But March ended like 4 weeks ago!
Well, I’ve been busy doing things (watching tv is a thing), but now I am ready for business.
So yeah, as the title goes I gave up meat in March and have lived to tell the tale. I like to think that this was a pretty big deal as my love for meat literally has no bounds. My day generally starts and ends with bacon or kangaroo and everything in-between either includes meat or animal products.
What makes my insistence to pacman through life even more surprising is my day job. As a health inspector, I routinely enter the kitchens of restaurants and witness them prepare your order in conditions so unsanitary it makes your eyeballs want to bleed.
I guess it’s not rocket science to figure out why so many of my health inspector buddies are hesitant to eat anything adventurous.
After talking one night about the dairy industry, I realised that I couldn’t remember a day in the last ten years where I went without animal products. This started a chain reaction where I started considering the moral cost of food, whether the animals suffering is worth the amount we pay at the checkout, which ultimately led to the choice to stop consuming dairy products altogether.
My housemate and I started purchasing free range/grass-fed/organic meats… but at $45 a kilo, it didn’t take long to realise that buying expensive food is a really dumb decision for a uni student to make.
Especially when you can just buy 65 of these bad boys instead.
So what could we do?? We couldn’t sit there with our new knowledge and do nothing… so after some thought, Meat Free March was born. About thirty seconds and a Google search later, we discovered this idea already exists – so much for being original.
Anyway, veganism was a really alien concept to us as we come from families and friendship groups that probably think vegan is a flavour. My hometown is a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, and I am pretty sure vegans don’t even exist where I’m from.
Here are three of the awesome (and less-awesome) things about our Meat Free March.
1. Farmers markets are really cool
Flipping our diets over to vegan was a relatively easy challenge for us as we live in the heart of the inner-west. If you need ethically-sourced, cruelty-free anything, such as moustache wax/ pet bandanas/ organic groceries/ hipster fixie bikes or clothing you can safely assume that the inner-west of Sydney is ground zero for all of it.
Eveleigh Markets was a huge favourite for us, but also shattered our illusion that we are healthy people. We eat salads and vegetables everyday but the stuff they sell here is next level – like red eggplants, bunya nuts, purple beans and prickly pears. They sell non-waxed fruits because wouldn’t you not like to know that the shiny glaze on your apples and pears either comes from plant wax OR the posterior of the Lac beetle. Roulette, baby.
Sometimes, figuring out what some foods are used for left us lost.
But the reward of coming home and making entirely different, amazing and wholesome dishes made up for the confusion. We made things like Ethiopian and Nepalese curries, vegan nachos and soups.
Eveleigh Markets also sells bread from The Bread and Butter Project, a social enterprise which uses all of their profits to train people from communities in need to become bakers.
2. Sometimes ‘the people’ got the better of us
When we immersed ourselves in this challenge, we were surprised by the amount of people who tried to sell us ‘snake-oil’, cancer cures or would try to school us about ‘toxic chemicals’ in non-organic foods. None of this sat well with the health inspector lurking inside me.
I usually switch off to crappy kitchens if they aren’t in my jurisdiction, but every now and then you come across a food premises so spectacularly average that you are baffled as to how anyone within a 500 metre buffer zone of it is still alive.
Which is exactly what happened one hot Sunday when I went to the Marrickville Organic Food Market. These markets are a really good place for families as they have more of a flea-market feel, with clothing stalls, fortune tellers and beauty products to boot. They also have more temporary ‘ready-to-eat’ food stalls than Eveleigh and a great variety of fresh food and breads as well.
Anyway, all was going great until I saw her.
Across the path stood a lady, sniffly nose and all, who was preaching to the crowd about her organic foods (without ‘toxic chemicals’). I assumed she would have been there for about 6 hours prior to me showing up. Peeking at her food stall I noticed the milk and cream were out in the sun, there was no place for hand washing, no dust guard, her muffins and burger patties were uncovered on the bench (with no sneeze-guard) and there were flies everywhere.
Her cooking utensils were dirty and she also had cut rockmelon on display for god knows how long (which is actually super-hazardous outside temperature control). All the while unassuming customers are lining up to buy lunch off her. Gross.
Fact is, if it’s healthy and organic and the place has a beautiful “I woke up at 5am to do yoga and a juice cleanse” vibe by all means get on that shit, but don’t ignore the way people are preparing your food. Just because it doesn’t have meat in it or it’s a pretty looking stall accompanied by an ethical quote written on a chalkboard doesn’t mean you won’t be hugging the toilet tomorrow. The worst thing about these places is that because of the way they are set up, people who get food poisoning will likely blame something else they’ve eaten that day (it must have been the chicken!)
3. Vegetarian restaurants ARE THE BEST.
Here’s my list of places you need to visit right now.
Amazing non-profit with a ‘pay as you feel’ mantra. We come here weekly, mainly because the ever-changing menu on offer is delicious, filling and nutritious, but also because we believe that places like this are worth supporting: it is community focused and driven, run by volunteers and allows for everyone to be able to have a meal no matter what their finances are.
THEY HAVE VEGAN CUPCAKES. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
Every time I come here I have to do a double take of the food I am eating because their chicken, fish and beef substitutes are so close to the real thing it’s not funny. This is probably my favourite Chinese restaurant in Newtown and the Yum Cha is phenomenal.
I went into this challenge fearing that I wouldn’t enjoy the food, lose energy or gain weight – but the opposite has happened!
I now realise how always choosing meat dishes has restricted my diet. It’s also been weird having energy all day and not crashing at 3:30pm like I used to.
At the end of March we went out for Brazilian Churrascaria. It was nice but I realised I didn’t miss meat at all. From this experience I am sure I will never have dairy again. Additionally, there are now many types of meat that will be permanently off the table – in the context of the country I am living in at the time of course.
The beauty about being human is that we have the free will to change, and we should be able to do so without prejudice. That’s why I appreciate when people don’t interrogate me for making this choice, or pigeon-hole me into a category and then become alarmed if I do something outside of it. I’m happy being a human chameleon; embracing change, and sometimes, just letting it happen.
Peace and awesomeness