Becoming vegetarian

“Why should eating be different from any of the other ethical realms of our lives? We were honest people who occasionally told lies, careful friends who sometimes acted clumsily. We were vegetarians who from time to time ate meat.”

- Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

Yang and I are attempting a little experiment. We are trying to be vegetarians, who from time to time eat meat. [1]

Why do this? Because we just read Eating Animals by JSF, and, despite all efforts to remain “neutral,” we were convinced. The trouble is, we love meat. So short of eschewing it entirely, we’ve decided upon a set of finely tuned (not really), intellectually watertight (not really), agonized over (yes actually) rules for being vegetarians who eat meat.

Without further ado, I give you…

The Yang and Tina “Vegetarian” Project

Rule #1: Every week, we will be allowed to make one choice towards meat. Everything else should be vegetarian.

Examples of what counts as our one choice: one dish to be consumed over several meals, one meal of multiple meat dishes, etc. But each week we only get to do this once.

1a. If we are eating out or ordering in, we can eat any kind of meat (conventional/organic/etc), but with a preference for ethically raised meat.

In an ideal world, we would only ever eat meat that was raised humanely. In reality, it’s prohibitively difficult to tell where restaurant meat is coming from—feedlot or family farm? Precious few dining establishments serve only ethical meat on principle, even in a city like New York. And for the rest, you can pretty much assume it’s all conventional meat. So rather than lose sleep over this, we decided to put our efforts elsewhere.

1b. However, if we are cooking it, the meat must come from an ethical source.

Here’s where we can actually control sourcing, so why not? Yes, this means we’re going to start paying $12.99/lb for pasture-raised, grass-fed ground beef. Yes, it’s total madness, and no, we are not loaded (I’m in grad school… oh let me tell you about the loans…) We are just attempting to reframe meat as a luxury item, an accessory to a special meal rather than the centerpiece of every one. Isn’t that what meat always was, before industrialization ‘optimized’ our meat production system for unrealistically low prices?

Rule #2: Eggs and dairy should come from humane sources too

This is much easier than getting meat. The Greenmarket has free range, organic eggs (actual free-range) for $4/dozen. Amazing fresh milk for $5/quart. Done deal.

Rule #3: If family or friends are cooking for us, we will eat whatever it is, no questions asked. This rule trumps everything else.

I believe there are 2 kinds of suffering related to eating meat: that of livestock in terrible living conditions, diseased and drugged, bludgeoned and beaten and worse; and that which would show on my mother’s face as disappointment if I were to refuse something she lovingly cooked for me. Those are not equivalent quantities of suffering by any means, but you can probably guess which means more to me. Yang agrees.

And that’s basically it. We’ll be eating a whole lotta legumes, leafy greens, and grains! And I’m gonna have to learn some new dishes. Should be fun!

I wonder, if anyone reading who is reading this has ever attempted vegetarianism before, or tried modifying their meat-eating practices? If so, I’m curious to know how it went. I would love to swap notes on thought process, implementation, and all those goodies.

Wish us luck! I, for one, will need it.


[1] We realize that a more appropriate term for what we’re aiming to be is “flexitarian.” But, as far as my omnivorous appetite is concerned, we’ve already embarked on the unthinkable: deliberately choosing to avoid meat at all. So if I listen carefully at what my lizard brain is saying, I’m pretty sure it’s wrathfully accusing me of being a… vegetarian. :)

6 thoughts on “Becoming vegetarian

  1. My friend did a one-month vegan trial (tho it was easy because apple served vegan dishes…). He’s still eating mvegan at work (but not at bbqs probably) and learned lots of good vegan recipes!

    Upon reading this I realized that I’m mostly vegetarian on the weekdays… Considering I eat 1.5 meals a day and the .5 is watermelon ^^;;
    On weekends I’m pretty carnivorous tho… I wish restaurants had better (or just better sounding) vegetarian dishes. I’m looking at you, Chinese restaurants!

  2. I typed a long comment but accidentally pressed refresh :(

    My friend went on a 1-month vegan trial and it worked out pretty well. And it was easy bc apple serves vegan. He liked it enough to eat vegan at work most of the time and learned a really cool vegan muffin recipe!

    I’m at least half vegan! But that’s because I eat watermelon for dinner… So not sure if that’s cheating ^^;;

  3. Good luck, Tina. I do a simplified (less rigorous, less logically consistent, don’t care what term you call me) version of this. We don’t cook much meat at home, and when we do it’s usually an ingredient, not the centerpiece – pasta with (sometimes) meat in the sauce vs. big-ass steaks. Since we really don’t use much meat, the higher price for non-factory meat is not a burden. When eating out, vegetarian is my default option. If nothing veggie looks good, I’ll get meat, especially if it’s well-sourced, but most of the time I’m fine with rice & beans, salad, pasta, etc. Same deal with meals from family/friends!

    None of these are hard-and-fast “rules” for me. If I’m craving Five Guys, I get Five Guys. Not feeling guilty, deprived, or stuck doing some abstract good at the expense of my taste buds means I probably eat 10% as much meat as I used to, but I’m eating all the meat I want to.

  4. @Jing I’ve done a few vegan meals here and there but to give up cheese… *shudder*

    @Joel We’ve never been too into big-ass steak (official terminology) either, but I would still like to decrease my reliance on meat for flavor/texture further. I wish I had the presence of mind to do this without a rigid moral framework, but alas, I’m bad at arguing with my stomach when I’m hungry and need all the help I can get :)

  5. I wish you and Yang all the best with this project! Check out Loving Hut in Manhattan for some tasty eat out options (don’t forget to check out their flyers as well ;)).

    Other inspirations: (Korean food is so easy to make vegetarian… Japchae, Bibimbap, Kimchi fried rice with canned tuna, Glutinous rice sticks…)

    You can also go fancy with omelettes. Seafood (fish or shrimp) with cilantro omelettes, frittatas, tortilla patata (delicious!), and many more. I went nuts and steamed my own radish cake from scratch to cook in our Singaporean carrot cake omelette dish this weekend (

    Mahmood and I recently started keeping compost in our freezer (like you guys) and I installed an Earth Machine in the church’s backyard, which is where the compost goes on Sundays.

    I know you guys love meat. All the best!


    P.S. Mahmood routed me to your blog post :)

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