I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the success factors in my losing 40 pounds was in adopting the VB6 lifestyle (Mark Bittman would be pleased at my avoiding calling it a diet). I want to expand on that as I found the move to eating mostly vegetarian to be pretty interesting, what I discovered to be success factors along the way. If you’re even remotely a foodie, I suppose we’re all always tinkering with how we eat–exploring this, getting away from that. But to do a larger overhaul of a general and well-established pattern of behavior in your life–not to mention one that can come with all manner of emotional attachments–is something to consider.
First, a fair question: is eating vegetarian for everyone? I’d have to say yes (not in a thou shalt sense that is, but in the sense of would it appeal to everyone) Especially so if you’re doing it on a contained basis like I was (just for breakfast and lunch, then eat what you want for dinner). Food is its own art form, right? So, in my mind, with enough experimentation and exploration you’re going to find a whole bunch of things that don’t just feed you, but satisfy you a lot. And frankly, once you make the switch, vegetarian dishes taste better and better, and the converse happens as well: meats and junk food hold less appeal.
Here, for me, are the success factors.
You need access to good food. Going vegetarian in a place like California is pretty much getting the golden ticket to visit the Wonka factory as a sweet seeking punk. We are filthy with great produce here, the waves of it changing in composition one season to the next. And we are also of course living in a time of great markets, everywhere, and not only brands like Whole Foods or our more local Sigona’s, but also the many weekend farmers markets that occur in practically every town, at least around here. Then there’s the whole farm-to-table movement. We get a box of terrific produce every other week from a farm just north of the bay area.
If you want full access to all of that good food, it may come at a price at times. So having the greenbacks to afford any and all of it, that helps too.
You need to be willing to do some cooking. Sure, those same markets typically offer a wealth of prepared food. Still, who wants to be that dependent on what’s available at the market today, or go through the process of ordering and picking up or eating out day after day? If you know how to cook, and you come across a few staples that fire you up (can you say quinoa?) you have the proverbial fishing pole to do a lot of cool stuff, keeping this lifestyle interesting.
This one’s easy–have a range of bottled sauces around all of the time–soy, sriracha, Frank’s Red Hot, plum, chili garlic, and on and on. Any basic dish, such as quinoa with roasted vegetables, takes on a new identity each day when you add a few dashes of one of these. Ditto seasoning mixes (one of my own favorites here is Tony Chachere’s Original Creole seasoning. Bliss!).
Be open to new things. Trader Joe’s, for instance, makes this horrifically titled “Beef-less Ground Beef.” The stuff is terrific! Weirdly effective, even. Then there’s seitan, and of course tofu, there are grains like wheatberry and farro…it goes on and on. The bottom line is, you want to keep discovering the new things, as your epicurean horizon keeps expanding with every addition. When I first thought about eating vegetarian, my thoughts amounted to no more than basic vegetables and endless fucking salads. Ho hum. Talk about painting just in shades of brown. But eating vegetarian is wildly diverse. For that matter, there are gobs of vegetarian cooking bloggers out there who feed you cool recipes day in and out.
Last, it helps a bunch to have a willing partner in the process. Ann is dynamite in the kitchen. She spies a good recipe, she effectively makes that good recipe. And she’s always looking for the next one, bless her heart.
Oh, bonus round success factor: don’t get all freaky and obsessive about relentlessly “sticking to your plan.” If I feel like a having a plate of wings for lunch on a Saturday, I do it, no guilt involved. For that matter, there will be countless instances when you don’t have control over what’s available to eat, so you eat what’s available. I don’t eat vegetarian for any principled reason but for health; those that do can’t just eat the chicken, I get that. But people who refuse to deviate one iota on the matter of food otherwise are a consummate bore, y’ask me.
Finally, if you do eat vegetarian, or mostly vegetarian, or even just a little vegetarian (I know lots of folks have adopted a meatless day to their week), there’s the satisfaction also of knowing you’re reducing your involvement in the environmentally savage industrial meat complex.