Before I start this post I'll quickly link to a giveaway I'm taking part in over at Dolce Vita; she's holding it to celebrate having over 300 followers, which is awesome!
I've been a vegetarian since I was 16, and it's become such a fundamental part of myself that my nickname amongst some of my friends is 'Veg': in one sense at least, it really does define me.
I first tried giving up meat when I was 13, without success. I knew at the time that I wasn't going to stick at it, but something in me was also sure that it was the right choice for me, just not the right time to make it. For about a year before I actually made my second jump into vegetarianism I found myself becoming more and more troubled by the cruelty and general state-of-affairs surrounding animal welfare, and then, one afternoon I was munching on a delicious homemade chicken burger and I knew that I couldn't do it any more.
My decision was based completely on reasons of fairness: I find it absolutely unfair that we, the greedy population that we are, breed, herd and slaughter millions of animals each year just to satisfy our tastes. I have no problem with survival, with one-on-one attempts to feed our appetites - after all, hunting for food is a natural part of being a mammal. In line with this, my policy from the start has been 'if you want it, go out and get it': I've eaten pheasant hunted by a family friend, and theoretically, so long as I was willing to go out and hunt a wild pig for its bacon, a bacon sandwich would be allowed! Of course, I have no will to - I don't miss meat one single bit, and since that pheasant I haven't touched it or been tempted to touch it.
Fish was a slower process. I ate fish until I was 19, as it had always been an integral part of my diet and somehow I managed to see eating fish as fairer than eating cow. Soon enough I couldn't justify this any more, but unlike bacon or chicken, I love fish, and I miss it a lot!
The best thing about becoming vegetarian is the way it's opened my eyes to food, and to health in general. I started out knowing nothing about how much protein and vitamins I needed, and hence ended up feeling quite weak and groggy for quite some time. Since then I've experimented with so many pulses and every grain under the sun (except bulgur wheat, for some reason) and have become quite an adept cook in the process!
People often ask if I miss meat or if I wish I could have it every now and again. I absolutely don't, on both counts. Vegetarianism suits me perfectly - I love all the different colours, textures and flavours and it's super-healthy which means my immense appetite is satisfied without me having consumed much saturated fat or sugary rubbish (have you ever met an overweight vegetarian? I haven't!). Moreover, on a large scale it suits the whole world, and the world we'll hopefully have in the future. I know people who turned veggie for ecological reasons, but for me these were just other positive consequences of the best decision I ever made.
However, one thing that is extra important to me is that I don't push my views on others, or come over a little bit too vegetarian. I don't have a problem with people eating meat around me, and I'll even make a ham sandwich for you if I'm feeling extra nice. I have a few friends (Daniel included) who hardly eat any meat at all, to the point where they could easily become vegetarian with hardly any changes to their diet. But when Daniel asked me recently if he should go veggie, I said no. It seems easy enough now to be a vegetarian without categorizing yourself with the title 'vegetarian', and if I were about to make the change to my diet, I'm not sure I'd give myself the matching title anymore. There are so many different moral and ethical sides to food, and putting all of these under the same umbrella doesn't represent the importance of food choices, and life choices. I'm not vegetarian to make a statement, but calling myself vegetarian does make a statement, and not necessarily the one I want to make. I see it as a small part of my whole lifestyle now, as someone who is mindful of the choices they make and the way they go about things. I don't even think about being vegetarian anymore, it's a natural element of my bigger life picture. And that's how I like it.
On that note, a quick and summery veggie recipe to enjoy:
2 beef tomatoes, sliced thinly (about 0.5cm wide)
1 red onion, chopped into chunks
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tsp capers
Handful of green olives
Handful of fresh coriander
Olive oil (the good stuff if you have it!)
1. Fry onion and garlic until soft
2. Add capers and olives, then layer tomatoes over the pan to warm through
3. Add coriander, then turn tomatoes over to heat the other side
4. Serve with spaghetti!