For Lent this year, my partner and I have given up eating meat at home for dinner. If that doesn’t have enough caveats for you, I’m sure I could come up with some more. Neither of us being Catholic, we didn’t feel particularly compelled to adhere to a strict code during this time; but I will say that I have been impressed with our success thus far. (We got ribs one week in, but since we were eating out we decided it didn’t count. I believe this is when we amended the rule to explicitly apply to “meals at home”.)
The decision to cut out meat was primarily environmental, although our preferences have been leaning away from meat-centric meals for years now. I admit, it’s not much of a “giving up”, since an amount of revulsion was already involved. However, I’ve never really deprived myself of a food group on principle for this long before, and I’ve found the exercise in somewhat enlightening.
For one, it has forced us into new and under-used recipes. There are so many dishes that don’t lose anything by losing the meat. I found a delicious tortellini recipe that calls for chicken (which I omitted), and I think it actually would’ve tasted worse had I included it.
In the same vein, since we’re saving ten to thirty dollars each week on groceries sans meat, I’ve been open to recipes I would normally overlook because they contain too many specialty items. I bought pine nuts for the first time yesterday and didn’t even feel that bad about it. (The miser in me still cringed, but not as badly.)
The exercise has also reminded me how much more I enjoy cooking when I don’t have to worry about raw meat. One cutting board. One knife. And you don’t have to wash the dishes quite so vigorously. (I feel like that’s true? No?) The enjoyment stems not only from the psychological easement of not having to handle raw meat, but also from the relaxing activity that is chopping vegetables (I, as a contact wearer, in addition to just being better at it, am the designated onion cutter) and the visual stimulation of so many colors in front of me at a time. I’ve even caught myself smiling at a pile of multicolored carrots.
With the question of whether this discipline is legitimately Lenten aside, I am glad for a change in habits, and not only for the sake of the body. Sometimes it’s also good for the soul to skip the beef in favor of beans.