Serena the Wanna-Be Vegetarian – What? They’re Fake?

Boca Burgers

That’s what I see in the grocery store. I’m a regular woman who shops at regular stores and Farmer’s Markets. The Farmer’s Market because the fruit looks like what I used to pick off my grandmother’s tree, or from the neighbor’s tree when they let us. Lemons, plums, limes, kumquats and loquats, tart granny apples, we’d dust the spider web and bugs off and sit on the ground, spitting seeds everywhere, plumped up with fruit as if we were kings and queens.

Boca was the first brand I tried. It had an okay mouth feel, chewy enough. My family likes the Masala burger from Trader Joe’s. Which really isn’t a burger, but a potato/vegetable patty that we slather with spicy hummus and put between leaves of Romaine lettuce. Little Peta, that’s what I’ll call my darling daughter, loves them. As she loves to announce, “No animals were killed in the making of this sandwich!” Where is the off switch?

Boca burgers are what we took to our cousin’s Labor Day BBQ.

“I’m not cleaning the grill off. If you want me to grill ‘em you have to just put them on the grill where every thing else has been.”

My cousin takes his grill seriously.

“No big deal,” I said and opened the packets and placed them on the grill.

“If that’s what you wanna eat.” He touched the corner of the spatula to the edge of the patty. “It looks fake to me.” His mouth is turned down as he touches the other sizzling patties with the same spatula.

“That’s the point,” I said. “I’m cutting back on red meat.”

“It’s just one day, it won’t kill you to eat a real burger one day.”

“That’s not the point, and this is a real burger.”

I should’ve picked up the fake ribs.

– Serena

Serena The Wanna-Be Vegetarian – Fast Food Strikes Again!

Throughout this change my family is making, my husband has been the most flexible. Usually men are pretty fickle about what goes on their table and into their stomachs. We talked about not eating meat before we brought it to the kids, and he was pretty agreeable and thought that it would be better for the family’s over all health too.

So imagine my surprise as I’m running errands and see Mr. This-is-so-easy-I-could-do-it-seven-days-a-week-standing-on-my-head standing in front of Meaty Meat Ribs and Bar-be-que chomping on a beef rib with this buddies. Mmm-hmmm. I slowed my car and tooted the horn and made a “peace” sign and pointed to my eyes and then at him. I mouthed the words, “I see you.”

I’m not the only one falling off the wagon.

“I just don’t feel full,” he said when we finally talked about it.

Organic food tastes like it has bird poop in it.”

At this point the only one that has stayed true is my daughter, the burgeoning PETA member, unless she has a deal with the Hamburglar.

So do I dive into the fake beef products to transition my family over? I look at the Boca products (burgers, sausage) and the Morning Star products (‘meat’ crumbles to nuggets). How healthy are they? Are they worth the extra cost? To be honest they’re pretty expensive, be it what it may, but the cow is cheaper. Not only is it expensive, I’ve found that trying to eat healthy, means I’m in the kitchen a lot more.

I did find this that I’ll talk to my family about. Since they can’t stay away from fast food, let’s talk about what our options are. Right?

– Serena

Serena the Wanna-Be Vegetarian – Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

I’m in the health food store and hear two employees talking:

“They have so much potential.”

“I know, people change slowly I accept that. Lacto-ovo vegetarians are so close, but I can’t see myself going to go around telling people that eating honey is as just as unethical is eating fish.”

“It’s a case for animal rights. If lacto-ovo vegetarians feel ashamed when you tell them this, they should be.”

“The movement isn’t about animal welfare, it’s about animal rights and we have no right to use animals anyway we please. This isn’t about being nice. It’s about saying what we believe in.”

* * *

Yikes! What had I stumbled onto? What was coming next? A planning session on re-routing the beef patty trucks away from In N’ Out?

Really I got into this for the health benefits, not because I’m ready to parade and shout for animal rights. I’ve said this before; the pictures are horrible, the way the animals are treated is really sad. However, as long as I’m not involved in the process, I can look at myself in the mirror and be okay.

