Thursday, April 21, 2011

faqs & from here on out...

I have gotten so many questions about blogging, cooking, and eating, so I figure I'd answer some of them here today.  (Also, I've been busy, lazy, and cheap, so I haven't been grocery shopping or cooked much this week).  Tomorrow I'll have a post for Friday breakfast, but today there's no food.......just answers.

What made you decide to become a temporary vegetarian?

I wanted a Lenten promise that was challenging, but it was also important to me that it be measurable and manageable.  It had to be something that was black and white (me, black and white?), and something that I could actually stick with.  I have a major, major sweet tooth, and no matter how many times I give up something sweet, I end up caving.  Plus, I obviously enjoy cooking, and I wanted to explore ways to prepare meatless meals.  There are so many healthy, well-rounded dishes that provide all the vitamins and nutrients necessary in a daily diet, but without the meat.  Now, I am confident implementing several different cooking methods, as well as preparing different ingredients I had never used before.

Why did you choose to keep a blog?

The short answer is: "so many reasons".  The longer answer is.....I've always wanted to, but never had any ideas, my family was skeptical that I'd be able to do this in a healthy way, I wanted to be able to have a forum to hold me accountable and share my stories, and finally, I really, really love writing.

Somewhere between high school and now I wound up following my head instead of my heart.  I chose what was practical and realistic over what I really wanted.  Actually, I've done this a few times....yet I digress.  I chose a field of study that I didn't particularly love, instead of following my dreams of writing.  I chose Economics partially because I knew I would always have a paycheck, as opposed to a career as a journalist, possibly scrambling for freelance gigs and having Ramen every day for weeks.  Don't get me wrong - I'm happy in my career path at this moment.  I don't necessarily regret choosing numbers over words.  But it's still something I think about, and it's been nice to have an outlet for writing.

Do you miss the meat, or are you going to give up meat forever?

I don't really miss the meat, but I wouldn't give it up forever.  I enjoy meat too much to never eat it again in some capacity, although I think I have become a much more conscious eater.  Before I get up on my soapbox, let me just say that I am obviously not a doctor or a nutritionist, and this just reflects my opinion. I've realized that animal proteins are simply not necessary as the cornerstone of a human diet.  There are plenty of ways to get proteins from other sources, such as beans and legumes (personal favorites are black beans and lentils), nuts, and even some grains and vegetables (quinoa, and randomly enough, peas?)

That said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with preferring animal proteins and consuming them as a part of a balanced diet, and I am certainly not trying to suggest otherwise.  I just happen to think that meat is far too ingrained in our lifestyles and not enough people have explored the option of switching to plant-based proteins as a substitute (maybe once a day, or even once a week).

I'm hesitant to put a number on it, but, in the future, I don't see myself eating meat more than three or four times in a (typical) week.  I'm sure there will be some weeks in which I don't eat meat at all, or some weeks in which I eat it more often.  The truth is, I've been absolutely fine without it.  I've always been healthy, and I feel just as healthy and strong - if not more so - than when I ate meat daily.  I think that is because I made sure to get nutrients from other sources.  If I skimped, and avoided other protein sources, I don't think this would be the case.

You're eating fish?  What a cop out!

Uh, #rude.  You know who you are (cough, cough, SISTER).  I set the rules on my first day - I would allow myself fish in limited quantities.  I have probably eaten it once a week.  Plus, as Catholics, Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence - i.e. no "meat."  "Meat" includes land animals only; the Catholic church allows fish on Fridays.  So, I guess you could say that my definition of "meatless" or "vegetarian" is based on that tenet.

If you prefer to call me the 40-day pescetarian, go right ahead - but it just doesn't have the same ring to it.  Also, I did attempt to make as many purely meatless meals as possible, but sometimes fish is so convenient because it thaws and cooks quickly, and it applies to all sorts of moods and flavors.

What were your favorite recipes?  Least favorite?  Favorite restaurant experience?

Favorites:   Unless I have a disclaimer somewhere in the entry, everything on here was pretty delicious.  I really loved the lentil, beet, and green bean dish I made.  It was so hearty and satisfying, yet light and invigorating.  It was great for lunch or dinner, and it tasted great as leftovers.  I am obsessed with the maple dijon vinagrette from Bollie's brussels sprouts and have been putting it on everything.  Also, this soup was delicious and I'm certain it will be a constant fixture in my refrigerator all summer long.  My favorite lunch was probably the curried chickpea and couscous salad.  Whitney's favorite dish is the stirfry.

