That's right, folks! We're going vegetarian for Lent this year.
All the reading I've been doing lately on food, ethics and the environment has inspired me to do something bigger than usual. Americans eat too much meat and it's destroying the environment. Cows produce 20% of the greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere. 20%! And this is not a wild cow overpopulation problem (are there wild cows anymore?) - these animals are mostly living on factory farms and in feedlots. These cows also produce waste in far greater quantities than the environment around them can handle. Runoff from animal waste cesspools pollutes the water for miles around these operations. And similar things can be said for pigs and chickens.
What is to be done about this? Eat less meat! We already eat about 50% more meat than we did back in the 70s. We need to get back to reasonable portion sizes (like 3-4 oz/day) and meals that don't revolve around a huge slab of beef on your plate (restaurants are the worst offenders on this point). I've been working on reducing the amount of meat we consume by cooking more stews, stir fries and other one-pot meals where a pound of meat will last for 6-8 servings. I think that this is a contribution that anyone can make. It's healthier for you, healthier for the environment and will cost less money. Everybody wins.
But to take this point even further, I've committed to 40 days without meat at all. I think there's no better way to convince myself that a meal doesn't need to revolve around meat than to try and plan several weeks' worth. And what better time to do so than Lent, a season of sacrifice that already involves some abstention from meat? Jeff is a little nervous about this, I think, because when I gave up caffeine for Lent last year, I never went back. But I don't think this will inspire me to give up meat entirely. I fully expect to be ravenous for meat by Easter. What I hope, though, is that it will bring me to appreciate the other things on my plate even more, so that meat will take on a much smaller role in the long run.
Note: fish will still be on the menu, in limited amounts. I don't eat fish or shellfish so it never ends up on our menu, but Jeff likes it a lot, so I'm conceding and will probably arrange for a fish-based dinner once or twice a week. I am also going to force myself to try some, since fish is something healthy that should be in my diet. Mentally, the idea of eating fish appeals to me, but I dislike both the taste and texture. But we'll see what happens - maybe I'll find a variety I can enjoy.