* * *

“In no other social justice movement do you tell someone it’s okay to have a little sexism or a little racism. You want the ‘ism’ gone. It’s the same argument with lacto-ovo vegetarians, you can’t pat them on the head and say it’s great how they’ve changed their life when they are still supporting the system!”

“That makes you sound like an elitist.”

“Well then that’s just too bad.”

* * *

Yeah… I was going to ask one of them about vegetarianism, but because I am of the lacto-ovo variety and still might have a whiff of burger on my breath, I decided that perhaps this wasn’t the right time.

– Serena

Serena the Wanna-Be Vegetarian– Is No Longer A Holier-Than-Thou Vegetarian

I’m struggling.

Since the “In ‘N Out cheeseburger” incident I can’t shake this feeling of failure. I think I got into this for the right reasons. I’m concerned about my family’s health and the health of the planet. Since my confession, my oldest also confessed to eating meat “every time he left the house.” This is to be expected right? Yes?

I’ve been thinking about what Dangel wrote in the comments section earlier this month:

“I can’t agree that cutting out meat all together to live a life of supplements is a way to ‘eat healthier’.

I fully encourage being more conscious about the food you eat but do remember, humans are carnivores. The moment you take something out of your diet, something we evolved eating, is the moment you throw your digestive system into a pattern that it’s not familiar or best suited for. Our brain can easily adapt with little consequence, our bodies are not so gifted.

Showing restraint over the food you eat is mentally and physically strengthening. Rejecting a whole section of your diet may make you feel stronger mentally but just because you can’t see what it’s doing to you on the inside doesn’t mean all is well.”

This part especially rang true, “Rejecting a whole section of your diet may make you feel stronger mentally…”

It did. I loved telling people that I was a vegetarian, even though I am still in the process of cutting meat out of my diet. I felt stronger… and dare I say it? I felt better than them, the inklings of the “holier-than-thou” attitude that people seem to hate about vegetarians.

Nothing like a slip-up to bring you right back down to earth.

– Serena

Serena the Wanna-Be Vegetarian—After The Burger

Can I tell you one thing that has always annoyed me about the vegetarian set? It’s their holier than thou attitude gets me right in my nether regions, if you know what I mean. Whenever one them gets a crumb of bacon, or chicken in their mouth, the spitting and wrinkled face, the hand on the stomach or forehead and then the, drama “Meat just leaves a ‘tinny’ taste in my mouth” or “I can’t believe you let me eat something with meat in it!” I didn’t feel any of that when I ate that burger.

Maybe it hasn’t been long enough for me, but the meat was good.

Yes I’ve seen the pictures of crowded cages and sick cows and yes, I feel for the animals that are being tortured and killed and end up slathered with Thousand Island dressing between a sesame seed bun. Yes I know the way we are eating is hurting the planet.

My craving made me wonder if we really are meant to eat meat or not?

If it’s so natural to eat this way, and I do believe it’s a healthier way to live, why is there a such a big market for “fake meat” products?

I’m frustrated.

The cow has barely walked out the door and I didn’t have the willpower to say no. Not to mention that the chicken, turkey and fish are still hanging around. My husband and son pooh-poohed my dinnertime confession. My daughter chastised me something fierce. I think she might turn into a PETA member.

I guess I want to feel that repulsion toward meat. Honestly folks, I don’t. Is that when I become a true vegetarian?

– Serena

Serena The Wanna-Be Vegetarian – Falls Off The Vegetarian Wagon

It rose like a mirage out of the corner of my eye, “In ‘N Out,” the yellow arrow pointing to the drive through. I squeezed my eyes shut for just a moment (‘cause I’m driving y’all) and started to chant out loud. “Think of the cows, think of the cows.” In N’ Out happens to have (in my humble opinion) one of the best burgers on the West Coast. I smelled trouble, and grilled beef and onions too.

I’ll just order the fries, I tell myself as I turned the car into the drive through. There’s been less fast food since we started this trek to vegetarianism. My car snaked through the line and I made it to the speaker and the menu.

