Going Meatless One Step at a Time at Our Little House

There’s a lot on television that makes me want to cry these days – because of the programming choices – but little that really affects me on a deep level.

Last week, as I was preparing a vegetable only vegetable soup in the crockpot, I saw a promo for Oprah’s One Week Vegan Challenge in which over 370 of her employees made the commitment to try and go vegan for just one week.

I’ve never been a huge Oprah fan, but really, this show was phenomenal for me.

I know the information is out there on how to convert to a vegetarian or vegan diet, but I’m definitely a visual person when it comes to cooking and food. I prefer watching cooking shows rather than just pick up new recipes in books (although I do that as well).

I’ve written here before about my quest to eat less meat. There are two main reasons for this choice, the first being I’m an animal lover and I just don’t like the idea of eating them. I’ve been very conflicted for a long time in eating something when I would not kill an animal myself, nor do I want to see where they come from.

The second point is that I feel it is healthier.

Before we moved from the city, I did manage to cut beef and pork from my diet for nine months. Having a die-hard carnivore in the house just made meal planning a nightmare and I barely can find the time to cook one meal, much less two.

I kind of resolved the animal rights issue in my head by purchasing our meat from a local coop of farmers that sold free range, grass fed meat from animals that were humanely treated, allowed to roam and given access to nature as they were intended to live.

As Michael Pollan said on Oprah, “They live a good life and have one bad day…”

And then we moved to Our Little House where locally grown, free-range meat is harder to find. We were back to buying that cellophane shrink-wrapped stuff in the grocery.

I’ve had other problems converting as well:

· Learning what to substitute for meat and where to find it.

· Learning to cook it when I do

· Getting Dale to accept a meatless meal

This program really put all of my issues into better focus, the cameras actually went shopping with an employee and Kathy Freston showed the audience viable substitutes for meat that doesn’t involve tofu.

It took the audience to a slaughterhouse, which, although it didn’t show the “knocking” procedure, we could hear it and it had me crying.

Made me feel o.k. by simply taking it a step at a time and reducing the amount of meat we use at first and looking harder for free range when I do. I doubt Dale will ever go meatless and that’s ok for him. We all have our own choices in life, but I shouldn’t allow the burden of cooking something extra be an excuse for me.

The show suggested Meatless Mondays, but I already typically cook at least two meatless meals a week.

It did make me feel better when Dale ate the vegetarian vegetable soup I made and didn’t ask “Where’s the meat!?” until the second day. That proves there are tasty, fulfilling recipes that will satisfy even my meat lover.

Did any of you see the show? How do you feel about eating meat? Are you conflicted at all regarding the origin of what you’re eating?

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32 Responses

  1. Sheryl says:

    Keri –
    You need to start a recipe collection from readers. Wow, what great ideas.
    I have mostly been a vegetarian all my life; I have a really hard time even thinking about eating animals.
    My husband is a meat eater, but has come around to the healthy way of eating at home. The only time he eats meat now is when we eat out. Best wishes in your attempts to get Dale to eat a veggie diet.

  2. Judy says:

    Check out the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Nutrition. Right now Dr Barnard is in the middle of his “21-Day Kickstart” program for becoming vegetarian.

    I personally have found that if my protein to carb ratio is not more than 3X protein = total carbs my body is happy. This is not hard to learn and probiotic recipes are often excellent. Dr Barnard has many excellent recipes, too.

    Be encouraged: changing to vegetarian will progress over time as you learn new recipes and restock you pantry for this food style. As someone has mentioned, you’re body will give you some amazing feedback [how well you feel], which also enhances your food choices.

    Enjoy your adventure with food! When with friends at their home I eat whatever. However, I’m often reminded of how limited in flavor and eye appeal the usual American diet is.

    • kerri says:

      Thank you for your comments, Judy. I will check that out. I am enjoying this journey, just learning about foods that are new to me and the flavor they can add to a dish when there is no meat involved.

  3. We do at least a couple of meatless dishes a week around here. I think being vegetarian would be a bit easier than being vegan … because doing w/o meat I get, but you’d have to learn a whole new way to cook/bake w/o eggs and such. Plus, I think I’d miss cheese.

