My boyfriend and I recently decided to low-key become vegetarians after watching Before the Flood. If you haven’t seen it, the film follows Leonardo DiCaprio as he travels to sites around the world to learn about various mass contributors to climate change. One of the greatest contributors to climate change is the meat industry, which devours land and water to not only house animals, but to grow the crops they are fed.
The animal that is particularly damaging to our environment is the cow, but I don’t really eat red meat to begin with. I don’t like steak. It’s always been too hard to chew and I simply don’t have time to spend 5 minutes per bite on the chew portion of eating.
We live in New Orleans, as you know, so we did eat a lot of shrimp prior to the switch. However, when you’re mad poor you really shouldn’t be spending $20-$30 dollars a week on massive head-on shrimp, no matter how flavorful the stock you can make with the shells.
Alas, for environmental and economic purposes we try incredibly hard to be vegetarians. As in, 95% of our diet is meat-free. We do have some slip ups, but I find them justified. Some benefits of being a low-key vegetarian:
1. Creativity: Did you think you could ever cook baba ghanoush? I don’t think so.
Embracing living 95% meat free/being broke as fuck means “Hmmm, I’m craving X, I shouldn’t go buy X, I want to make X, can I do it?” YES YOU CAN. See homemade tabouleh, hummus, baba ghanoush and falafel. It was SO MUCH FUN to make all of the different components and individually season each to gauge how restaurants cook each component. Being a 95% vegetarian forces you into a place of exploration where you have to learn to trust your instincts for deliciousness.
2. Using EVERY SINGLE THING you have–as in, nose to tail of your own kitchen cabinets.
We all randomly get certain groceries on a whim and think, “Oh, yeah, I’ll use this…” *silence* and never use it. Case in point, the roasted cauliflower, kale salad and black beans in the picture above. Before low-key vegetarianism, I never ate cauliflower. I saved beans for pure emergency and never EVER bought them dry (reduces packaging waste, yay), and only ever made salty roasted kale chips to substitute for potato chips. Broke veggie-ism means using every. single. fucking. thing. and making it delicious. Especially when you’re sharing meals with someone all the time–who wants to share sub-par food?!
3. Forgive yourself for the occasional slip ups, especially if meat would go uneaten regardless.
So the above picture is cilantro-jalepeno homemade tortillas and a soy-chorizo potato hash… AKA still all veggie… But that’s not the point! Sometimes you have slip ups because you can’t avoid them and shit happens. The other day I got Chinese food at a restaurant and my Mo Po Tofu had beef. Am I gonna have the waitress throw the entire dish away for that? Hell no. I bought a quiche the other day from my local coffee shop and realized once I got home that bacon was on top. Am I going to go return it? No way. There’s frozen McDonald’s chicken nuggets in my freezer (don’t ask) and there’s no food in the house and we gotta eat so…. You eat them.
Maybe I’m not the picture perfect vegetarian or vegan or whatever one called the 95% diet but having conscientiousness about where my money goes and how I’m cooking has been so incredibly valuable. Even with occasional meaty slip ups, I know I’m using all of my personal control to steer clear of meat options and better myself and my environment in the smallest ways possible. Don’t hate yourself for slip ups and embrace your own food creativity instead!