Thursday, January 22, 2009

Source-Itarianism

I have been reading a lot of literature recently about food, including the Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal Liberation, and it's been sort of nagging at me that I want to try to pay more attention to what I eat. It's clear that I can't be entirely connected with everything I eat and still have time for other interesting activities, nor do I want to be full-on vegetarian because I enjoy eating meat; a simple compromise seemed to be to spend some time only eating meat that I was aware was humanely (funny term - treated like a human) raised.

At the end of last year, my girlfriend and I decided to try to do this, along with some extra stuff which made the diet a little more difficult. We decided on a timespan of 2 months, where we'd heed 4 rules:
  • No meat that we don't know or approve of the source of: This means wild caught fish only, pastured pork and chicken and grass-fed beef. Shellfish are OK based on Peter Singer's point of view on animal nervous systems and capacity for suffering. I'm dubbing this "Source-Itarianism" unless someone else gives me a better name.
  • No fried foods: Basically no deep fried foods. This was inserted mainly as a challenge for me because I LOVE fried food, and will always order it when given the opportunity. Renee is also something of a french fry junkie. 1 exception - tortilla chips.
  • No soda: Standard thing for me to try to avoid. It seems I always come back to it, though
  • No Desserts: This one was for Renee. She wants Amy's Ice Cream every day, so she wanted to try to avoid it for a few months.
We also allowed for a few days when we could break the diet, namely Renee's birthday, our 3 year anniversary, and Valentine's day.
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So we've been doing this for a couple of weeks - here are some tidbits:

1. One of the major benefits so far has been a huge increase in the variety of food I eat. I now have to seek out the menu items that conform to the diet, and they're always different. It's a lot of fun going to the same restaurants you always go to but getting completely different things.

2. In order to pull off a diet like this, you have to schedule in times when you can break it, and here's why. We went out to Hut's Hamburgers last night and got hamburgers and fries and cokes. It made us feel TERRIBLE - your food just isn't that heavy when you're not eating fried foods, and it's really noticeable. Walking to the car, we were like 'I'm excited to go back to the diet'. If we didn't have that break scheduled in there, we would've just craved french fries the whole time, remember how awesome they taste.

3. The net effect of the source-itarianism portion of the diet is that we only eat meat from home (we have a freezer full of grass-fed beef and hunted pork).

4. The diet would be much more difficult without this book: Super Natural Cooking. It's fantastic - it teaches you all about cooking with whole ingredients, and emphasizes feel over robotic instruction-following. There is so much good, easy-to-make vegetarian stuff in there that I don't feel like I'm missing anything by not eating as much meat.

5. Ordering dishes that don't have meat is MUCH cheaper. I'm sure this is well documented, but I concur. Meat is almost always the most expensive thing you're eating. Avoiding it means a lot of cost savings, though I'm not sure how much. At least 2 dollars per meal out, and probably closer to 5 or 6 for meals you cook at home.

6. Vegetarian cooking is EASY! It seems like meat is always the thing that takes the most time, and is at the most risk of going horribly, noticeably wrong. Vegetables are delicious at most every stage of cookedness, notably including raw. Vegetarian cooking is fast - no 3 hour braises, etc.

7. It isn't that hard to stick to. I did't find myself craving any of the food I had to avoid after about the 4th day.

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