Least favorites:  Easy.  Those oatmeal banana pancakes and the chickpea/tomato/spinach thing.  I'm going to give this one another shot with the honeyed sweet potatoes because it definitely has potential.

Dining out:  The potato waffle benedict at the Smith in New York.  Nom nom nom.  I often still think about it on Saturday mornings.

So, are you, like, totally skinny now?

Haha, no.  Let me make clear that I did not do this to lose weight.  Lent is a religious observance, not a diet.  Over the last 6 weeks, I've actually gained about two pounds, but I'm not sure if it can be attributed to my diet or if is just natural weight gain.  Without getting into too many details, a few months ago I dropped a significant amount of weight, and I do think that some of it has come back on naturally as my life has smoothed out a little.   But also, I've been cooking so much that my appetite can barely keep up!

What are you going to eat on Easter?

For breakfast, probably just my usual eggs.  Not a huge fan of bacon, as we've discussed.  I mostly just use it for flavoring and cooking.  Lunch will probably be a turkey or chicken sandwich.  Dinner will be my Mom's pork tenderloin for Easter dinner.  It's my favorite.  In fact, Mom asked what I wanted, and that was the only thing that came to mind.  It's juicy and succulent and I can't wait to sink my teeth in it.  When I get back to DC after the holiday, I'll probably have Ray's Hell Burger within the first couple of weeks of being a carnivore again.  That's the one thing I've really missed - a nice, juicy burger, as close to mooing as possible. 

What the heck does FOMO mean?

Fear of Missing Out.  Listen, to save yourself the embarrassment, just Google it next time.  Same with BSC.  In informal writing, I find that and Wikipedia are the best bets for defining unknown terms.

Are you going to do this next year, too?

I don't know - a year is a really long time.  Maybe I'll have a different vice to give up at that point.  Or maybe I'll go vegan.  Or maybe I'll give up vegetables. 

Are you going to keep blogging?

Everybody asks me this, and the honest answer is that I don't know yet.  I've really enjoyed this little project, but it's been a lot of work!  It's been so much fun getting back in touch with my writing side - I sit at work all day dealing with massive amounts of quantitative data, so this has been an incredibly stimulating, exciting, and rewarding side project.  If I do keep blogging, I don't know what I'd write about.  I'd probably want to re-brand and re-concentrate my blog, seeing how food blogs are a dime a dozen these days, and I don't have the time, energy, or resources to make it stand out.  However, a blog about my life in general is not really appropriate for the blogosphere.  I can't speak openly about my job or my projects (both for confidentiality reasons and also because it would likely bore you to tears), and a blog about my personal life would certainly need to be written anonymously or under some pen name. 

A lot of people say they like reading this because it's written the exact same way I speak.  I think this is hilarious, because how else is informal writing supposed to be presented?  I'm about to get really cheeseball and slightly emo for a second, but just hang on for one minute.  Like uninhibited speech, writing for pleasure is an expression of self.  Sure, it is marginally more editorialized, and slightly more thoughtful, but I truly believe its bottom line is equal to speech in intention and expression.  That is, we write what we say, which is how we feel, no matter in how many words, or how few.  Writing (and for that matter, speaking) from the heart is a most raw and vulnerable expression of self.  Similarly, art forms like dancing, acting, and cooking are manifestations of these expressions.  With food, so many things are communicated - love, respect, happiness, and celebration.

That said, I'm flattered that so many of you have enjoyed reading this blog, and I'm even more excited that so many of you have tried the recipes, or have expressed interest in doing so.  Your constructive criticism keeps me grounded and focused, your compliments make me blush, and your attention and support leave me stunned.  I've gotten over 3,400 web hits on 32 entries.  I've had readers in Canada, Spain, France, England, Germany, Russia, India, Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Bangladesh, Singapore, and Zambia.  It's super cool!  Thank you so much for embarking on this journey with me.

So tomorrow, like every Friday, I'll be serving breakfast.  It will be straight from Casa Mac down in Norfolk.  And I suppose Monday I'll have a run-down of my first carnivorous meal in 6 weeks.  And after that, we will see.  Who knows.

Thanks again for everything.  It's been a blast.  Stay tuned!

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