I thought reading a book in a week would be easy. It was hard.
I thought going meatless for a week would hard. Although I’m very fond of vegetables, I’ve never been what you would call a “vegetarian.” I like a juicy burger, a rack of barbecue ribs, or a slab of medium rare prime rib served au jus with a generous side of creamy horseradish every bit as much as the next carnivore.
But . . . it was easy. Go figure.
Granted, it wasn’t all beans and rice (that’s an adventure for another week), but I did find that cooking meatless wasn’t the challenge I had thought it would be, even with three picky children to accommodate.
We kicked off the week after one final feast of meat-heavy Chinese takeout last Sunday. To give us (or at least myself) a good head start, I included a large bean curd and mixed vegetables with our order and tucked it away in the fridge for later.
Lunches, I knew, would be no problem. I substituted PB&J for our usual turkey/cheese sandwiches, et voila! Vegetarian sack lunches for the whole family!
When Monday dinner came around, though, I was mildly perplexed. Did I want to wait for lentils to cook? Did I want to play my one get-out-of-jail free card for the week and throw together a box of Kraft “maccy cheese” (as my two-year-old calls it)?
The two-year-old, as it happens, came up with the winning menu for the evening when she brought me a box from the cupboard and said, “Popcorn, Mama.” Popcorn. Why not?
So, we had popcorn and sliced green peppers the first night.
I treated myself to a small (okay, maybe not so small) portion of my leftover tofu/veggie stir-fry with white rice. Yum all around.
Day two: we were still going strong. Sir Ken the Pasta-Hater was away at a conference, so we were able to use an old fall-back: noodles and marinara sauce. The kids said, “Yay!”
I sauteed some vegetables — onions, green pepper, tomato, spinach, and eggplant — to go with them. The kids said, “Boo!” (Actually, they said, “No, thank you” . . . but they meant, “Boo!”)
I covered the whole kit-and-caboodle with mozarella (for protein, of course). The kids said, “What? No Parmesan?”
Wednesday night, the hubby was back, life was crazy, and it was time for that “maccy cheese” to make its way to our table, along with a side salad of baby spinach. Thursday night, we had cheese pizza. So far, the kids were absolutely loving meatless week.
Friday, I knew, would be tricky. It was my mom’s birthday, and birthdays deserve to be marked by feasting, as far as I’m concerned. For my dad (and for me, too, actually), a feast can be one of two things: roasted meat, or high-quality ethnic foods. I decided to grab the bull by the horns (and not roast him, for once). In our super-secret pre-birthday-planning emails, I made a suggestion,
“If you all think it’s a good idea, I’d be happy to pick up some Thai takeout at a nice place in Jenison on our way, since I know Mom loves that and can’t get it in SH. We could pack it up in an insulated bag, and it would probably still be hot when we get there.”
Dad wrote back, “Thai good.” I cheered loudly on the inside. Thai chefs can do absolutely magical things with tofu and vegetables.
Mom’s birthday feast consisted of Pad Thai (one chicken, one tofu), catfish with red curry, and peanut curry with tofu. Heavenly.
It was in ordering the chicken Pad Thai, however, that I made a serious tactical error. The magical tofu dishes were so good that they got eaten first, even by those who weren’t observing meatless week. The catfish went next, and I knew then that we were starting to slip. Ken and my dad ruled mid-meal that if the Roman Catholic Church regarded fish as okay on meatless fast days, so would we. And oh, was it ever good. All that was left then was the chicken Pad Thai.
Still hungry, I tried to pick out as many noodles as I could while leaving the chicken untouched in the dish. I almost succeeded — but for that one bite of moist, savory chicken. And with that bite, as with Persephone and her six pomengranate seeds, the game was up.
I hadn’t had any meat all week, and that one bite of chicken inspired in me a new appreciation and understanding of why it is that human beings have always gone to so much trouble — the killing, the mess of blood and hair, the involved cooking process, and the innate risk of food-born illness — to put meat on the table.
I’d like to say I only had the one bite, but I’ll confess, I polished off every last forkful very happily, if somewhat guiltily.
By Sunday, though, we were back on track, and for Sunday dinner after church, we finally managed the one meatless meal I’d been aiming for all week: a crock pot full of beans and a loaf of crusty bread. The kids liked the bread, at least, and I ended up with three days’ worth of leftover beans for my lunches this week (which, by my reckoning, more than makes up for the chicken indiscretion).
All in all, our week without meat didn’t actually turn out to be all that old-fashioned. We ate our fair share of processed and restaurant food, just like always. I didn’t lose any of the weight I had secretly hoped I would drop, though I did notice that our grocery bill for the week was a little lower than usual. It was very a eye-opening experience, though.
Yes, we love meat. We always knew that, and we know it even more now. And yes, we can live quite happily without meat. We didn’t know that before, but we know it now.
Are you keen to try a meatless week? Check out the introductory post for this adventure.
Have you tried this adventure (or one like it)? Share your experience in the comments.