My name is Maria, and I am a carnivore. I’m also Catholic, which means that every spring since I was old enough to praise or complain about the candy the Easter Bunny brought me, my mother had me “give up” something for Lent. Mom often encouraged my sisters and me to give up something “sinful”, something that, if we could only break the habit, would make us better people and better Catholics. In my parents' eyes, this meant back-talking, sassing, being a smart ass, or bickering.
Giving up (or, as they hoped, quitting all together) these things is great, in theory, but hard to measure. Does playing devil’s advocate count as back-talking? Are you being a smart aleck even if you’re right? And HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO QUIT BICKERING IF BOLLIE RIPPED A HOLE IN MY FAVORITE SWEATER? (shameless Modern Family reference). So, in my twenty-something years of making a Lenten promise, I’ve almost always given up something food-related. Many times, that was soft-drinks. My love for Diet Coke used to border on uncontrollable; I am happy to report it is much more restrained these days. Several times, it was sweets. Sometimes it was all sweets, sometimes just candy, or just chocolate, or just cookies (I made exceptions when Lent coincided with Girl Scout cookie season, e.g. "You may have exactly four Thin Mints this week. You may have them all at once, or one at a time, but you may NOT have more than four.) A couple years ago, I gave up cheese - in all forms. Cream cheese, pizza, all cheese. This was, by far, the hardest Lenten promise I ever made. I did really well for the first three or four weeks and then I went buck wild. I am embarrassed to admit how many times I cheated. Only one time have I given up something that didn't include food. When I lived in Spain, I was completely unwilling to deprive myself of any gastronomic adventures I may have experienced, so I gave up cussing. That was difficult because cursing in Spanish sounds so much cooler and more cultured than cursing in English.
This year, I was looking for a Lenten promise that would be really challenging, but one that I could actually keep. The thing with sweets and soda is that, when you cheat, you just keep on going, because your first thought is, “Well, God is mad at me now, so I might as well keep it coming.” Yeah, well, either that, or the sugar and sweeteners just keep you craving more. So I began brainstorming ideas. It's generally not good to give up something healthy, like bananas (which I eat almost every day) or vegetables. Processed food? No. I eat very well about 85% of the time, but I firmly believe sometimes you just need something out of a package. Veganism? For me personally, too restrictive. With the amount of yogurt, eggs, and cheese that I eat, I would last about a week. After a lot of thinking, I decided on a modified Vegetarian diet. I will renounce all meats and meat products – chicken, pork, beef, lamb, basically any animal that dwells on land. I will include in my diet animal by-products like dairy and eggs, and I will also eat fish (albeit in limited quantities - I'm not made of money). So what does that mean? A lot of legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and grains (which, by the way, may or may not be of the healthy, whole variety), some dairy, and some fish. I’m even going to try swapping vegetable stock for chicken stock!
So, here I am, beginning this blog, much at the urging of my co-worker, Laura, with whom I often swap recipes. This blog is a way to share my new meatless adventures with my friends. It’s also a way to ensure that I experiment with new foods and techniques and don’t fall into a routine of eggs, hummus, and peanut butter sandwiches. I think there will also be some added bonuses – getting my friend Brent of My Sweet Natured Life to stay on top of her blogging, chronicling my comedic series of steps and mis-steps that I like to call “life”, and giving me an outlet to write, a hobby I’ve always enjoyed.
This blog isn’t going to be anything special - at the end of my day, my work is done if I can get you to try a dish outside of your meat-and-potatoes comfort zone. (Or, if you’re me – meat and white rice, as I am quite particular about potatoes.) If I can make you laugh along the way, well hey, that’s actually a nice bonus, too.