Last week, I had my first legitimate craving for a Boca Burger. That’s not to say that I don’t miss real cheeseburgers, because I do. Ordering my baked potato and garden salad from Wendy’s and having to look at photographs of burgers is…pretty painful, still. But I’m learning to manage. Though I’m pretty sure I had a minor meltdown the other day when I kept repeating over and over again to Ryan, “Why doesn’t McDonald’s have a soy burger? I BET IT WOULD BE DELICIOUS.” So far, however, our first meat-free month has been pretty okay.
Here are the positives: It hasn’t been terribly difficult. We’re not starving, and we’re eating a lot of the same kinds of things we used to eat, just meat-free versions of them: things like salads, pasta, pizza, curry/Indian food. I have this new-found appreciation for the humble and oft-overlooked cheese pizza; for boxed Palak Paneer and frozen falafel from Trader Joe’s, and for the aforementioned Wendy’s baked potato. Ryan and I got burrito bowls from Chipotle last weekend and they were great; next time I need to ask them not to pile on the ingredients, I guess, because I could only finish half of mine.
Good vegetarian options are totally out there; you just have to look a bit and be flexible. We’d probably have an easier time back east as far as dining out is concerned, but we’re doing okay here so far. An unintended positive is that we’re eating out less and thus saving some money that way. Sometimes we just don’t feel like bothering with any of our standard going-out options, but I can always find something awesome to cook at home. It’s easier to make myself cook when our options for going out are a lot more limited. We’re also definitely eating less “fast food,” since our fast food options are REALLY limited.
As far as the negatives go, here are a few of them, and I’ll write in more detail about some of these later. First, it’s hard having to turn down invitations from friends who are going out to places where we don’t like the vegetarian options much. It’s cool that more places have vegetarian menu items these days, but sometimes those options are really unappealing, and they are especially unappealing compared to the non-vegetarian options. For example: neither Ryan nor I are particularly interested in trying the lentil burger or the quinoa hot dog at the Burger Stand. Sorry, everyone, but we won’t be going to the Burger Stand at all this year—there’s nothing there that we want to eat, and the temptation would be horrendous, I think. So because of this, we’re not going out with friends as much, which is a bummer.
Another negative: reading labels and scouting out ingredients on our own isn’t a huge deal, but Ryan and I are both very wary of being pain-in-the-ass customers when we go out, so there’s another downside—having to ask a lot of questions, and feeling like a burden for it. Having to request accommodations (can you take the meat out of that? Are you sure the sauce is vegetarian? Can you check for me?) can be annoying, and we’re totally aware of that. Both of these challenges fall under the category of “jerk vegetarians” and I’ll say more about this in the future.
Part of me can’t believe it’s already been an entire month. I think going meat-free for a month can be a really good experiment for anyone to try: if anything, it causes you to think more about what you’re consuming daily, and that just doesn’t seem like a bad idea in general. Health-wise I have to admit that I don’t feel any different, which isn’t a big deal because we aren’t doing this for health reasons anyway. Still, I’m a bit surprised: meat’s supposed to be terrible for you, right? Though I guess the good thing about not feeling different health-wise is that I don’t feel WORSE—I don’t feel like my body is suffering because I’m not consuming meat.
I’ll update about other things soon. Here are a few photos of the baked ziti I made on Sunday. It was chock full of spinach and sauce and cheese and it was freaking delicious.