Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pesky pescetarianism

I decided recently that I'd like to try pescetarianism (cutting all creatures that have legs out of my diet) for the summer. I'm not doing it because of any new and deeply-held moral beliefs, though I do think a vegetarian diet is more environmentally-friendly than one that includes meat. I actually just want to make sure I'll take advantage of the great produce during the short growing season around here, and not pass it up for a burger I can eat any time of year. Also, cooking-wise, I feel like I've slipped into a meat rut - it's just too easy to make a steak taste good.

More than one person has told me this is the worst time of the year to try this, since I'm going to miss out on grilled steaks and burgers, but the charcoal-grilled salmon and fennel slices I made last weekend were pretty damned great if I do say so myself. Burgers are great off the grill, but plenty of other things are, too.

I started May 1, and we'll see what I say down the road, but so far so good. Actualy, I've really been enjoying it. I've had to travel a little outside my comfort zone, taste-wise, and all for the better. For instance, I didn't think I liked spanakopita, but devouring a slice of the spinach pie with a side of tabouli and a cold, hoppy beer after a hot bike ride last Monday was one of the more memorable eating experiences I've had in months. I've also been trying to teach myself to like mushrooms over the past few years, and their substantial texture and high protein content make them a really useful component of a vegetarian diet. I've eaten more mushrooms in the last two weeks than I have in my entire life. Tonight, after a ten-hour drive up from Southern Idaho, I wanted to throw together a simple and easy dinner. I boiled some pasta, put together a green salad, and to add some substance to the jarred marinara for the pasta, I cooked some sliced crimini mushrooms in olive oil with oregano, red pepper flake and worcestireshire sauce. (I've been using mushrooms as almost a direct meat replacement; that's basically the way I season my meatballs, so I figured it would work for mushrooms.) Dinner was as delicious as it was simple.

I even navigated some of the social awkwardness that comes with this kind of change in diet this weekend when I went to visit my in-laws. I wasn't sure at first how to handle this without being a pain, so I did eat the roast beef sandwich my mother in law made for me the night I arrived at her place. When she asked the next day what kind of food Andy and I might want to eat while we were there, I confessed my little food project, and she was more than happy to accomodate. I told myself that I wouldn't stick with this if it were a huge pain in the ass, but so far, it's been really manageable.

I'd love to hear some input from anyone who's gone through this kind of process. I don't see why this should get any harder, except for the bacon cravings, which I take to be an eventuality. My habits have changed, but only barely, and it's helped me introduce more variety (and vegetables) into my diet. What's not to like?

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