As I said in a previous post, I’ve decided to give the vegetarian lifestyle a 3-month trial this year. Last Sunday, I took my parents and brother out to Au pied de cochon, and sensing the orgy of meat this would represent, I decided that it would be a fitting point to start my vegetarian experiment.
And so, as of yesterday morning, I’m a vegetarian.
Going vegetarian has one very specific thing in common with quitting smoking, it would seem. When you’re a smoker, you go hours without thinking about the fact you are not smoking at this precise point in time. But quit smoking, and suddenly you’re thinking about your non-smoking every damn minute. As you’ve seen from my recent posts, quitting meat has the same effect on me: I just can’t stop thinking about the absence of it. That is particularly annoying, given that in the days leading up to the Christmas Holidays, my meat consumption was already down to a handful of meals a week.
Ahead of the beginning of my vegetarian experiment, I phoned Helene, who is currently staying at her grandmother’s for the Holidays. I discussed with her my idea to stop eating meat immediately following my trip to Au pied de cochon. Turns out I hadn’t thought this one through.
“Now, what precisely is your reason to become vegetarian? This will influence your choices and restrictions,” she explained to me.
That one is a bit tricky, because as I previously explained on this blog, I’m actually fine with eating meat. So part of my trying out vegetarianism involves imagining myself not being fine with it, and seeing where I draw the line.
“I’m actually less fine with eating an egg that comes from an agro-industrial chicken, than a steak from a small-scale organic farm. So for me to quit eating that steak and having eggs at McDonald’s feels wrong.”
“So vegan, then. But to what degree do you want to do it? Are you fine with wearing leather shoes?”
Ah, yes, the good old downward spiral of vegan ethics. You start by wanting to cut meat because it feels wrong to butcher a veal, and the next thing you know, you’re avoiding silk because you feel guilty for exploiting silkworms.
In the end, Helene and I decided to be dietary vegans in most restaurants, and ovo-lacto-vegetarians at home and in restaurants that offer local and/or organic products. I feel like a smoker who quits smoking cigarettes unless they’re menthos and/or unfiltered Gauloises. But as Helene sagely points out, if you try to do too much with vegetarianism, you’ll just go crazy and give up.
So after reading on vegetarian food, today I went out to Planet Organic, Edmonton’s organic supermarket. I considered myself something of a finicky buyer before, but this reaches entirely new levels. For instance, I’m now looking for “vegetarian cheese”. What’s non-vegetarian about normal cheese you ask? Many cheeses are made using rennet, an enzyme. And it turns out that newborn calves’ stomachs are a wonderful source of rennet.
Well, that’s just peachy. What’s next? Eggs are actually made out of aborted chicken fetuses? This isn’t as easy as it was meant to be.
Anyway, I’ve made it back home with a modest amount of vegetables and one cheese clearly labelled as “rennet-free”. Score! I’ve also braved the refrigerated aisle in order to explore the dark underworld of meat substitutes.
I’ll be trying these out over the next few days, and blogging about it afterwards. But in the meantime, I’ve got one terrifying word for you: