Nothing ventured, nothing gained. My month long adventure into meat eating after 14 years of vegetarianism is best described as an experiment. I never thought it would be easy but I also didn’t realize that meat eating would cause me such emotional havoc and stress. The week I made the decision to eat meat I decided that I would only eat organic, grassfed meat that was cooked at home. Finding organic grassfed beef at the right grocery store is easy, there is a small section where its available at double the price of the conventional meats. Nevertheless, I decided that I would splurge for the good stuff. I was on a mission
to find the perfect piece of beef, I didn’t want it to have any bones in it. The idea of biting into the bones of another animal made me cringe. I found the boneless beef and started sorting through each package to find one that didn’t have a trace of blood on it. Frustrated that I couldn’t find a single cut that was boneless and bloodless, I decided to move on to something easier and get some chicken instead. My boyfriend had a cold and I figured I could make him some chicken soup and even if I couldn’t bring myself to eat the chicken itself, I could drink the broth. This was my way of starting slow and easing into meat eating. The grocer helped me find the perfect cut of chicken that was boneless, organic, free range and skinless. I told him I couldn’t handle that unsightly bumpy skin on chicken meat and he flashed me a half smile that did nothing to hide his irritation. I don’t blame him, even I was irritated with myself.
The chicken soup was a hit for my boyfriend since this is all he could stomach the few days he was sick. For me, not so much. Each time I would take a bite of the carrots and potatoes in my soup bowl, I would smell the chicken and it had this unfamiliar pungent smell that was difficult to stomach. I loaded up more veggies and added lemon to mask the smell.
The next week we went to a local thai restaurant in our neighborhood that had Yam Neua (thin sliced bbq beef salad with thai dressing) which was definitely not grassfed but I decided to make an exception. I bit into the pieces of beef and found it to be delicious and really satisfying.
As with any yummy dishes I eat out, I was now on a mission to replicate the thing at home. The problem was that at the grocery store, I ran into the same problem with the bloody meat. I again went through every package of meat they had and tried to ignore the evil eye of the grocery store worker. This time I walked out frustrated with no meat.
Right then, I had a moment of realization–if I can’t bring myself to cook a piece of beef, to think about where it came from or see it in its true form (bone-in and bloody), I have no business eating it. The only way I was able to bring myself to eat the meat at the restaurant is because it was nicely cooked and covered with sauce so that I didn’t need to think about what it was and where it came from. I decided to end my attempt to eat meat and to find veggie or supplement options that would keep my iron and b12 at a optimal level without driving me crazy.
Its not uncommon for vegans to be deficient in B12 and iron. Here is some helpful information on diet and supplementation if, like me, you just prefer to stick to plants instead of animals:
Non-Meat Sources of B12: Fortified soy milk, breakfast cereals, yogurts or nutritional yeast. Supplement daily with at least 10 mcg of B12 if you’re vegan. Eggs, cheese, milk and yogurt all have B12 for vegetarians in small amounts so eating a variety of these foods regularly will ensure you don’t become deficient.
Iron: Dried beans like lima, soybeans, lentils, chickpeas are good sources and also whole grains like quinoa and oatmeal. Having a good source of vitamin C to go with iron rich foods can also increase absorption by up to 5 times. So think: hummus with bell pepper crudites or oatmeal with sliced strawberries.
Maybe in a few years, I’ll feel compelled to try eating meat again but for the time being, I know that with my vegetarian diet, I’m exactly where I need to be.