    • kerri says:

      I agree, Roxanne. It would be a lot harder. I get the point with regards to health and also animal welfare, but I don’t see anything wrong with dairy and eggs as long as the animals live a natural, humane life.

  4. I too prefer not to eat meat and am struggling to find meatless dishes that appeal to a midwestern meat and potatoes guy. I’ve found a few things that work, such as soups and stews with beans as the protein, or pasta with salmon or other seafood. I find if the dish looks “substantial” and there’s not too much “green stuff” visible I get a better response. Good luck, Kerri!

    • mat says:

      In my experience, people feel like you’re trying to pull a fast one when you take away something they like or have grown accustomed to–in the name of “better”. And it may very well be, but it usually isn’t received that way. So good luck.
      On the flipside, if he doesn’t like what’s put in front of him, he can always go into the kitchen himself. That’s what got me there. I was 19, living with my girlfriend (who I thought could cook well) and it took about 3 months for me to take over that kitchen. She’s still trying to catch up 12 years later. To be fair, her baking is VASTLY superior to mine. So we celebrate eachothers strengths. Our son…I think he’ll be better than both of us.

    • kerri says:

      I’m finding the exact same thing to be true, Melanie!

  5. I think not eating red meat or at least decreasing your consumption considerably does make you feel healthier. It will be interesting to hear about your progress.

    • kerri says:

      It was very interesting to hear how much better some of these people felt just after 1 week. More energy, more routine “natural” movements, etc. I don’t have a problem with the latter, but I do have a lot of issues with having enough energy. I’ll keep you posted.

  6. Kim says:

    Kerri, there are a few sources in our area for free-range meat. (I’ve been collecting info myself… once we finish off what’s in our freezers, I’m making a big switch too.)

    Dixie chickens is in Pyatt (near Yellville) and raises free range chickens.
    (870) 427-3039. E-mail: dixiechickens2003@yahoo.com

    Ratchford Farms in Marshall sells free-range organic buffalo.
    http://www.ratchfordexoticmeats.com.

    Beef, lamb, chicken, sausages, and Pork can be found at Garner Hill Farm in Harrison:
    http://www.garnerhillfarm.com/GarnerHill_Farm/Welcome.html

    Little Portions Monastery sells chickens as well.

    None of these are inexpensive; I’m thinking that if we can get our meat consumption down to two or three times a week, that will cut our meat expenses enough to help us afford buying good local meat products.

    • kerri says:

      Thanks for this, Kim! Your comment fell into the spam filter for some reason. Sorry for the delayed reply. This information is invaluable for us. I expect to spend more for free range organic meat, so I’m sure the prices will not stun me, but thanks for the warning!

  7. Janet Sunderland says:

    Kerri, you might be able to find a meat locker nearby. That’s what we do. I drive up to Trumbil where I can get clean meat in bulk.

  8. V Schoenwald says:

    An after thought to eating less meat:
    Try if possible to support a local rancher or farmer for meat, eggs or produce, if this is what the family eats. Support your farmer’s market. This helps bridge the gap of food and the packing houses and supporting more humane conditions. It is hard to do this, it depends on where you live and access but any little change will support bigger changes down the road. You cannot do this instantly overnight. And for some, not affordable for the budget.

    • kerri says:

      You’re right on all counts, V! I’m sure I told this story before, but when we moved down here, I went to the local butcher and asked if they had any organic, free range, or at least free range meat. He looked at me and in a very southern drawl, said, “No. But we have them processed the regular way!” I knew then that we weren’t in Kansas anymore! 😉

  9. David says:

    Kerri,

    A low to medium-glycemic vegan diet is also the best for most diabetics. (Animal fat in the bloodstream raises the insulin resistance of the cells, in fact).
    I am always amused by the resistance to tofu, usually because people have not had it well prepared. By itself, it is bland–but it can take on the flavor of the foods it is cooked with, has outstanding anti-cancer properties, and can be further processed into a surprisingly good meat substitute that in the best cases can’t often be distinguished from meat.
    Unfortunately, my wife and stepson are definitely meat eaters and we, too, don’t do two different sets of foods. I could easily go meatless and be quite happy that way but thus far I have not been able to convince the family to do so as well.
    There are many very hearty recipes that use grain as the primary calorie and protein source, and it is great fun exploring many of them.
    I used to have a book called “the gradual vegetarian” that was pretty good on the subject of making such a transition.

