A New Year’s Resolution–Sort Of

This is a tale of two books, neither of which I’ve read, but which together inspired me to change my life.  For at least a year.

But first, just so you know, I didn’t wake up all hungover and bloated on New Year’s Day and start making lists of how “this year is going to be different.” I’m too old to believe that January 1 is anything special. I’ve seen too many come and go and can’t help noticing that the woman who wakes up on on the first day of the new year is the same one who went to sleep the night before. She’s just a day older.

And yet there’s this:: I’ve decided to be a vegetarian in 2010.

I realize that’s not a big deal. A good portion of you reading this blog are probably vegetarians or are at least trying to eat less meat. The point isn’t that I’m doing this thing: the point is how I was inspired.

Part 1: I heard a snippet of an interview on NPR back in mid-December. I only got to hear a few seconds which is the story of my radio-listening in general since I’m always going on short pick-up drives and tend to punch the controls every few seconds until I arrive at my destination, but I managed to catch someone saying, “The best thing any single individual can do for the environment is to become a vegetarian.”

How’s that for clean and simple? It certainly spoke to me: I’m worried about the environment and I’ve known for years that the amount of energy needed to make any kind of meat, from beef to chicken, is much higher than that needed to make a comparable number of calories of grain and vegetables. So there’s that. And I hate reading about how cows are treated, crammed into small pens, forcefed grain and corn when they should be eating grass until their stomachs bloat and they have to be dosed with heavy amounts of antibiotics. And then there are the growth hormones. And the fact their gas is a huge polluter. It’s all bad, really. There is free-range grass-fed beef–at around twenty bucks a pound. I try to buy it and just can’t bear to pay that much. Chickens aren’t treated so great either.

I like animals. I like clean air. I’m worried about the future. I get that if we all were suddenly to stop eating meat, the world would be a much better place (except maybe for those in the meat industry, but maybe they could try growing some crops).

I did some sleuthing (i.e. typed some words into Google) and discovered that the NPR interview was with Mark Bittman, my favorite NY Times food writer, who’s written a book called Food Matters about the environmental impact of our food choices on the planet. I can relate to Bittman. He’s not all laid-back and groovy and “meat will make you sick, man.” It’s not that he finds meat unappealing and I don’t either. In fact, I love steak. The point is: it’s simply better for our world for us not to eat meat. So we shouldn’t.

Part 2: I was on a vacation with my family over the holidays and we’d brought along some movie screeners to watch. One of them was Julie and Julia (or is it vice versa? I’d look it up but by the time I wrote it down, I’d have forgotten it again). My movie review in a nutshell: loved Julia, hated Julie. But that’s not the point. The point is that in the movie–which is BASED ON A BOOK (see? literary)–Julie decides she’ll set a year-long goal: for exactly one year, she’ll work her way through Julia Child’s iconic French cookbook.

Maybe it was the fact that 2009 was just ending that made the idea of a year-long goal so appealing to me. I can remember only one other time that I had a goal that was meant to last for one specific year: I decided to try being gluten-free like my son who has Celiac Disease for an entire year. It was a combination sympathy/curiosity impulse. I mostly kept it, although the rules were far more relaxed for me than they were for him. I could, for instance, eat soy sauce in restaurants which he can’t, since there’s a small amount of wheat in soy cause (crazy, right?) But I didn’t eat bread or get pastries at Starbucks, and if you don’t think that was a big deal, then you don’t know me very well.

So there I am: Mark Bittman’s words are ringing in my ears and I want a year-long goal. You already know what I decided.

But it’s not exactly a New Year’s resolution: it’s just a change in my life that happened to start on January 1 and will end on December 31.

Or maybe not. The truth is, this isn’t like Julie Powell cooking her way through a book of recipes. This is a decision that feels morally and emotionally right to me. If the year goes well–and, frankly, if I don’t gain like twenty pounds doing this (which is my secret fear)–I think I’d like to do this for . . . well . . . forever.

A couple of my kids have joined me, with the agreement that they can lapse now and then which is more than fine. It’s better to move in the right direction slowly than to jump over there and jump back because it’s too hard.

So far, it’s been a piece of cake. Several pieces, actually. I made this gluten-free milk chocolate cake that’s kind of amazing.

Hmm.  About those twenty pounds . . .



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16 responses to “A New Year’s Resolution–Sort Of

  1. Bruce

    But… this doesn’t apply to turkeys, right? I mean, a turkey is as dumb as a vegetable, that should count for something.

    I’m a vegetarian too, I just also eat meat.

    I’m sort of panicking over this. I think maybe you should bulk up a little before you do this, you’re already so thin.

    What about crab quesadillas? Surely that’s okay, a crab is really just a huge underwater bug.

    I think maybe we should all get to vote before you start making these reckless promises.

  2. Bruce

    Oh! And what about soy? Did you know that soybean farming is responsible for the destruction of the rain forest. It’s worse to eat soy than to eat beef, in my opinion. Plus it tastes pretty bad.

  3. Bruce

    The rain forest generates a huge amount of the world’s oxygen! By becoming a vegetarian, you are choking off our air supply! Help! Can’t… breathe….

  4. Bruce

    I just have to say this: some cows DESERVE to die.

  5. Bruce

    Anyone who says it takes more energy to grow a chicken than to grow tomatoes has clearly never weeded a garden. Who are these people? How did they get to you? What are they using against you?

  6. Bruce

    In some countries, pork is considered a vegetable.

  7. Claire

    Um, Bruce, you wouldn’t be feeling a little threatened by this, would you?

    If I promise to eat crab quesadillas (which I will) and feed you red rare meat whenever you come over, will you be able to calm down and eat some chocolate again?

  8. Claire

    It wouldn’t kill you to eat a vegetable now and then, you know.

  9. Bruce

    I eat animals to punish them for eating vegetables.

  10. Claire

    I think you’ve taught them a valuable lesson

  11. Good for you! I realize your kids are older than my daughter, but there are loads of veggie books out there to inspire them as they try out vegetarianism. One to check out might be Robyn Ringgold’s “My Mom Eats Tofu” — Carolyn M. Mullin has written a review of it on my blog. If you find others that are particularly good, I hope you’ll drop me a note!

  12. Claire

    I’ll check out your site. Thanks so much for the support and suggestions.

  13. Kim

    Congratulations, Claire! You have my full support. Way to go! As a mom who has gone through SO many dietary changes (for my son as well) 2009, if you ever need any ideas for a meal or snack, just ask. We largely lead a vegan diet, gluten-free, soy-free, msg-free (and all those other ingredients we can’t pronounce) for my son.

    I’ve also started a homebased green business – I’ll email you about it.

    I’m thrilled that you’ve made a decision that will help improve the lives of many on this planet. And it’s great that your children are modelling after you.

    Best wishes for your new year and new life-style!

  14. Claire,
    Great resolution, thanks for sharing it with all of us!
    Oh, you’ll need to try agar-agar for your future-to-be-famous rainbow jello molds, I guess (though it never “set” up as well for me, but I’m no gelatin expert!)
    A good book I recommend: “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver – I listened to the audiobook after being a vegetarian for nearly 17 years and it changed my view of a lot of things… but I’m still mostly a vegetarian.

  15. Claire

    Oh, goodness, Lee, I totally forgot about gelatin not being vegetarian! Fortunately for me, I don’t eat the stuff and I never vowed not to COOK vegetarian. But I’m glad you reminded me.

  16. Claire

    Ooops, I meant I never vowed only to cook vegetarian. I better have some more coffee.

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