the shells, and then affixed them to branches of a nearby tall shrub, to produce, on Easter, an egg tree.

I won't do lent with you, but I'll enjoy the thread.
0 Replies
 
margo
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:23 pm
Watching with interest.

I just wonder how I'd do.

Keep reporting
roger
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:25 pm
@margo,
Forty days without snuff. I can do it!
0 Replies
 
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:26 pm
@Thomas,
I'm almost out of frankincense,
I'll probably have to substitute any kind of regular incense.
Bless this steak o lord for it shall provide for my protein.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:29 pm
@Thomas,
I have now completed my first week, and so far things are looking good. Indeed, they are looking so ridiculously good it’s hard to describe them without sounding like an infomercial on late-night TV.

Psychological observations: In general, my mood is unchanged after the switch in diet. There are, however, two slight changes I observe in specific situations. One, I find it much easier to control my appetite when I order food in a restaurant. As I’m learning now, much of my restaurant cravings come when I read up and down the menu and wonder which of all these delicious choices to pick.

Going vegetarian greatly constrained my menu-surfing because most restaurants only have one vegetarian appetizer or two, only one vegetarian entrée or two. So I just figure out what they are, ignore everything else, and take my pick. Case closed. No cravings aroused, binging averted.
The second psychological observation is something that’s not happening. Before I started, I expected to experience cravings for meat whenever I passed a hamburger place or a steakhouse. But no! Nothing.

Dietary observations: After months of losing weight at a rate of a pound or two per month, I lost six pounds after the switch in diet -- without even trying very hard. I know I know: Just because A is followed by B, that doesn’t mean A caused B. To suggest otherwise is infomercial talk. But with that qualification out of the way: hey, what the hell " I’ll take it!

EDIT, after reading Green Witch bring up blood sugar: I'm a diabetic. Two weeks ago I tested how I'd do without blood sugar medication. My level rose to moderately scary level, not immediately threatening but dangerous in the long run. (200-250 mg/dl). After the first week of lent, it's down to 100-150 mg/dl. Again, that doesn't mean the switch in diet caused it, but it's nice nevertheless.

So far, this is so effective and feels so easy it’s almost like cheating.
Green Witch
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:32 pm
@Thomas,
I think you are losing weight because you doing what I think of as "mindful eating". Most of our extra calories (and thus weight) comes from just pushing in food without giving it much thought. You are thinking about all the stuff going into your mouth and thus probably consuming fewer calories.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:34 pm
@Green Witch,
That's a good point. I'll do a control experiment with six weeks of mindful carnivorous eating after Easter.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:40 pm
@Thomas,
I don't mean to be a Bitten promotionalist, but - if you don't know about Mark Bittman and his blog, Bitten, you might enjoy it. If you do, never mind.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:42 pm
@ossobuco,
Adding, I do listen to both cjane and gwitch - in fact, I probably should shoot some of their posts to a file.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:49 pm
Green Witch: Thanks for your suggestions!

I'm not cooking for myself much, but I wanted to start it again now that I have time for it. I'll check out the Moosewood Cookbooks you recommend. Artisan cheeses sound like a good idea. I love cheese! (As does Dyslexia -- but he's in the closet about it because of Francis.) One problem I've had since coming to America is that good cheese is kind of hard to find in supermarkets. Most of the stuff our A&P carries has a consistency that's good for putting on a pizza and melting in the oven, but doesn't really seem to be meant for direct consumption. Where would you look for artisan cheeses if you were living in a subburbish small town in the New York metropolitan area?

ossobuco wrote:
I used to do lent as a catholic. I know that should be capitalized but I don't obey that stuff any more.

I guess that's an advantage of being an ex-Lutheran atheist: I never had to do these things as part of my upbringing, so now I can freely play around with other people's religious traditions. It's fun!

dyslexia wrote:
Bless this steak o lord for it shall provide for my protein.

Ramen!

Roger and Ms Olga -- welcome to the thread!
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:50 pm
@ossobuco,
Thanks, Osso, I'll check Bitman out.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 09:59 pm
About 15 yers ago, I weighed about 250 lbs. As a health measure, I ate strictly vegetable for four months. Within a few months, I was down to about 165 or 170. Had to be the vegetables. That was the only change I made for myself in that time. I only gradually went back to meat because my wife didn't want to change with me.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 10:04 pm
@edgarblythe,
That's encouraging, Edgar. Good job on those 85-90 pounds!
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 10:07 pm
@Thomas,
That's Bittman with two t's.

I come from a sort of cheese land. LA is not much known as a foodie place, but was tuned in, here and there, fairly early. The cheese store in beverly hills has great repute, assuming it still exists - I've only been in there once, to look, but friends testified. When I was there, it was a tiny place.

My last abode in california was in the north, in the home of Humboldt Fog. Indeed, my business partner and I talked with the owner at one point, simpatico woman, and I remember her yard. We didn't get the job, but I sort of doubt anyone else did (but who knows). Anyway, northern california is VERY cheese oriented, luv a duck.

My own favorite cheese store was a stop on my california drives - Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg. Very particular, I liked their choices, though the cheese counter wasn't all that expansive.

I've been into Dean and Deluca in (where, I forget, Napa Valley) and just saw giant numbers next to cheeses. I've no real sense of that place or its sensitivity to cheese.

Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 10:37 pm
@ossobuco,
Well, Napa Valley is not the closest place to reach from New Jersey, but I'll keep it in mind the next time I go to California.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 10:45 pm
@Thomas,
Hey, I'd be amazed (a popular word lately) if in NYC there weren't totally fabulous cheese emporia, and I'd venture there might be some in new jersey, a place I know of way less, as in not at all.

I bet there are websites..


Meantime, if you run into Humboldt Fog in a good cheese store, remember me/well, us, there.
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 10:54 pm
@ossobuco,
I shall.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Thu 5 Mar, 2009 10:54 pm
@ossobuco,
But wait, Dean and de Luca, however you spell that, is in NY too. I don't know that it's connoisseur heaven, but compared to my local market, it is.
 

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