I consider myself “mostly vegetarian.” I have heard other terms for similar diets such as “flexitarian” or “weekday vegetarian,” but both of these are probably too generous for what I do. Most of the time, I don’t eat meat, but sometimes I will. Despite many of my lifestyle choices being defined as absolutes, avoiding meat entirely is just too hard. I started this maybe 2 years ago around the time I started cooking for myself, and it mainly came from 2 reasons.
First, sustainability. My sister Nicole is much more involved in being green and environmental policy, but enough of that rubbed off on me. My understanding is that the meat industry is a dirty irresponsible, and inhumane machine, and off-hand, I have no statistics or evidence other than some polemic writing from activists. Given that sentiment, I understand capitalism well enough to see that my purchases on some level support the policies of those producers. So it seems “right” to avoid meat.
Second, and more importantly in my life, cost. I’m notoriously cheap, and meat is more expensive than not meat, even in America. That’s about all I have to say there.
My conviction in these reasons isn’t strong enough to keep me entirely vegetarian. The general rule is that I will eat meat when I really feel like it, but those are hopefully only occasional. Here are the big exceptions:
- Chinese food. There is excellent vegetarian Chinese food, but the non-vegetarian options are just too good to skip. I can’t imagine sitting down for dim sum and watching all the carts of dumplings and seafood deliciousness roll past me
- Leftovers. By the time food becomes leftovers, it has already passed through the system. They’re cheap, and food is better eaten than wasted
- Corned beef. So amazing.
- No good alternatives. I’m not really into eating salads for meals, and occasionally, there aren’t other options. I also won’t eat meat substitutes like seitan or tofu loafs because I actually do eat meat
- Potlucks. When people have gone so far as to cook something possibly meaty for me, I should probably have some
There’s also a social aspect to how vegetarian I am. If I’m either with other vegetarians or people who strongly believe in my vegetarian diet, I will be more strict. On the other hand, in contexts where I’m known as a meat eater (for example, at home with my family or at potlucks), I’m more likely to go for it. On a regular basis, however, meat stays on the sidelines.
For example, here’s a typical week for me. On the weekdays, I eat steel-cut oatmeals with milk, brown sugar, some nut, and some fresh or dried fruit. For lunch, I’ll have a lettuce-cheese-tomato sandwich with a salad. On the weekends, I’ll have eggs with toast and yogurt for brunch and a snack in the afternoon.
For dinner, once a week I’ll usually make veggie stir-fry or steam vegetables in with the rice. Sometimes for meatness, I’ll throw in some Chinese sausage, another food too delicious to avoid entirely. That will get stretched into leftovers for the next day as well. I might throw together neapolitan pizza one night, and I’ll probably either eat at work or remix some leftovers from work into a meal. Fridays are potlucks, where anything goes, and on the weekend, there’s some interesting cooking adventure.
Overall, I’m pretty satisfied as mostly vegetarian. It balances my personal needs (being cheap) with larger concerns (sustainability) while providing nutritional wiggle room (a previously unmentioned bonus) and allowing for occasional indulgence (the “mostly” part). All of the rules are fuzzy, but I don’t think I could be anymore strict about it. Just having the word “vegetarian” in the moniker is enough.