Katie Bieker

Author – Science, Environment, Travel, Children's Books

Pushin’ Bok Choy on Down the Trail

So I gave up meat for lent. As I’m ending my fourth day as a vegetarian, I can report that I am not sold on the concept. For me personally, that is. The point was to exercise self-discipline and to reduce my carbon footprint, resource waste and money expenditure by eating a simpler plant-based diet. Hopefully I will retain some of what I’ve learned once Easter has come and gone.  But I will most definitely be an omnivore again. I don’t miss the meat, really. Okay, well, I miss burgers. I really love burgers. But I was eating a much leaner, lower-carb and higher variety diet when selectively chosen meats were incorporated.

I feel like I have been eating soooo many carbs and soooo much fat. Good fats, but still. Very high calorie, at least when eating out. For example, instead of the lean burger with mustard that I usually get at Dempsy’s, I had a portabella sandwich that was delicious, but had a ¼ inch thick wedge of fresh mozzarella and several tablespoons of oily pesto and a garlic mayo spread… yeah, like that was healthier! But maybe after more eating at home and some practice ordering out it’ll be better.

I need ways to prepare bok choy. Thanks to my buddy teaching me “working outlines” for several soups, I have learned to make pretty killer varieties myself without any recipes involved. So I’m going to exercise that ability tomorrow by making my “Secret Asian Soup” (say it like ya sing it) in which I involve bok choy. But not enough. It was 5 friggin’ dollars, and I’m a bargain shopper, so I was hyperventilating at checkout and will have to use every last shred of it. And for the first time in my life, I bought tofu to cube to replace the chicken I usually use. The tofu was made locally and surprisingly not very expensive. We’ll see how it goes.

What’s always fascinating to me is how people in these parts respond to vegetarianism. Or hell, just leaving meat out of one meal, for that matter. People already think it’s weird when we don’t eat meat on Fridays during lent. Honestly, it’s not something I particularly “get” either, especially the part where fish is an exception. But my hesitation about the practice is different than theirs. It’s theological, not related to agriculture.

There it is. I think that’s where the issue resides. Even though we’re in a relatively urban environment here on the East side of the state, our connection to farmers and ranchers runs deep and is closer to our lives then I tend to remember. I’m certain there’s a cow within 15 miles of our house, although I’ve never tested that theory. Maybe closer, actually. My father grew up on a farm. My aunt and uncle farm. I have several friends and coworkers who are active farmers and ranchers or whose parents are. My husband Chris’s Grandparents’ farm was a huge part of his upbringing. He was there all the time with the chickens and pigs. And let me tell you, those Germans, on my side and Chris’s, eat meat. Even as sides. I’ve had meals at my in-laws’ where three separate animals were represented on the table in at least four different dishes. I’m not saying this is always a bad thing… I do kinda think green beans are supposed to have bacon in them.

Yep, even here in Lawrence, the Berkely of the Midwest, we have plenty of those license plates that say “Eat Beef”. I sent our break room into shock at lunch Thursday when I mentioned that I’m not going to eat meat until after Easter.

“Oh my God, Katie!”

“Oh no, Katie.”

“Wow. You’re going to be cranky.”

“I thought you guys only gave up meat on Friday.”

“I’m glad I’m not Catholic.”

“Is it because you don’t want animals killed or something?”

“You have to have meat. That’s just not healthy.”

They weren’t mean or anything. But it is interesting to watch Kansans get defensive when you suggest that eating meat is an option. It’s kinda cool in a way. It makes me feel a little “Wild West”. But seriously, maybe this can serve as a “leading by example” moment. It might help my friends and coworkers to see someone “normal” give up meat. I wasn’t born again… in a cabbage patch, or wherever it is that vegetarian converts spring forth. I’m not freaking out about animal rights. I don’t think meat was making me unhealthy. I just think that none of us need as much meat as we’re eating. I think we could all benefit from challenging our cultural norms and learning about some alternative proteins that will broaden our palates and dietary variety. It really can’t hurt. One really can eat less meat without it being a crusade.

So again, I’m not sold on it for myself long term. But I think it’s a valid exercise and I’m going to see it through. And I’m going to learn some new recipes as a result and maybe I’ll actually find myself eating tofu in June for no particular reason. Maybe. We’ll see. Or I might be having a double cheeseburger with the works from 5 Guys…

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One comment on “Pushin’ Bok Choy on Down the Trail

  1. slepsnor
    February 17, 2013

    Good luck. I can never do it even for a little bit. Though, I do like tofu in stir fries and other recipes. The odd thing about tofu is that it doesn’t really have a taste, so it takes on the taste of whatever sauce you put it into. I try to marinate it for an hour at least before I cook it. Not sure if it really makes it taste better or I’m tricking myself, but it’s worked so far these years.

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This entry was posted on February 16, 2013 by in Writings and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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