University is a time for exploration. For my exploration I decided to venture into the possibilities of food and diet. I had always been a passive meat eater, never considering the product or animal I was consuming. But, when I read and talked to people about animal livestock, and the cruelty the meat and dairy industries inflict to for mere profit, I choose to covert to Vegetarianism. The transition was easy, I realised you could easily avoid meat- though saying that my diet in the start of first year did just consist of noodles and pesto pasta. I made the change and have now been going six months strong as a dedicated vegetarian. The only downfall is the sarcastic comments I receive from my life long meat-eater family, especially my dad, who often boasts of the wonderful taste of meat. I am easily able to ignore their comments, as I know I have made the right moral and environmental decision. Most people when I tell them I have become vegetarian, ask whether I miss the taste of meat, or ever crave it. Admittedly there have been occasions, walking down chicken shop central AKA Mile End, when I do smell the fresh fried chicken, and are tempted to indulge, however my inner moral conscience reminds me of my decision and I don’t give in to cheap chicken wings.
Becoming Vegetarian has made me more aware of what I’m eating, I would rarely look twice at a packet of sweets before, but now I stare at the back of a Drumstick lollypop to ensure there is no gelatine (there is by the way, Drumsticks lollies are not suitable for Vegetarians). The magic sign ‘Suitable for Vegetarians’ is something I seek out in my all food purchases. Luckily, there is plenty of choice for Vegetarians, and I have not struggled to find food. Fortunately, you can live meat free on a budget as well; when first transitioning I relied quite a lot on replacement products such as ‘Quorn’ as they were easy to incorporate into meals I used to eat. But the downside with replacement meat free alternatives is that they are not always cheap, so I soon began cooking more vegetables, which are adaptable, versatile and full of much more flavour.
I had never been much of a cook before so adapting to cooking without meat, which growing up had been a big aspect of my daily meals, was quite a challenge for cooking. I started with simple dishes such as stuffed peppers, which require minimal effort, with just the tasks of cutting peppers and boiling cheap cous-cous, then adding mozzarella on top. Secondly, I trialled different recipes, and have been doing so more frequently, aubergine and mushrooms are both perfect vegetable substitutes and chickpeas go perfect in curries.
Though I focus on the substitute aspect of food, it is also important to note that taste is most important when it comes to making a good meal. After endlessly googling various recipes online, I discovered something my taste buds have inadvertently ignored for years, the magic of spices! Spices whether they be for curries or seasoning potato chips, are essential in ensuring there is plenty of taste in a healthy, meat-free dish. Another bonus too is that I have been able to build up a tolerance for spice, as I used to struggle to eat spicy foods, but as I have started cooking for myself I realised how tasty spices are, and have conveniently built up a tolerance and appreciation for hot and spicy meals.