    • kerri says:

      Thanks for the comments, David. Very interesting about the diabetic diet, I have a friend whose husband just went back to eating meat after going vegetarian for a couple of years. She claims it’s easier to manage his blood sugar now and they’re lower now that he did. I wondered about that as he could have eaten all the veggies he wanted and still maintained low blood sugar. Anyway, I’ve heard that about tofu and to be honest, I’ve only had it once and I don’t think it must have been prepared well. My friend here who is a vegetarian makes a wonderful tofu (so I’ve heard) and I would like to watch her cook it. They also have meat substitutes now such as hot dogs made from tofu that I’m told you cannot tell the difference. Soy is also so much better for women, especially. I will search for that book the next time I put in an Amazon order.

  10. V Schoenwald says:

    I was a vegetarian for a number of years. But moving back to elderly parents who aren’t and having a meat eater in the house and cooking for a small group of elderly that I do in home meals for, make non meat eating pretty much impossible. It will make you go mad trying to do dual meals.
    I am doing meatless Modays if possible and making meat more of an ingredient than the main star in the show.
    I do a baby Portabello stroganoff that is awesome. I grow my own mushrooms,(Ports and Buttons) I use all of the bad stuff (sour cream) but it is a stand out for dinner. I saute the ports in white wine and a little onion or leeks and sometimes I use a good Balsamic vinegar and that really makes it pop. Do your egg noodles and Ta-Da, you have dinner, and is very filling and is even beautiful for company.
    There is a blog called Theibaults table that has wonderful recipes for both meat and vegetables. I have it on my blog. She does wonderful flavorful recipes that are not complicated but seem very gourmet but aren’t.

    • kerri says:

      Thanks for the website tip!

    • mat says:

      Our “Sunday Stroganoff” (because it takes all day to make) recipe calls for the beef to be dredged in flour before going into a hot pan. The idea behind it is that it will crisp the beef a little and thicken the cream sauce at the same time. My point is that I wonder if doing the flour dredge to your mushrooms would give them a “meatlike” crust.

  11. Alexandra says:

    Thanks for reporting on this show. Wish I had seen it. I cook a lot less meat that before and try to make as many vegetarian dishes as I can.

    • kerri says:

      I’m sure you can maybe find it on the Internet or something, Sandy. I DVR’d it and plan on keeping it for a long time!

  12. I saw the program and like you, was so saddened by the looks on the faces of those young cows as they marched up the assembly line to their death. I think it was somewhat disingenuous to show a meat processing plant that is probably the very most state of the art facility in the country. That sleek, clean, Temple Grandin designed slaughter house, is not typical of the way that most cattle are treated in the process of becoming hamburger.

    There are dozens of videos (usually taken by undercover PETA volunteers) on the internet, that reveal the truth about most meat processing plants, and it isn’t pretty. Cargill can afford the most sophisticated design and up to date equipment on the market, but smaller operations cannot. That plant is not typical of the way that most meat production facilities operate- the truth is much more brutal and grotesque.

    They also didn’t include coverage of feed lots, where cattle spend their final few weeks of life, knee deep in mud and manure and being stuffed full of corn until their stomachs ulcerate, at which point they’re pumped full of antibiotics which we ingest when we eat the meat.

    I was also disappointed with the show’s lack of nutritional information on a vegan diet, which is often what I find that people have the most misconceptions about. Most Americans simply don’t understand that you can be very healthy (in fact healthier)on a diet that doesn’t include meat, dairy or eggs.

    One of my daughters is a vegan and she is one of the healthiest, most diet conscious people I know. It is always interesting to me when we go out to eat with her, especially when we eat at a buffet style restaurant. When people sit down with their plates, Jessica’s is always the most colorful because hers is full of fruits and vegetables and grains. She’s also usually the skinniest person at the table!

