Confessions of an Accidental Vegetarian

I didn’t really set out to become a vegetarian, it just sort of happened. First I stopped eating beef because beef is bad for you from just about every health angle. For a while, I substituted ground buffalo when I craved a burger, but that didn’t last long because buffalo has an odor that turned me off.

Pork went the same way. I love bacon, and enjoy a nice pork roast. But after I learned how industrial hog farmers stack pigs atop one another in cages, that pigs have the intelligence of a three-year-old child, and that they cry real tears, I couldn’t eat pork again.

Lamb has always been problematic. The idea of eating a baby sheep, I mean, not the food itself. Lamb chops grilled almost burned on the outside and pink inside are delicious. But I wouldn’t be able to eat a rack of lamb while I watched lambs playing in a field, so I quit eating lamb.

For a while, I ate chicken and turkey, but then I watched a documentary about how chickens are raised on those big agribusiness chicken farms, and that did it for chickens. I still occasionally get a few slices of peppered turkey breast at the deli and enjoy a turkey sandwich, and I’ll eat turkey at Thanksgiving and enjoy it.

I eat wild Alaskan sockeye salmon too, but not farm-raised fish of any kind because they’re fed junk that I don’t want in my body. And now that shrimp are living in water polluted from about a zillion different sources, I’m staying away from them too.

Instead of it being a bummer to quit eating meat, becoming an accidental vegetarian has awakened my taste buds so that food tastes much better than it did before. I now appreciate the flavor of vegetables in a way that I never did when they were just side dishes. I don’t want the flavors covered up with sauces or spices, either, I want themĀ  clean and real. Brussel sprouts sliced thin and sauteed in a little olive oil with some slivered almonds, some minced garlic, and a few shaves of lemon peel become a satisfying main dish instead of something to eat with a slab of meat. Skinny green beans tossed in olive oil with slivers of roasted red pepper are to swoon over. And don’t even get me started about the earthy, voluptuous flavor of baked beets or garnet yam.

As for protein, I get plenty of it from whole grains, nuts, and dried beans. I’ve always liked brown and wild rice, and now I’ve discovered quinua and sprouted-grain breads like Ezekiel. Sliced avocado on Ezekiel bread has become my favorite lunch, and it has a ton of protein.

As I said, I didn’t intend to become a vegetarian, but I’m very glad I did.