A meat free month: week one

The beginning of the year always brings out an interesting side of people. The desire for self-improvement or ‘detox’ runs wild and many of us attempt to change our habits, if only for a month. I had a little rant about long term new year’s resolutions in my recipe for turkey, quinoa and charred lettuce salad, or rather, the pressure that’s often placed on them, but I didn’t touch on the month long purge that many people partake in this time of year.

The real test is maintaining some of what you learn throughout the rest of the year

Veganuary, dry January, sugar free Jan, weight loss challenges – the list goes on. However, whilst you might be expecting me to disregard these as fads, I do think they have their benefits. With so many people experimenting with different lifestyles, you often find a more understanding crowd than you might at other times of year. Friends more willing to cater to your newfound diet or (non-)drinking regime, which can actually help to take some of the pressure off. A month long burst also helps to prove to yourself that you can live with or without certain things, if only for a short while, although I do believe that the real test is maintaining some of what you learn throughout the rest of the year. Only with practice and consistency will you bring real change to each successive month after January.

And so, with this in mind Harry and I decided to go meat free for a month. Afterwards I would like to eat less meat, but better quality meat when we do. I want to use it as an opportunity to force more creative vegetarian cooking and discover different recipes. Finally, I’m intrigued to see if I will feel any different, any healthier, or whether it won’t make much difference.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s not that hard, loads of people are vegetarians, and isn’t Veganuary the thing you’re supposed to be doing? Well, maybe, but I currently have no intention of cutting meat out of my life completely, just implementing fewer meals and days where I eat it, so this seemed like the most sensible way of going about a month long introduction.

Also, if you haven’t noticed, I’m more of a ‘one-step-at-a-time’ kinda gal, so Veganuary? Maybe next year.

End of week one

As I said, my reasons for doing a month meat free were twofold: get more creative with vegetarian cooking and see if it made me feel any different. At the end of week one I was feeling good on the creativity side. I was mixing old faithful recipes with new experiments, making the most of seasonal veg and I enjoyed that overall the meals tended to feel lighter. I made a spiced cauliflower soup, which actually was vegan, and it was good enough that after a little more testing it will make an appearance on the blog.

Week one dinners:

  • Pasta with a tomato, spinach and caper sauce
  • Jerusalem artichoke and potato salad with rocket and parmesan
  • Veggie stir fry with crispy seaweed
  • Hummus with roast broccoli, chilli, almonds and quinoa
  • Spiced cauliflower soup
  • (Frozen) pea and potato frittata
  • Dinner out: chicken schaschlik (oops)

However, on the ‘how did I feel side’ things were a little mixed. I’ve been hungrier more quickly after a lot of the meals and I spent a lot of time with stomach ache (I won’t give you too much info, but particularly post that many jerusalem artichokes). Next week I’ll have to be more aware of the nutritional profile of the dishes, see if I can find dishes that keep me fuller for longer so my stomach doesn’t rumble in the middle of the night.

One thing I hadn’t been expecting so strongly were cravings. Now, it’s not like Harry and I eat meat everyday normally, so this definitely took me by surprise. My god, every picture of sticky chicken wings, or a steak being basted with butter, had me drooling. Jesus. And I don’t mean the usual instagram scroll, ‘oh that looks nice’, I mean full on salivating. Almost feeling the texture of slow braised beef short ribs against my tongue from a single image. So what happened at the end of the week should come as no real shock.

This was a moment of weakness.

A friend and I were eating at Djimalaya, an Israeli restaurant in Mitte, when it happened. I looked at the menu and what I really, really wanted was the chicken schaschlik. Smokey, grilled chicken skewers with the most tender meat. I battled with myself. I could’ve had a hummus teller, or grilled aubergine, but with a portion of hummus and baba ganoush as side dishes anyway surely I would’ve been a fool not to have given it a go. Wouldn’t I? And it was in a restaurant so does it count? (Yes.) When the dish was brought past to go to another table I knew I had to have it – I couldn’t turn it down.

A short-lived (completely) meat free month you might say, and you’d be right. I did not last long before giving in. I will however say that this was a moment of weakness that I do not plan on repeating for the rest of the month. I’m only human, and we’re back on track, but it has surprised me how difficult it is to keep meat off my mind, I’m interested to see to what extent this continues.

Let me know if you have any ideas or recipes for next week’s meat free menu!