I did it….sort of.
Everything continued to be quite straightforward since the challenge began; I’m still amazed at how much I didn’t miss meat!! In fact, it was all so trouble-free that I totally forgot that I was a temporary vegetarian. Thirteen days into the challenge I went out for lunch with my aunt and cousins. Sitting in the unexpected sunshine we sat sipping iced tea outside a rustic, Italian cafe and without thought I ordered a beautiful, crispy, parma ham ciabatta sandwich; it took me another 40 minutes to realise what I had just done, big “oops”.
Although technically this means that I failed the test, I am tempted to argue the opposite view. This momentary lapse in focus proved none other than that I was not eating meat for the real reasons. As a contented meat-eater I was not in the mind set of being totally against the idea of digesting animal flesh; instead it was something that I had to work against.
For the next 2 weeks I was determined not to make another slip up and made a more conscious effort to think before I ate; surprisingly, however, I still didn’t yearn to eat meat. I continued to substitute beef, pork and chicken with eggs, potato and fish. If truth be told I became more and more concerned with the quality of what I was eating. For example, when buying eggs I began buying the free-range, farm reared ones from the town market instead of the cheapest ones I could find which had become the norm during my frugal student days. I also took an interest in the sustainability of the fish I was buying after watching several programmes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who is a headline campaigner for The Big Fish Fight.
The importance of buying good quality, organic, free-range or sustainable products was never overly obvious to me, but since I took an interest this month I can honestly say that I would rather eat less substandard meat in an attempt to eat better products that will help our farmers and fishermen to maintain good business and stock.
All in all, the month did not have the effects I thought it would. I had expected to be struggling to live without meat but find good alternatives and, although this was the case, a second, more important outcome resulted from the experiment; it provoked a greater consideration towards food as a whole, not just meat. With the country going ga-ga for British products, led by Mary Portas in the fashion manufacturing industry, it is becoming not only essential to support the British economy, but somewhat fashionable. For whichever reason you may chose to become involved I would encourage everyone to take the view for a fortnight and see if it changes your attitude, if only a little.
Personally, I could not take on vegetarianism for good but I have definitely realised that I don’t need to eat as much I had perhaps thought. And although I do not feel any particular health benefits from eating less meat, I do not feel any worse for it; the simple fact is that I know no greater pleasure in life than a rare fillet steak or a rack or sticky ribs- one month without either was long enough!