They have pictures of the food right there and even though I’m just there for the fries, the burger with the onion and tomato and the American cheese curling around the beef patty just so is staring at me. “Think of the cows, their big eyes, their soft moo!” How could I resist advertising like that? Think about your cholesterol!

“Would you like grilled onions?” The server asked.

Minutes later I was sitting in the parking lot with a cheeseburger with grilled onions in my mouth. It was a perfect burger, the sweetness of the spread against the salty savory of the meat, the crunch of the hand leafed lettuce, the soft bun. Ever bite was delightful.

I dipped my fries into the ketchup, undid my burger and layered them between the tomato and the cheese while feeling a twinge of guilt.

That was the best damn burger I ever had! Am I a hypocrite?

My name is Serena, and I’m a carnivore.

Serena The Wanna-Be Vegetarian-Goes Back to School

Maybe it’s just me, but I adore for the Staples commercials… you know the ones with the man riding the shopping and a voiceover crooning a line from the holiday song, “my most favorite time of the year!” while a boy and girl walk somberly behind him. It is back to school time.

No more ham and cheese sandwiches.

Now that we are eating less meat, I tend to read labels more. Also, (and I don’t know how this happened) we’ve become a lot more aware of waste, be it water, electricity or gas. While my son was washing dishes, my daughter came into the kitchen and opened the blinds and turned off the lights.

“There, natural light, no electricity.” She flounced out of the room while I wondered what pod person had replaced her. She’s become our resident environmentalist.

Some green things I’ve found for back to school:

  1. Reusable lunch box or bag – she’s requested a laptop lunchbox
  2. Reusable plastic baggies – I’ve been washing and reusing, but you can put these in the dishwasher
  3. Stainless steel drink container

For veggie lunch ideas I found some great ideas at this website.

Lastly, I’d like to say thanks to all of you who have written to encourage us on this journey. I’ve gotten some really good advice and great ideas about products to try.

Right now we’ve fallen in love with Vegetable Masala Burgers from Trader Joe’s with spicy hummus between leaves of romaine lettuce! Can you believe it? It’s not burger in the traditional sense, but it is oh so yummy.

Keep those suggestions coming!

– Serena

Serena the Wanna-Be Vegetarian – The Milk Alternative Taste Test

I took the kids with me to the grocery store (I deserve a medal!) to choose a milk alternative. In my last post we talked about whether or not cow’s milk was actually good for us. There’s been a lot of writing online about hormones, antibiotics and… eeeeew, pus, in cow’s milk. While we’ve never been big milk drinkers in our home, as we make the move from meat eaters to plant eaters, I thought this would be an easy change to make. Under my direction, the kids picked out three milk alternatives.

We decided that we would try the original varieties and not those flavored with vanilla or chocolate, and chose Soy Dream, Rice Dream and Pacific Organic Almond milk. All three varieties came in aseptic packaging, those cardboard boxes that need no refrigeration. I have to say that I liked the idea of being able to buy those cartons and keep them in the pantry

As the bacon protest continued this past Sunday morning, over pancakes and turkey sausage (we’re still eating poultry) I presented my family with a taste test. 

The Soy Dream was first.

The seven-year-old:  Spit it back out almost as fast as it went it.

The fourteen-year-old: Stuck out his tongue and said, “No way.”

The Hubby:  Gave a thumbs down and claimed the taste was something akin to what his mother kept in a can on the stove when he was a kid. I’m interpreting that as old cooking grease.

Next came Rice Dream: 

The seven-year-old: “It taste like watery rice.”

The fourteen-year-old: “Not this one either.”

The Hubby:  “It tastes like skim milk, but bitter at the end.”

And finally… Pacific Organic Almond Milk

The seven-year-old: Was set on not liking it, and actually refused to taste it at first. As it turns out, we got a smile.

The fourteen-year-old: “Mom, this one is the biz.”  For those of you that don’t speak ‘fourteen’ I understand “the biz” to mean something good.

The Hubby: Thought none of them tasted like milk, but could live with this one if the children liked it. 

So there you have our informal taste test, except for cheese, we have booted the cow out of the door. Chicken… you’re next!

– Serena

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