Meat(less)

Although I did not ration food in 2014, and do not plan to in 2015, I have noticed a definite shift in my eating habits, especially in the last 6 months: I am eating much less meat. I’ve always been aware of the ethical implications of meat-eating — in the past I was a vegetarian for years and vegan for a while, too. What I didn’t understand then but understand now is that vegetarian does not automatically equal ethical, as anyone now familiar with the quinoa story will understand. It also hits closer to home — we have cranberry bogs close by, and when dried cranberries (craisins) became popular, much land in the Pine Barrens that was the home of wildlife was turned into cranberry bogs. So many animals lost their homes and were killed for this “vegetarian” food. It’s complicated, and I think it does a disservice to everyone to make it a black and white issue (meat: bad, not meat: good).

What I’ve been doing: for each shopping trip to Whole Foods (which is probably once every two weeks to once a month) I buy one or two pieces of meat and use it sparingly. This week we got enough beef for two hamburgers as a treat (probably a half pound total for both of us), and a teeny tiny ham (I just ran to check it — it’s 1.85 lbs) — we’ll eat this once as an entrée and the rest will be used to flavor soups, stews, pasta dishes and the like. Back in November we got a whole chicken — not only did the meat provide many meals, but I made a stock of the bones which provided broth for soups. We also got a little under a pound of  meatball mix (this is veal, pork, and beef) for an enormous pot of gravy (this is tomato sauce for the non-Italians). We had endless dishes of pasta with this, and I also froze little bits in half cup containers which is the perfect size for saucing a home-made pizza.

We also shop at Costco, but do not buy any meat there. Although they say they have ethical standards, they do not have the very transparent numbering system Whole Foods does. We also shop at the farmers’ market (which is not operating currently — they reopen in May).

A little digging revealed that a WWII ration of meat for one adult in Britain would be 4 oz of ham or bacon, and 1/2 lb meat (this sounds like it was in the better days of rationing). Adults in America got a whopping two and a half pounds of meat a week! That’s more than I am eating. I’m glad to see that the allotment of meat we’ve become comfortable with is at or under ration portions — see what I mean about this project spreading its influence into all areas of your life? 🙂

I eat most of my meals at home or bring food with me, which makes it easy to stick to this plan. I also share meals with coworkers occasionally, but the majority of them are vegetarians. This makes things easy — our “bring stuff in” communal meals are always vegetarian and when we go out, we always go to places that have fantastic vegetarian options. When I’m out and about, things can get murky. In Chicago, I ate the local specialties including sausage on my pizza, and slow roasted brisket sliders at the holiday party I attended. I am a firm believer in “When in Rome…” (in fact, I was a strict vegetarian whilst traveling to Italy and was offered some wild boar from a family’s farm in Chianti; I only hesitated a moment before saying, “Of course!”).  We are also going out for my husband’s birthday in January to our favorite local restaurant, and I’d be very surprised if I didn’t order an entrée with meat in it. I had the rabbit the last time we went and it was incredibly good. In short, I plan well for our home meals,  do the best I can when out without feeling like I’m missing out on An Experience , and try to make it all balance somehow.

Looking forward, this dovetails nicely with one of my 2015 goals — to expand my garden! I’ve had the same raised beds for the last three years because I’ve been so busy with school when garden starting happens (previous to that, I had increased it by one bed a year for the previous 5 years). This year, I plan to add at least two more to increase my food production. Victory garden indeed! I am still in the dreamy stage of looking through seed catalogs and choosing what to add — so much fun! I’ll let you know what seeds I order when I finally stop dithering 🙂

(image: US Department of War Information, 1942)

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One comment

  1. How I love the spill-over of the rationing mindset from one part of your household to another. It’s exactly the same here.

    And yes, limiting meat to small portions occasionally, really isn’t a hardship! By the way, did you know that during the war in Britain, the government dictated the maximum size of the protein element in restaurants: no more than one portion of protein per meal with a maximum of 3oz of meat. Oddly enough, recent medical research indicate that most adults – not athletes – only need 2 oz of protein per day, which you can easily get from the wartime sized rations…

    By the way, if you like rabbit or pigeon these are quite virtuous (ecologically speaking) choices as these animals are efficient nutrient converters (as well as tasty). Of course, from an animal welfare perspective, it is better to go with wild rather than farmed rabbit/pigeon. If you do try rabbit, we have a lovely ragu recipe I’d be happy to share. It goes well with my homemade pappardelle!

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