    I would love to eat strictly vegan, but it’s hard to overcome years of a meat and dairy based diet. However, I am committed to trying harder and ultimately eliminating cruelty based food from my life. I also want to be healthier and believe that eliminating meat and dairy will go a long ways towards that. We moved to the country last summer and I intend to have chickens in the spring, so I will continue to eat eggs, knowing they come from my own happy, free range chickens.

    • kerri says:

      Kathy, You’re right about the plant. I also didn’t include the negatives I didn’t like about the show. Michael Pollan spoke of free ranging beef, but the cows shown on the video clearly were not. They did show the feed lot and showed the cows knee deep in mud, I think they said, for 102 days before they were marched to that plant. That’s something they didn’t discuss on the show, I’m assuming to get Carghill to participate. I also do not have a problem with eggs and dairy as long as the animals are treated humanely. I did a story a long time ago on Good Natured Family Farms and was impressed of their insistence that any farm participating be free range. My friend, Alicia, is a strict vegetarian and is also one of the healthiest people I know. Her skin is so clear and her hair so soft and shiny and she is the perfect weight also. It is hard to break the habit (like that employee on the show who was addicted to junk/fast food and only had bowel movements every 8 days!) but we can do it. I’m so looking forward to hearing about your chickens this spring!

  13. mat says:

    Did you try that fried pepper & zucchini recipe? I adore that even when meatless. If you cook the mushrooms less, they can give you that missing texture of meat. Fresh Portobello caps can do that really well, when marinated and grilled properly. With a little bacon (yeah, I know), they make great burgers.

    Personally, I like meat. Check that, I love meat. And I have 3 siblings who can’t bring themselves to eat it at all. But I eat everything…and generally enjoy eating everything. I watch Bizarre foods and think half of it isn’t that bizarre. There’s just something…primal, comforting, and satisfying about a perfectly-cooked slab of muscle.

    • Susan says:

      I love doing Portebello mushrooms as burgers.

      • kerri says:

        I haven’t gotten to that recipe just yet, Mat! I should have qualified my post and said that I hate the *idea* of meat, but I too, love the taste of most meats. I grew up in a meat-and-potatoes Midwestern blue collar family, afterall. My mother ate very little meat though, she just didn’t like it and my father wouldn’t eat chicken due to a bad slaughter experience he witnessed as a kid. Thanks for the tip with the mushrooms. When I do cook meatless, I usually substitute a hearty mushroom of some sort for the meat, which I did in this soup and it was great!

  14. Susan says:

    I have been a vegetarian for a long time and my husband isn’t.(going vegan is harder,our church did a 3 week Daniel fast and that is harder than a vegan :O ) I went vegetarian because of the way the animals are treated and also health reasons. This is the article that really turned me off of meats. http://chetday.com/cannibal.htm
    Just think of the meat as a side dish, whether it is chicken, beef, pork, fish or wild game. When I buy meats I freeze portion sizes for him. Then cook the veggie dishes you want and add one of the others for him. I do make two chilis when I do make chili though…then just freeze leftovers for meals another time. If I make stir fry, I marinate a small piece of chicken and cook that separate that goes only on his plate. One of his favorite soups is my minnestrone. I do eat an occasionally piece of fish (which doesn’t make me real vegetarian in some eyes) I do like the Boco Flamed Grilled burgers which I have when I fix DH a hamburger. The veggie hot dogs are ok, taste more like bologna I guess.
    I have lots of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks and I hardly ever use them. I really just prefer the simpliest of meals. In some ways I think cookbooks and cooking shows have ruined us thinking we have to have these creative meals all the time. My son who is a chef, prefers a lot of my simple meals when he comes home.
    Anyway do what you feel is right for you. I understand how hard it is for you with Dale loving his meats.
    Here is book called Simple Food for the Good Life by Helen Nearing. You might enjoy reading just the quotes for days long gone by. http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Food-Good-Life-Quotations/dp/1890132292/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1297170339&sr=8-1