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Becoming Vegetarian

I’ve always been an animal lover, but I’m no PETA activist.  That’s not the reason I stopped eating meat.

When I started my masters program in nutrition, I had mostly stopped eating red meat – I think I avoided it initially to help lose weight (cutting out cheeseburgers and meatballs seemed to make sense at the time).  In one of my food science classes, we began learning about different cuts of beef and the regulations regarding grading & inspection.  It was around the time that there was a video showing cows being mistreated and sick cows being dragged to the slaughterhouse.  This only solidified my decision to avoid red meat.

The next thing we covered in class was poultry.  Having lived on campus & eaten 3 meals a day in the dining halls for 6 years, I had more than my share of the “chicken” that they served – you know what I mean, those rubbery, greyish-white strips with the fake grill marks?  Lunch meat was never particularly appealing to me, but I had a sandwich for lunch a few times a week.  Regardless, I realized that the food I chose on a regular basis was extremely processed and far removed from whatever animal it came from.  Growing weary of the chewy chicken and then watching a video on preparing and stuffing a fresh turkey made me want to give up poultry products, too.

While I considered becoming a vegetarian, I knew it would be hard to give up some foods – especially bacon.  It has an emotional attachment in my brain somehow, reminding me of both leisurely Saturday mornings and crazy days working in my father’s diners.

I eventually gave up everything but fish, dairy, and eggs.  I was concerned I wouldn’t get enough protein (I didn’t eat many legumes then), but learned after a year or two to make balanced meals.  At first it was difficult (and still can be) to find things to eat in certain situations, or at family gatherings or holidays, but you learn to make it work.  I get tired of people assuming that pasta (especially fettucine alfredo) is what a vegetarian eats for dinner 7 nights a week, so I also began experimenting more in the kitchen and making my own meals.

I get asked about my decision a lot and can’t really explain it without going into this level of detail, and it still doesn’t completely make sense.  I think I intended to try it for a short time but it’s lasted about 4 years.  I encounter people on the other end of the spectrum who tell me I’m not a vegetarian because I eat fish.  So maybe I’m a pescetarian – either way, I don’t eat meat or poultry.

I use faux-meat substitutes here and there but becoming vegetarian has encouraged me to try so many more foods that I never would have chosen over a cheeseburger in the past.  My vegetable intake is twice what it used to be.  I still crave bacon once in a while when I smell it.  I think my iron levels are a bit low, so if I get pregnant some day and need to increase my iron, I might go back to eating red meat temporarily.  But at this point in my life, I’m happy with my meatless lifestyle.

The point of this post?

I was craving pulled pork.  Badly.  I even Googled “vegetarian pulled pork” yesterday and started making a shopping list.  After getting my butt kicked in an awesome spin class, I planned on going home to eat leftover sushi and edamame for dinner, but my family called and said they were going to the Doublewide Grill – one of the few veggie (and even vegan) friendly restaurants in Pittsburgh.  I know they have amazing veggie burgers so I immediately drove to meet them (even though I was sweaty and still in my gym clothes). 

I grabbed the menu just to check which side I wanted with my veggie burger,  and saw “BBQ Pulled Seitan” : Same as the pulled pork but without the pig. On multigrain vegan bread. Served with choice of shoestring fries, garlic and vinegar slaw (Ve) or creamy cherry slaw (V) and a garlic pickle spear – 8.69.  Sold!

Check out the deliciously thin and crispy bread:

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The barbeque sauce was nice and spicy and the seitan was chewy but delicious.  Doublewide is also carnivore friendly (and generous with their portions).  My dad ordered a “TV dinner”, where you get 5 sides with your main course, served on a classy metal dining tray that reminds you of grade school.  I stole the avocado from dad’s salad to cool down my mouth from the spicy sauce!

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My mom had a classic burger and my brother had beef brisket.  They have a wide selection of options no matter what you’re in the mood for or any dietary restrictions you have.  Their Sunday brunch is awesome and I enjoyed their drink specials back in my college days.  Definitely check it out if you’re ever in the South Side of Pittsburgh!

On my birthday I usually like to choose a nice upscale restaurant, get dressed up, and have a decadent meal.  This year I’m simply in the mood for my favorite mexican restaurant, some good guacamole, and a night with my family and fiance’.  Off to celebrate – thanks for the early birthday wishes! 🙂

How vegetarian/vegan friendly is your hometown?

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13 responses to “Becoming Vegetarian

  1. kristina@beancakes ❤ August 9, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    wow ~ this sounds and looks really tasty!! thanks for sharing your story as well! i definitely have also had my own journey with the vegetarian thing ~ to be or not to be? all to wind up with eating mostly vegetarian, but still eating meat on occasion. my motto in life is to keep it healthy yet simple and low-maintenance. 😉
    xo ~ kristina

  2. allieksmith August 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I think Pittsburgh is pretty veg friendly @ times 😉

  3. Jessica @ Stylish Stealthy and Healthy August 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I go through phases where I’ll go vegetarian/vegan for a while but then go back to eating fish, then meat, then I cut back, it’s a weird cycle but I like to give my body a break from having to break down meat.
    I think the worst past is when people ask you why- you tell them and then they try to argue with your reasons. Like, didn’t you just ask me why?
    But I also live in PA, but Harrisburg area and there not a lot of vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurants here, unless you go ethnic, which is fine by me 🙂

  4. Tiff August 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Perfect! Way to go with the bbq seitan. My town isn’t particularly veg friendly, but it is getting on the local-food bandwagon. Can’t complain about that at least.

  5. Kjirsten- Balanced Healthy Life August 9, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    The town I live in only has a few options I can think of, and they are not even vegetarian resturants, they are just places that have some veggie options. I’m surprised we dont’t have more since I live in a very health orientated place.

  6. Allison @ PickyEatingRD August 10, 2011 at 3:48 am

    Yum! I live in Chicago and there is something for everyone. I’d imagine it might be a little more challenging in a smaller town but I have never had to worry before!

  7. char on a mission August 10, 2011 at 4:40 am

    I honestly feel the same way as you! I also eat fish, and not quite sure what to call myself – but that’s the thing, I don’t need a label, I just eat what I know I want to eat…for me.

    That place sounds SO good. Because I live in a smaller town, we don’t really have any vegan/vegetarian places, but it would honestly be a nice investment for someone haha! Especially since I would LOVE to eat at a place like that often 🙂

  8. Pingback: Childhood Craving « Live and Love to Eat

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