…A post from mummy bean.
Over the next few weeks we’ll have some vegetarians joining us on the blog, to tell us their story of why they chose a plant-based diet. I thought I should perhaps I should kick it off with a post about growing up vegetarian and why I chose to eat meat. I know, right? Here’s my story…
I was born in the late seventies (we won’t say any more about that) and my mum, at the time was very spiritual. She followed a guru, we even went to America when I was a baby to a gathering there. She believed the world was a place that should be respected; that included the animals. She didn’t like the way meat was being prepared and the way animals were being treated. When she was pregnant with me she decided to become vegetarian. My father did too and when I was born so was I and my brother after that.
I grew up in an era where vegetarianism was still considered a bit hippy dippy (if that’s not too unpolitically correct) and you had to visit out-of-the-way health food stores to get anything even vaguely interesting to eat. Our family was technically pescatarian but fish made me green around the gills so I was completely vegetarian.
There are a few dishes I remember well from my childhood: Bean Bake, Spaghetti Bake, Rice and Veg, and if you didn’t eat that up that day, a vegetarian version of rissoles the next. I remember dreading rissoles!
There were relatively few tinned pulses and beans. My mum would spend hours soaking the beans and then cooking them, for what seemed like days, in a pressure cooker. One of the first cookery lessons she taught me was that kidney beans can be poisonous if not soaked and cooked for the prerequisite time.
Another memory of mine is when we briefly lived in London and, after ballet classes, my treat was a homemade vegetarian sausage roll from a rare whole food store. I didn’t mind being vegetarian, I never really thought about it. And then I went to school.
Inevitably the other kids were fascinated by my different diet, thought it was odd that I had packed lunch because the school didn’t cater for vegis and often tried to trick me into eating beef or chicken flavoured crisps.
On a French exchange trip I learnt Je suis végetarienne, perfectly. The family I was staying with really didn’t understand what this meant and gave me ham pizza. They thought it bizarre when I removed the ham, surely there could not be a person that does not east ham, but, in fairness, they didn’t give me meat again.
Then came the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) scare. 1989 brought a scandal in our food chain; animals fed with animals. My mum was right!
By the time I got to University the BSE scare was a distant memory and I was keen to try new food. It was impossible to ignore the amazing smell of bacon wafting down the corridor of the halls of residence, and it tasted even better. Next came the wonderful social aspect of Sunday roasts that everyone in our corridor contributed to and cooked together.
I didn’t really think about where the meat came from, it was just all new, exciting and tasted good. There were some things my stomach couldn’t handle, almost twenty years a vegi and there’s bound to be a knock on effect; lamb and beef mainly.
After university I ate less meat, mainly for reasons of economy. It was cheaper to live on vegi sausages, baked potatoes and pasta bakes.
Once I met my husband we found we both shared a love of food and now had the income to facilitate our whims. Venison, fillet beef, scallops and duck were, and if I’m honest still are, my favourites.
Settling down and thinking about starting my own I gradually made the choice to buy organic meat and be more conscious about where our meat and veg comes from. I enjoy our varied diet and feel comfortable with where my food comes from but what impact is it having on our environment?
An article in the Guardian newspaper, last year, suggests that if we were to give up eating beef, it would reduce your carbon footprint far more than giving up your car would. Beef production accounts for 15% of carbon emissions and uses up twenty-eight times more land than the production of chicken or pork, (Carrington, Guardian, July 2014). Some scientists believe that with the increase in population and the strain meat production puts on the planet, by 2050 we will be forced to adopt plant-based diets. In the US the consumption of meat reached its peak in 2007 and has been steadily on the decline since, (Wolchover, Livescience, 2012).
So would choosing a vegetarian diet over an omnivorous one really help the environment? I’ll be exploring this over the next month as we go vegetarian and I’ll be making some decisions about the food our family eats. As Bean nears the age of weaning her diet is something that is very important to me. I want to get it right, give her the nutrients she needs and also give her the knowledge to eventually make her own decisions about her food. That’s why this month, we’ve chosen to go vegetarian. We hope you’ll join us too.
We’d love to hear your experiences as a vegetarian. What are your views about a plant-based diet for little ones growing up?