Monday, December 6, 2010

What I Learned from Meatless Mondays

As Monday is upon us again, I am, omnivore again, reflecting on the five weeks that passed and how they changed my vision of my consumption in my future.

I began this challenge to honor those vegetarians and vegans that eat a restricted diet all year round. When I learned that November was World Vegan Month, it seemed there was no better time to take the leap. So I decided, after months of talking about what's the right meat to eat, where to find it and how much do I really have to pay for it?! I dedicated my husband and I to five meatless Mondays - not a tall order, but some change for us.

My husband and I had spoken of going vegetarian in the Spring when we first saw the film Food, Inc. and when I had just finished reading Eating Animals. However, as my health waned in the months that followed, survival seemed to be our only concern. When I finally saw a nutritionist, her call to order was cutting out gluten and dairy, so any other restrictions seemed to cause too much of a learning curve all at once. Five months later, we were a little better prepared for the task at hand.

So How Did It Go?

Total transparency here: if it weren't for this blog, I don't think I would have made it. As each week passed I knew my husband's resolve was failing, had I not (1) written out a goal for myself, and (2) posted it publicly on the Internet, I think I would have eventually acquiesced and given my husband some meat on at least one of three Mondays that I can recall.
  • There was one week when my mother-in-law invited us over to dinner just as I started to prepare our meal. I would have said, "No problem, if you want to go over there, I can stop what I am doing and save it for some other day."
  • There was, of course, the horrendous reaction to the idea of black bean burgers which broke my heart. I nearly told him to pick up chopped meat on the way home with his burger buns! Then I thought, "No... My blog! How could I write that?!" So I stood my ground and let him "suffer" (if I remember correctly, I believe that turned out OK).
  • Of course, there was week five. When I started this I was excited about the fact that November 2010 was such a Monday-packed month, however, after dealing with the meatless Monday GRINCH all month, I dreaded the final Monday's reaction. If not for the blog, I probably would have said, "OK, Hon, you did a great job - four Mondays is a typical month, so you are off the hook!"
What I Learned
One of the benefits I really hoped to gain from this experience was to expand my horizons as a cook. To learn more recipes, techniques, or just get some ideas for meals of our future. I did succeed in learning a lot, both in the kitchen and out. Here are some lessons learned:
  • Planning meals, or meal types is fun for me. Having the limitation of a meatless dinner really made me think every Sunday night and Monday morning. I enjoyed the experience, but understand that a lot of what it possible is the fact that I am home on medical leave. This labeling of Monday night dinners has inspired me to think about labeling every night of the week so that I don't get caught in a coking rut!
  • Eating gluten filled foods really messes me up. Unfortunately, when I tried the Gardien Sante Fe product on meatless Monday #2 I did not read the label (forgetting that the first time I tried it was BEFORE I started eating gluten free). While I did not enjoy the experience, I am very happy it happened while I was not working so I could truly understand how gluten affects me. This helps me express myself more clearly to doctors as well as friends and family who are curious about the seemingly sudden need to go gluten free.
  • I need to take care of me a little bit better. I noticed (I don't know if you did too) that, as the weeks went on, my breakfast and lunch were not as well thought out as dinner. Now, is this because I was spending the day planning dinner? Maybe. But that is still no excuse. There is a distinct difference between my well though-out breakfast of week one with gluten-free cereal, a large glass of water and a bowl of mixed berries that I cut for myself and my week five breakfast that I "worked through" eating an apple and following it with some more grab-able fruit for "lunch."
  • Eating vegetarian is very filling, satisfying and nourishing. I did not feel like I needed meat.
  • Due to my dairy-free restrictions, many of the things I eat are verging on vegetarian, anyway.
The Food, Nicole! Tell Them About THE FOOD

Alright, let's get to it.
  • My absolute favorite Monday of meals was probably week three, even though I didn't have lunch. I made the apple cinnamon quinoa breakfast and vegetarian chili for dinner. I have already used both of those recipes again, so I have to give it props for that. 
  • Week 2, although it ended with my gluten consumption got me to do something I have wanted to do for a really long time - write down the recipes for my mother-in-law's potato salad and for the black beans.  
  • Last week was a personal favorite with lentils and macaroni with a new twist I hadn't tried before. I know I will be making this one again, I just wonder if it will be for me alone, or if my husband will join me. 
  • My least favorite of them all would probably have to be the black bean burgers from week four, but I think with some spice adjustments they might make a reappearance (I am thinking about having a burger showdown for my husband - black bean vs. beef vs. salmon vs. turkey, ok, ok I KNOW too many "vs.", I'm working on it!!). 
  • Finally, it isn't fair for me to throw week one into the competition - the marinara sauce that has been passed down in my family has a special place in my heart and taste memory, I doubt that any flavor could surpass it if I were asked, but I am aware that I am completely biased!
I am so happy that I participated in this meatless Monday challenge. I am aware that many do meatless Mondays all year round and that many have meatless lives, but, for now, this is where the Riveras stand with their commitment upheld at five meatless Mondays in the month of November. Shall we go for more? It remains to be seen. Maybe we'll be complete mavericks and go meatless on some other day of the week, but tonight, although the rest of my day might be meatless, there will be meat on our table.

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