When I was 12 years old, my high school friend and I made a ‘pact’ to give up meat. I can’t quite remember the reasons for the pact or how long we intended to carry it out for but, it happened. My personal reason was the usual that you would expect, I didn’t like the idea of animals being killed for us to eat, so this move to give up meat made sense. As I grew up, I realised that one person wouldn’t make a difference. Especially since my brother is enough of a carnivore for the both of us but c’est la vie. Anyway, needless to say, I kept up with it, she did not.
To be fair to her, as you would expect from 12 year olds, this was not planned particularly well and she likely didn’t give her mum much, if any, warning of this lifestyle change. Therefore, as the only vegetarian in her family, it made it more difficult/awkward for her mum to make her meals, separately from what the rest of the family were having.
On the other hand, my mum and my sister were already living with a vegetarian diet and had been for some time so my transition was much easier in comparison. Most people talk about giving up bacon being the hardest part of maintaining a vegetarian diet. I know this will come as a shock to many people, and some might even be quite horrified but…I wasn’t really a fan of bacon anyway! I know, I know, it’s awful. But no, my 12 year old brain was most disappointed at not being able to eat Chicken Royales from Burger King anymore. The tragedy.
Other than that, from what I recall, it was pretty simple. Quorn was a staple in our household and although it can be quite bland, I enjoyed it. How could I be upset about giving up mince and spaghetti bolognese when I could have quorn mince instead and it did the same job? And tasted just as good, in my opinion. Now, I know people will disagree and say that chicken or mince or any other meat is far superior to any quorn alternative and that’s fair enough but, to me, it makes no odds. And 14, almost 15 years later, I can’t really remember the difference anyway and I enjoy my food all the same.
It’s not too difficult to change up your meals to not include meat (contrary to what my university best friend said when she gave up meat for a week!) and my boyfriend and I cook the same meals – spaghetti bolognese, enchiladas, burritos, cottage pie – just with different ingredients and as mushroom lovers, mushroom stroganoff and mushroom/cheese risotto are great staples for us to eat together.
I now refer to myself as having a pescatarian diet, meaning I’m still a vegetarian but I also eat fish. Not to be confused with presbyterian which is a religion (this is a genuine conversation I’ve had to have!). This change came about when I spent a year in France as part of my university degree. I don’t know how many of you have been to France but the cuisine is not particularly conducive to a vegetarian diet. Their macaroni cheese has bacon in it, for crying out loud! Even a simple, staple meal that I could safely eat at home was inaccessible in France. So, I made the decision to incorporate fish into my diet, otherwise I’m not sure I would have survived the year! Well, that might be slightly dramatic but it certainly would have made my palate pretty boring and repetitive without it.
Instead, I was able to add salmon and a variety of other fish to my menu and it made things a lot easier and more enjoyable. Where I might have only had one or two options previously, I now had four or five and this was a nice position to be in. That being said, the vegetarian options here in Scotland weren’t always so extensive either and I still sometimes struggle to find multiple vegetarian options on the menu.
So, that’s me with 9 years being vegetarian and almost 6 as a pescatarian under my belt. And while it can be awkward sometimes (my boyfriend’s family having to make something different for me when we go for dinner, or struggling to find a restaurant that has more than 1 option), I wouldn’t go back. I like this lifestyle and it works for me.