For clarification… I am still going to be eating mostly vegetarian, but I will include chicken and fish recipes from time to time (and likely provide an alternative way to make the dish vegetarian-friendly). This is certainly not going to become a steak ‘n’ eggs kind of blog any time soon. :)
Hello, readers and friends!
The start of summer has held its ups and downs for me. Recent health problems have caused me to consider a host of things I hoped I wouldn’t need to think about in depth for at least another 10 years: my diet, what kinds of exercises I do and if they’re enough, what vitamins and supplements I should take, and whether or not I should move into a retirement home now or later (hardy har har). My discussions with doctors, solitary ruminations, and extensive reading on the subject led me to make a huge decision in terms of my diet (and consequently, this blog). I’m hesitant to use this blog as any kind of soap box, unless that soap box concerns the joys of pickled onions, but I wanted to explain my thought process, for any who care to read. In truth, I feel that in some small way I’m betraying (this is too strong a word, but the English language sometimes fails us) those of you who follow my blog because you can identify with my choice to become vegetarian.
My decision to include small amounts of chicken and fish in my diet is rooted in the same reasons behind my conversion to vegetarianism 5 years ago: I want my food choices to embody my values, and I want to eat food that fulfills my body’s nutritional needs. It’s possible that a radical shift in beliefs acted as the catalyst for this change, but I’m beginning to think, begrudgingly, that my original beliefs were founded in a fallacy. My decision to be vegetarian was filled with the best of intentions, and I have learned about the joys of tofu and legumes (and will continue to eat both in droves), but it was also based on some misconceptions.
I strongly connoted a carnivorous diet with factory farming. When I read Fast Food Nation and an essay by Temple Grandin and saw violent images of factory farms, I had a visceral reaction. I felt sad, powerless, and a little naive. How had I not known what a chicken farm was really like? I didn’t want to support such an industry monetarily, and I believed that if more people ate less meat, we could be agents for change. To act in a way that’s not in accordance with your values makes you feel bad, and I wanted to avoid that. I assumed that to eat meat I would have to compromise my values by contributing to a system that harms humans and animals alike. But I’m beginning to realize that eating with integrity isn’t this black and white, as nothing worth thinking about is.
The smaller, organic farms that are popping up all over the nation have spawned a locavore movement that stands in stark contrast to factory farming. In fact, I think this change has huge political and nutritional implications for our society. It also offers compelling reasons for eating sustainably raised meat, poultry, and fish. We can help our local economies and invest in smaller-scale agriculture that promotes healthy animals, healthy land, and healthy consumers.
The more I considered these implications, the more I realized that I had, indeed, bought into a myth. Being vegetarian and eating many organic goods did contribute to improved health and, in my own small way, was a protest against factory farms. But investing in local farms and eating grass fed animals that weren’t treated cruelly can also be a small protest against a system that is as bad for its workers and animals as it is for consumers. It seems to me that small scale organic farms promote dignity for workers and consumers and restore integrity to farming and agriculture– an industry that’s gotten a bad rap precisely because of the ills of factory farming.
I’m happy with my decision to incorporate locally raised chicken and fish in my diet, while continuing to cook my favorite vegetarian meals. Balance is a good pursuit and a hard one to achieve. Finding a diet that works with your body and your beliefs is valuable (and seemingly impossible… we can never be perfect). Moreover, being able to choose our diets is a privilege, one for which I’m grateful. I’m excited to see how this change affects my overall health and well-being, and I’m looking forward to sharing some new recipes (vegetarian and with chicken and fish) with you as this blog evolves!
P.S. If you’re interested, I think this article points out some compelling reasons for a balanced diet that includes meat, recognizing that diets are a personal decision!
P.S. The blog has a new look to fit its slightly new direction. Check back tomorrow for an organic chicken recipe… (and some pictures from our Michigan adventure).