I recently realized I spend a lot of time on food – thinking/planning, preparing it, eating it. The latter probably takes the least amount of time (I need learn to slow down and savor). And most of what we try to do at our house in regards to sustainability is food related, some of which has been documented on this blog. Perhaps this is because it is the easiest and cheapest…well, in some respects.
After watching the documentary Food, Inc. we tried to ‘go local’ on all of the meat we prepared and ate at home, but that got expensive. And being that I am working part time we just don’t have it in our budget to buy all the meat that we *want* locally. Soooo, that led us to the decision to go mostly vegetarian. Which we’ve successfully accomplished over the past few months (excepting holiday celebrations), only eating meat once or twice a week (and only from local and sustainable sources). Our son loves meat, in fact when pregnant with him I would dream of salami sandwiches, chicken fried steak, and bacon. Our son’s love of meat has held me back from trying a total vegetarian diet (Though, he didn’t eat meat at all until he was over a year old and fully in the finger foods stage – jarred baby food ‘meats’ = bleh). We’ve never been a short order cook type household and have generally always fed him what we are eating. We’ve recently had a strengthening in our philosophy of ‘kids will eat what you provide for them’; and by modeling the desired behavior (eating yummy veggie dishes) ourselves we can help motivate him to eat what we’re eating.
I was a vegetarian of varying degrees for over 10 years, so our switch to meat only once or twice a week has not been a big transition for me. Cheese and other dairy products were always an integral part of my vegetarian diet mainly for their easy supply of protein and calcium. Unfortunately they carry with them a lot of fat, calories, and cholesterol. Lately for whatever reason I’ve been drawn to veganism and strangely enough so has my husband. But we love dairy in our house, and I mean LOVE so it’s probably unreasonable to ever go that far.
Another side of the eat/shop local philosophy that appeals to us is the positive effects it has on our local community. Money stays here instead of going to large corporations located elsewhere; we get to know more people in our community (farmers, fellow patrons); and for the most part less fossil fuels are used in our acquisition of products.
There is a ton of research out there to suggest that a diet high in plants and low in animal products has many desirable effects on health – lower cholesterol, lower risk of heart disease, lower body weight, etc. Given these health benefits and above mentioned factors we’ve decided to embark on a 21 day challenge to our diets, starting this Sunday, January 16. We’re calling it OPERATION: VEGE-LOCA. Here are the parameters:
· Absolutely no meat (fish included)
· Only dairy/eggs from local (within our state) farms with sustainable and humane practices
· No ‘faux meats’ other than tofu, tempeh, TVP, and seitan (no Morningstar Farms, Quorn, Boca, etc)
· As much locally grown produce as possible (being that it’s the dead of winter and we have limited tolerance for greens in our household this will be extra challenging)
· Homemade and whole staples as much as possible (bread, pasta, grains, etc)
We’re fortunate enough to belong to a food cooperative with monthly ordering and for the past few months we’ve also been enjoying a weekly delivery from a local farm with wonderful eggs and goat’s milk – yay! We’ve also been successfully turning said milk in to yogurt and cheese – double yay! Our town’s farmers market is closed for the winter, but one is available within a short drive with ample selection.
Since we live in Oklahoma, a relatively unfriendly place to those of the vegan/vegetarian persuasion, this will mean very little eating out. There's a handful of restaurants in our town that have quality vegetarian offerings. And since we’ll be limited to only local dairy this will probably mean no cheese when eating out.
I have a tendency to want to prove things, so here are some initial hypothesizes (not sure how we’ll prove/disprove all of them):
· We will lose weight (except for the boy – he gets to drink a lot more milk than we do, and he eats ALL THE TIME)
· We will save money on grocery bills and eating out expenses
· We will have more energy
· We will help our local community and meet new people
We’ll be posting our successes and failures, random thoughts, etc throughout the process. We aim to post at least once a week, hopefully more. So check back if you’d like.
In case you’re interested here are some of our inspirations for this experiment:
Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses by Ricki Carroll
Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter
The Urban Homestead (Expanded & Revised Edition) by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen