Sunday, August 14, 2016

Struggles of an eating-out vegetarian: Day 1

Disclaimer: before I start I have to confess a few things.
1) No I have not decided to adopt a permanent vegetarian life style.
2) There must be so much stuff out there about vegetarianism and I have not really explored any one of them, but will probably do so in the coming weeks.
3) Emphasis on "eating-out".

Unless things change dramatically and irreversibly to my life in the future I will never become a vegetarian or vegan or what have you. I'm an omnivore like human beings should be and I will stick to that. I have nothing against people who choose to be vegetarians or vegans, in fact I have great respect for them because it's not easy to adopt to these lifestyles and most of these people that I know or have read about just seem a lot happier and at peace with themselves and with the world. I envy that. But I also firmly believe that one should not cut out major food groups from their diet (if they can), under any intellectual or moral circumstances.

That is also not to say that I have to have meat in every one of my meals. I sometimes go for a week or more without eating meat if I'm too lazy to cook dishes that include meat. I would be bothered if there are no vegetables or greens in my meals, but never the other way round. And yes I do worry about the environment, and no you will never catch me killing my own dinner. But still, we didn't evolve to the species we are from just eating berries and leaves and I will not apologize for eating other members of our kingdom (the animal kingdom, that is).

Anyhoo, despite all that, for the next several weeks, until 10/16 to be exact, I will try to adopt a vegetarian diet. The reasons are complicated, personal, and to a degree absurd. But it was a promise I made and I intend on keeping it the best I can. We are allowed to eat meat if circumstances dictate it so, and we'll just make up the days later on. My current plan is to break my vegetarian vow every Sunday (an arbitrary pick really, no significance), for the sole reason that I have chicken breast, shaved steak, shrimp, salmon, and pork buns taking space in my freezer and I really need to gradually finish them, preferably before I move out (I'm graduating in late October, you see).

Today (Saturday) was Day 1. I'm already deciding that I will stay vegetarian on Sunday because it will be unlikely that I cook at all on Day 2. Despite being here in New England, this month has been unbearably warm and now humid. That combined with the stress of writing my thesis has really left me no desire to worry about cooking. I've resigned to the fact that I will spend more money than I wish this month on take-out food, and it, along with coffee, will be an expense I'm willing to pay.

Immediately I realize the problems. I almost never do vegetarian takeouts. Whenever I eat out I always get meat-based dishes because paying for other people to cook you vegetables is almost just like being robbed. It's way overpriced! Why would you pay 10 bucks for a meat-less salad, or a plate of stir-fried vegetables, when the raw ingredients are fraction the price and the skill that's required to prepare the dish is virtually none? I can't stand the injustice, and therefore I've always ordered stuff with meat in the dishes.

For lunch today I thought I would do asian food, and I went to this Japanese-Korean restaurant thinking I will get some sort of Korean stew with rice (because the calories in noodles are just outrageous). As I was sitting in the restaurant staring at the menu I realized that it was a very bad place to be if you are vegetarian. The limited options are just depressing. There was virtually no vegetarian sushi options (as it should really), and all the hot dishes, Japanese or Korean, have some sort of seafood or pork or beef in them. I did end up getting stew but it wasn't what I had in mind (what I had in minded, it turned out, had seafood in it). So one meal down without breaking my promise and it was a close one. I won't be visiting that restaurant any time soon and that's just a shame.

For dinner I got a salad. Overpriced perhaps but I needed the fresh vegetables to offset the carb-heavy cornbread and fat-loaded string cheese I brought with me as studying snacks. That was another problem I sensed. Not all vegetarian diets are healthy. It's so easy to overeat on the carbs, especially when you don't have the protein-rich meat to keep you full. I will have to be careful to consume more plant-based proteins or this might ironically wreck my weight losing plans.

So one day down and however many more to go. I hope the weather will improve so that it'll at least be cool and not humid enough to cook at home. I really had to think more than I liked to figure out what I wanted to eat and where I could get it in town, and while I like food I just hate obsessing over it in this way. Tomorrow (or later today, rather) will be another take-out day, as I'm trying to finish up a draft of my chapter to be submitted to my adviser and it will be again humid and hot and disgusting and I will want to run away from my apartment as fast as possible. I don't know what I'll buy yet. Given my limited calorie budget it's not easy to find restaurant options that are healthy in all sense of the word.

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