You know when people say, “I could never go without beef/chicken/pork/fish.” at the first mention of vegetarianism? I used to be one of those people. I was so dependent on melt-off-the-bone pork rib soup, chicken wings, steak frites, and the like that I couldn’t imagine meals without them.
Since I’ve cut out meat from my diet. The actual maintenance is easier than I thought it would be. I understand now why vegans and vegetarians are able to stick to their diets for a very long time once they get started.
Now I’m not saying that avoiding meat is easy. It still takes discipline and resisting temptation. But those temptations eventually go away.
- Your taste buds will adapt to your (new) regular diet and it will start to crave what you eat most.
- Meat foods are high in sodium compared to plant-based foods, and a lot of my own meat cravings were actually sodium cravings. Once the intake of sodium drastically reduces, going back to salty foods is actually unappetizing.
- For weight conscious people – you can eat a lot of food without worrying about weight gain. With some caveats, when it comes to plant-based meals – the more you eat, the healthier you become!
- Meat substitutes are growing in popularity and it’s easier to get vegetarian options that are both unique AND delicious at restaurants. (This Friday I went out to dinner with some friends, and a few of them ordered a delicious looking prime rib entrée. I actually tried a small bite of it, and was shocked at just how salty it tasted to me. I found my own vegetarian risotto a lot more palatable.)
Now that I have only one week left of the vegan challenge, I really think I will continue to eat plant-based meals 80% of the time going forward. Since my last update, I’ve been having less dizzy spells. This could be because I’ve been choosing plant foods that are high in iron, or simply because my body knows that the end is near and is holding out for the meat based minerals around the corner.
As this challenge draws to an end, a part of me has toyed back and forth with the idea of going completely vegetarian, or at least pescatarian. I like the discipline of adhering to a strict meal plan, and I also like the health benefits of a plant-based diet.
But a story from this weekend will highlight my rationale on why I can never swear off meat completely:
On cheating with Pork Baozi:
On Saturday night my mom had a layover in Vancouver and I drove to the airport so we could spend a few hours together. When I saw her, she (in typical Chinese mother fashion) had 3 Tupperware full of home cooked food for me.
Even though I told her I wasn’t eating meat this month, it did not deter her from enthusiastically thrusting into my grasp 10 fresh pork baozi (like pork dumplings but round), a container full of home-made sausage, and some garlic eggplant.
“You can freeze these to eat later,” She offered, pretending to be abashed of luring me into temptation, “but they won’t taste as fresh. I made them this weekend specifically to bring to you.”
Chinese mother guilt-trip aside, mom’s pork baozi are some of my favorite food. I like a three to one bun to filling ratio, and the texture of the dough is more important to me than the actual meat inside. To this day, I’ve never had a restaurant bao that was as fluffy or as tasty as my mom’s.
As I drove home, there was a very short-lived internal struggle as to whether I would eat these pork baozi or not. For a brief moment, I considered freezing them to eat in February, but I dismissed that idea. When I got home, I heated two up and ate them right away.
The first bite into the fresh baozi brought me back to childhood and weekends when my mom would cook the baozi for myself and my dad. Sometimes she’d rope me in (begrudgingly) to help her make the baozi, and I would protest and whine and roll about 10 buns worth of dough before my work started getting sloppy and misshapen and she would banish me to do homework instead.
As I continued to eat them, the baozi brought me back even further down memory lane. I thought of my early childhood years in China, when my grandmother would make the same baozi and my entire family would sit around a rickety metal table from the 80’s – almost too small to contain all the various dishes on the table. The baozi would be served in communist-era tin containers, and I’d poke and prod each one to pick out the baozi with the most dough and least filling for me to eat. My grandfather would joke about how I’m ‘傻傻’ or stupid (but using a more endearing word in Chinese) because who picks out the baozi with the least filling? My grandfather is no longer with us, but the memory of him brought a smile to my face.
To me – food made with love transcend nutrition or dietary guidelines. Hopefully they’re not terrible, but even so, I would still imbibe just to relive a few moments of ages long past.
Food should be consumed for the benefit of my health, but it also represents culture and tradition to me. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation, and each family has meals that hold special significance that only the members will understand.
My special food dishes are all associated with my memories of my hometown in Northeast China. Pork Baozi. Freshly steamed fish. Jajiangmien. (Noodles with a heavy pork sauce and cucumbers) Three earthly wonders. (Potatos/Green peppers/Eggplant) Spicy lamb skewers still burning from the grill. Mushroom chicken stew.
Not only are they dishes that instantly transport me to a different time and place, they are also dishes that make me feel the warmth of love and family. I will hold on to these dishes and memories for as long as I can.
Do you have any dishes that are special to you or that remind you of your childhood? Are they healthy?