I am so honored to be one of the contributors for The True Life Stories Series. Kudos to Kittie Walker for her inspiration.
When I was a young girl growing up in inner city Boston, MA, in the 1950’s there were not very many people – none that I knew then anyway who were vegetarians. In fact, I’m sure that my family would not have even known what the word meant. My mother always served an assortment of different vegetables with a salad with most dinner meals. But she and other relatives who we visited always served meat, chicken, and some fish as the protein dish. In fact, I don’t ever remember seeing any magazine articles devoted to this subject.
We used to go to the Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood. And I do remember that I always ordered the same dish – sub gum. It’s mostly vegetables and a sauce. Thinking back on that experience, I guess my body knew what it wanted even then. I just wasn’t aware of it at that time. Funny!
It wasn’t until I married in the mid 1960’s and had my own children in the early part of the 1970’s that I became more aware that there were different food choices. My cooking was of the experiential variety. I liked to create my own recipes and very rarely did I ever follow a recipe from start to finish. My family loved whatever I put on the table.
At the time when my two sons were in high school, I became involved with groups like PETA, People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I read their literature and donated. I never was a groupie or participated in any illegal activity as some of their followers did. I also was very involved with Recycling, which was relatively new then at least in our town in Springfield, OH. This was the very beginning of my love affair with becoming a vegetarian. I do believe that some of this fascination indirectly was transmitted to my younger son, Bob.
Bob didn’t actually stop eating meat until he had moved to Colorado in his junior year of college. He’s the original outdoor recreational specialist. Bob’s major was Environmental Science. And in his junior year he announced to the family that he was “putting his mouth where his money was” so to speak. He had decided to stop eating meat since he was totally into the environmental movement. He had a few relapses along the journey, but he eventually was all in and never looked back.
I was still living in Ohio then and I too had made the switch to being a vegetarian except that I was still eating fish. I sort of went cold turkey (pardon the pun) into being a vegetarian. Some fellow teachers and I took a car trip to Nashville for a conference. That evening at the dinner, I decided to not eat any meat. It was so funny because everyone at our table offered me some of their vegetables, potatoes, bread. They must have thought I was going to starve or be very hungry by not eating any meat. And yes, I didn’t have any protein that night, but I felt so much better. This was in 1993.
Bob was happy that I changed the way I was eating, but he just wouldn’t accept that I was a vegetarian. We would have conversations about this topic frequently. He really didn’t believe that my being a pescaterian qualified as a full-fledged vegetarian.
The other members of my family were accepting of both myself and Bob’s choice. It wasn’t their choice. They made that point known, but they were comfortable with it. And of course, it was easier for all of us as they lived elsewhere.
In 1998, I was living in Eugene, OR, which could be called one of the bastions of the environmental movement. I heard Robert Kennedy Jr on National Public Radio speak about the dangers of mercury from fish. And it was in that moment, that I decided to go full out vegetarian. As you can imagine, Bob was delighted.
Personally, for me, the guiding principles as to why I became a vegetarian are because of my belief in the sanctity of life and my inner wisdom that my body really didn’t crave meat. I have felt so much better physically, emotionally, and spiritually since I stopped eating meat. And now I’m almost a vegan. I do eat eggs, but I don’t eat any dairy products.
I think the hardest stage for me was when I first gave up fish. I missed eating salmon the most, as I loved the taste and texture. Yet I knew in my heart that it had always upset me when I ate the fish because it had been a living creature.
For someone just starting out wanting to try this lifestyle, I say go for it. You’ll find so many more wonderful choices of vegetarian food than I had when I first took the plunge. My suggestion is to try one new food item a day. Experiment with tastes, texture, mouth feel. For instance, vegetables. Instead of just eating green beans or spinach for example, try kale, Swiss chard, and beets. For fruit, instead of eating a banana or an apples, try mango, pear, and pomegranate… For grains instead of brown rice, try quinoa, millet, and buckwheat. These are just examples. You decide what works for you. And don’t forget nuts, and seeds. They make great tasting protein sources. And you might want to consider drinking almond, rice, or coconut milk in place of milk from a cow. There is also soy milk, I just don’t recommend it. And don’t forget avocado. It’s loaded with potassium much more than you get from bananas.
And my very favorite meal for breakfast or lunch is to make yourself a green smoothie. That’s nutrition at its best and delicious tasting too.
Here’s a favorite recipe.
Here’s an easy way to get more vegetables into snack time! Serve with vegetable sticks for dipping. Ingredients