I have never really enjoyed cooking meat. When I lived abroad in Sierra Leone, I had to literally come to terms with buying fresh meat and fish in the market and realized just how hard it is to de-scale a fish in order to cook it or cut the meat off a chicken. Living back in the US now, I’ve come to realize we have it so easy with so many options in buying pre-cut up meat/fish/poultry at the grocery store. So, I guess in a roundabout way, I’ve always wanted to try being vegetarian. However, my partner wasn’t so into the philosophy. His culture really doesn’t understand vegetarianism as eating no meat basically means you cannot afford to. You literally say “chop swit o” or “the food is good” in krio with the more meat that is in a dish. I’ve had cassava leaf stew that had three different types of meat- chicken, beef and seafood, many times before. That said, when my husband watched a documentary last summer about the food industry in the US, he was literally so disgusted and put off he suggested we try being vegan (he watched What the health? Available on Netflix). I jumped on board with his suggestion right away.
I cut out buying all meat and poultry and instead starting trying meat alternatives, such as tofu, tempeh and lots of different types of beans and grains. It was not as hard as I had imagined at first- I had gotten used to not eating much dairy after living in Sierra Leone for four years and so giving up cheese and eggs wasn’t too hard. I already loved baking vegan as well so this was a smooth transition again. I did notice though that I was more tired than usual but I cannot blame that on the diet change as this was also at a time when I was not getting a lot of sleep (see my post about sleep deprivation). I already really enjoyed not cooking with any meat and so cutting out dairy wasn’t too hard either with all the amazing alternatives available in the US. I looked up new recipes to try on pintrest and found that starting with veggies as a base for a meal was easy peasy. Our grocery bill went down as well which was great since meat is usually the most expensive item when shopping. I did over-do it on the soy products a bit at first and had to realize that for me, it wasn’t great to substitute every meal with a soy-meat alternative.
Over a period of about six months, we did pretty well. We would occasionally still eat meat when we had dinner with friends and family and we were never die-hards about it. I was much more conscious about ingredients and got way better at checking labels. I learned how to get crafty and learn new cuisines that focus on vegan/vegetarian diets. In the end, we’ve landed somewhere in the middle. We do definitely cook with meat again more often- our son actually loves it! I think he was just waiting out this vegan phase of ours. He had steak at a family dinner once last summer and he literally sucked the juice out of a filet mignon meant for my mom. My husband also LOVES tinned sardines, it’s his comfort food and giving that up wasn’t easy so he stopped trying. I usually cook vegetarian/vegan and my husband likes to cook African dishes with meat again. We’ve definetly learned to be more conscious of what we buy and put in our bodies. Going vegan worked for us, for awhile and we’ll keep trying our new recipes as we go!
Here are some cool websites I check out regularly for inspiration:
- pintrest.com – I love looking up recipes by searching “vegan”, “vegetarian” or using the main ingredient first, like “lentil recipes” or “black bean recipes”
For more info on What the Health? check out the website here.