Thursday, March 26, 2009

Where's the Beef?

I'm going to come clean: I spent close to 14 years of my life as a vegetarian.

The whole thing started when I was about 13 years old. I had a wicked crush on River Phoenix and read that he was a vegetarian. That's all it took for me. I forswore meat and spent many years without it, much to my family's chagrin. Early on, I was what I now refer to as a "bread-and-cheese-atarian." I didn't eat meat, it's true. But at age 13, in the late 80's, in Northwest Ohio, I didn't have a meatless Mediterranean diet at my disposal. Suffice it to say that I ate a lot of frozen Stoffer's French Bread cheese pizzas.

Later, specifically after I moved out East, I found that it was easy to find delicious, healthy, meatless dishes. But it was also easy to find really, really delicious meat-centric dishes, especially in New York City. Then, I married a Frenchman, who regarded vegetarianism as an aberration. Say what you want about the French, but they are epicureans all.

Though I ultimately went back to my carnivorous roots, I did so in moderation. To this day, I'm not an avid meat-eater. And I believe this is beneficial to my health. (As recently as a few weeks ago, my cholesterol clocked in at [REDACTED]**.)

New evidence shows that low-meat diets are, in fact, healthier than diets heavy in meat, specifically red meat--a claim my French husband disbelieves. But the proof is in the (meatless) pudding.

Tara Parker-Pope examines this topic on her New York Times Well blog. Aside from imparting the benefits to the body and the planet that consuming less meat offers, she also highlights some delicious-sounding recipes that are light on meat, including a chicken and biscuit pot pie. This one sounds so good, I think I'll try it on my Frenchie.

**This has been edited to appease my father.


Jennifer said...

Great post! We eat a lot less meat when I shop and cook than when my husband does, so that's what we're doing these days. Now to cut back on the cheese...

Anonymous said...


Don't we risk being viewed as a tad "healthier-than-thou" when we post our microscopic cholesterol count?

Especially considering our ultra-carniverous father's lifelong 130-150 tallies, which include Egg A'Muffins, bronto-bowls of real ice cream and Fred Flintstone-sized steaks.

Metabolism is a wonderful thing.

Ruth said...

How true, vegetarian does not mean healthy. I heard somewhere that many people gain weight when they go vegetarian because they start eating so much cheese. Now that I've taken dairy products out of the equation, that has helped me, although I WAS eating Trader Joe's cat cookies out of the container for about two hours last night while lounging on the couch watching reruns--how's that for healthy! Anyway, if I find myself in a social wine-and-cheese scenario, I'm sure I would buckle. There's no question.