Ten months have past since we set our goal to reduce our meat intake by 80%. We have consumed many hearty meals since then.
So what has it been like, I hear you ask?
Well, surprisingly, it has been not quite as difficult as we first thought.
Back at the beginning, Kim, Ben, and I were your traditional mainstream omnivores. We had a portion of meat in our diet at least once a day, sometimes twice.
Once we decided that this reduction was a good idea for our health, the health of the planet and definitely the health of the animals we until then consumed regularly. We began to look for meat substitutes. This was to ensure that we could maintain the difference in our diet over the longer term.
Our initial concerns were places to source these alternatives, so along the way, we talked to friends who were vegetarians to find out how they ate.
One suggestion we took on board was that to use a dehydrated soy meal product that kind of looked like dried up beef mince. You just soak it in warm water for a while, then drain and add to the dish you are preparing instead of mince. Adding a good vegetable stock helped increase the flavour.
We have discovered many delicious meat substitutes on the market, including veggie bacon, veggie peperoni, and mycelium products made to look and taste like chicken, beef, and pork. We definitely have rediscovered the full flavour of our home grown vegetables, and herbs. We add garden grown herbs to just about every meal.
|Home made Passata
Cooking with veg really reduces the preparation and cooking times of all meals. Because the veg or substitute cooks so fast we find that we have so much more time to ourselves in the evening. It doesn’t take very long to whip up a Lentil burger with a salad, or to make a hearty winter veg soup with beans.
We decided early on that we would have a fortnightly meat allowance, which was a few pieces of free range breed bacon on alternate Sunday mornings or in Egg and Bacon pies. However, as time past, I found a perfectly good veggie bacon substitute on the market that has the same sort of look and taste.
|Stretching the bacon allowance in a pie
Kim and I are down to a few meat meals a month now, which in hindsight has been a great achievement. Our goal was never one of complete meatlessness (vegans, please respect my lifestyle), and we did cook up a beef madras curry and a chicken korma for my daughter’s 21st birthday dinner in mid October. We used biodynamically grown meats to prepare this meal. There was a fair bit left over, so as each guest departed, they left with a big container to keep them going over the next few days.
After eating that meal, I felt bloated and uncomfortable for the next couple of days, and thankfully we have not repeated that type of meal since.
My other meat vice is anchovies, which I put on my fortnightly home made pizza. I bought a big jar at the start of the year, and we have still not finished it. Talk about making food last.
Over the year we have found that eating mostly vegetarian meals has been quite easy, so much so that it is occasionally becoming difficult to remember the last time we actually ate meat. As we discovered in October, we do not really miss these regular portions, and our bodies have adapted well.
As for missing our favourite dishes, this has not been an issue. With the use of the meat substitutes our normal fare is still on the menu. We still partake in dishes like cottage pie, lasagne, minestrone style soups, meatloaf (sans meat), and spaghetti bolognese to name a few.
We have also been eating much more from the veggie patch. I found that starting the meal preparation standing in the patch gets the ideas flowing. I soon think of something to whip up for dinner even if it is a handful of herbs to add flavour to whatever I am planning. Regular additions are spinach, rainbow chard, leeks, and spring onions. Not to mention all the other veg that I grow when it is in abundance. Eggs from the backyard flock are a staple protein for us.
All we had to do was change the way we thought about food. I have recently had a medical check-up and my GP is very happy with my condition. My blood pressure is getting back to normal (still on meds for it but reducing), and my LDL count is dropping. My stomach issues have all but disappeared, except when I partake in a particularly spicy veggie curry (I am addicted to them). On top of that, I feel fit as a fiddle, even with the odd back pain as I get older.
|A big two leeks up for this lifestyle!
So there you have it. A good result for all concerned, especially the animals I would have otherwise added to my plate. Our environmental footprint has been reduced dramatically as well.
Who would have thought that we would still be eating this way ten months down the track?