It’s December first, which means the new year is right around the corner. I love personal change and development for the better, but big, sudden resolutions aren’t as much my thing. Making goals and new habits is such a fun process to watch in myself, when I ease into it over time, that I want to do it all year. How about you? More a fan of the big, aggressive, one-time goal, or baby steps? There’s no right answer. We all thrive under different systems. However, if you have health-related resolutions on the brain as the holidays kick in (or just generally), I’d love for you to join me on a fun little exploration during this whole month.
Throughout December, I’m consciously skipping meat. All of it—seafood, beef, and even bacon. I must admit, I’m a little nervous as I type this. I could have posted my usual weekly dinner menu today, staying comfortable and not entirely relevant. Cooking is my life, so I love sharing anything about it on the NCK blog, but it’s such an enjoyable process to bring readers in for the conversation. Usually that comes in the form of a recipe you made from my site, but I want to give you something more to chew (pun intended) in every single post. I’ve struggled since last night deciding if I should post my regular weekly dinner plan, or go for something a little different. Like most inspired ideas, it came to me in a quick flash when I least expected, as I put my unruly bedhead into a ponytail and waited for my K-cup to finish brewing.
Still in Oklahoma, my dad mentioned yesterday that he’s not going to eat meat in December. Full-fledged nutritional conversation and debate ensued, especially when he mentioned he might make an exception for chicken, because he likes it and doesn’t believe it contributes as strongly to some stomach issues he’s developed. I’m about halfway through the China Study, a challenging but excellent companion to a month eating meatless, and have gleaned that, when it comes to disease prevention, you’re no better off eliminating one type of meat or another. Arguably, it all has to go for optimal health. I mentioned that I still eat some eggs or other animal products. They may have negative health consequences long-term, but I reason that I’m better off at least being aware of what I’m getting myself into. Of course, Dad challenged that, and honestly, I had no good comeback (keep in mind it’s always a friendly debate when it’s between native Minnesotans).
If I know the negative effects of a given animal food, why do I still eat it? That I can answer:
- It’s a lot of work planning a dietarily “restricted” menu.
- I want Steve, and others I cook for, to love my food, and I assume that a meal of spaghetti squash and lentils is harder for him to love than a pan of cheesy enchiladas.
- I grew up with and enjoy the taste and texture of many animal products.
- I figure that, in moderation, foods which have proven negative health consequences won’t impact me for worse.
- I dissociate the food I’m eating from the animal, removing the ethical/compassion aspect from the decision. Maybe I should look at the photo below as a reminder (featuring my mother and Bubba the friendly bull—not joking.)
Identify with any of those? The bottom line is, there is a scary, rickety bridge to cross between knowing the optimal diet and executing it. This morning, as my real life conversation with my dad meets the blog, I’m committing to a meatless month. Not eight weeks of going vegetarian or a year of eating vegan. Just a month, a baby step, of no identifiable meat (i.e., I won’t annoyingly interrogate waiters about chicken stock or a drop of anchovy paste) on my plate or in my body. Since we have a trip to Eischen’s planned tonight for some famous fried chicken at Oklahoma’s oldest bar, I’ll start after dinner but carry it through to January first (and, who knows, maybe longer). No NYE meat for me, even if I’m cooking some for the crowd that gathers two days before my sister’s January second wedding. It may require planning and special requests, some eating ahead for holiday parties, and saying no where I normally wouldn’t, but I say shaking up the routine and challenging myself with this small step will be a worthwhile exciting and educational journey.
Feel free to join me however you wish. Crack open the China Study. Watch Forks over Knives. Pull over on the side of the road (cautiously!) to observe some peaceful cows closeup. Take the challenge for two weeks, or even one day at a time. If you normally eat meat three meals a day, cut down to one. Whatever baby step will challenge you. Instead of timidly hiding it, as I’m prone to do, use it at your next dinner out to talk about the challenge you’re taking, even if you’re not a particular expert on the scientific or ethical reasons you’re doing it (yet). Keep mental or physical notes of any immediate changes you observe in your body.
All month, incorporated into my regular posts and a few extras, I’ll talk about how my challenge is going, share meatless recipes (nothin’ new there), offer meatless weekly dinner menus, and let you know about any resources that I find particularly helpful, like other blogs, books, or websites. After I post a final photo of the famous fried chicken I eat tonight, watch my Insta feed for how I navigate three meals (and snacks!) a day without meat, and keep an eye out for new additions to my meatless mains Pinterest board.
As for this week, things are a little crazy departing Oklahoma, Steve working in Dallas, and seeing my parents again as they turn around and fly to NYC for the weekend, including a night shacking up at my place in Connecticut. No excuses, though, so here’s my plan for the week:
- Monday: In OKC. Eischen’s fried chicken (and lots of okra!) for dinner.
- Tuesday: Leftover southwest veggie chili and GF cornbread muffins from the freezer when I land around dinnertime.
- Wednesday: Mushroom, herb, and olive oil spaghetti squash with white bean tomato salad (recipes to come)
- Thursday: Steve in Dallas. Parents in CT. Thaw and bake the whole broccoli cheddar wild rice bake from the freezer.
- Friday: “Tuna” melts and sweet potato fries (wait for the tuna substitute! Recipe to come.)
- Weekend: TBD, but it will include some recipe development for my first gnocchi!