My new flat has a pretty good system on Saturday nights.  Essentially it’s a ‘Come Dine with Me’ situation – one roommate will cook for the others and we’ll play cards or watch a movie.  It’ll be on break for a few weeks due to flatmates being away, but when it starts up again it’ll be my turn.  Still not entirely sure what I’ll cook, mainly because one of my roommates is vegetarian (well, pescetarian but he prefers the v word), so I either have to come up with a vegetarian meal, or cook 2 so he has an option.  It was his turn last week, and since he’s also Italian, he gave us bruschetta and a spicy pasta main course.  Bruschetta were great, though I found the pasta to be bland (he doesn’t understand why people put so much stuff on pasta, he’s used to it being pretty simple) and there was too much for me to finish.

It’ll be tricky, because out of the few meals I know how to cook, they all involve meat – I can probably substitute fish in a couple but I’m actually a little annoyed at how small my range is.  Somewhat ironic considering that during my teen years I actually went vegetarian for a few months.

Not entirely sure why I decided to do it – but got it into my head that it would be a good idea and that I didn’t eat enough beef and chicken to really miss it.  When I told my mother, she was actually very supportive – even said she’d consider doing it with me.  So with her help (and the additional costs of making separate meals), I managed to keep it up for the better part of 2 months.  Admittedly by the end of those two months, I was starting to crave chicken – you never realise how much you enjoy something that’s a staple till it’s gone.

However, this success rate quickly plummeted when I went to my Dad’s for the first time after converting.  In an ironic twist, he was the one who insulted my choice this time.  He couldn’t believe I was doing something as stupid as giving up meat.  You needed meat to grow strong and I was crippling myself by not being the omnivore I was designed to be.  In his words, if I gave up meat while I was in my developing stages I’d never grow and become a tiny, frail and weak human being.

(This, in hindsight, seems like a pretty lousy argument, considering both sides of my family are on a considerably meat heavy diet, and we’re all built like Shetland ponies.  Short and stocky.  Clearly the meat doesn’t help us so much vertically as it does horizontally, but I didn’t think of that counter-argument at the time).

It was tough.  Trying to change something like your diet is hard work, especially if you don’t get support.  Especially when you’re not getting support from someone you’re used to receiving it from.  Needless to say he wasn’t going to come up with alternatives for me to eat.  If anything he put more meat on my plate than everyone else and scrimped on the vegetables (which my brother – a hardcore veggie hater happily complained about).  Even took us to burger vans for lunch.  If I didn’t eat what was on the plate, I went hungry.  So…went hungry for a few days – did not go down well, but held out.  We were at my Dad’s because we were going on holiday to Spain, so I was happy to bear with it for a few days.  Once we were eating in restaurants and the like I’d actually have more choice.

Guess again.  Even at the resorts buffet nights the only non-meat items I could find were chips and onion rings.  And nearly everywhere we went outside of the resort were meat heavy restaurants.  If there was anything on the menu that was veggie, I couldn’t understand it.  And once I’d hit four days of going hungry, and listening to my Dad’s constant complaints about my idiocy, my pretty weak willpower shattered and I decided to allow myself to eat fish and chicken.  Daddy jumped on this one like a starving dog with a bone.  Why was I only eating chicken and fish?  Why were the cows and pigs getting special treatment?  Did I want to punish the birds for some reason?  We had a pond, with fish I had named and lovingly watched grow – why would I eat fish and not cows?

Within 2 days of him constantly on my back and piling sausage and bacon and burgers on my plate, I gave up.  This was not a battle I had the strength or resources to win, and when I came back from Spain, I was a meat eater again, much to my Dad’s delight.  Though our relationship was definitely more strained than it had every been after that trip.  My mother just shrugged, although admitted she was glad she didn’t have to buy so much food anymore.

I could have probably tried to convert again at university, but between the cost of food and my general stress levels, it never seemed like a good idea.  All the foods I learned to cook all had meat (and all had ‘cheap’ as their one common denominator), and the few experiments I did with meat alternatives or veg didn’t work out all that well (and were expensive).  As it is, I’m actually surprised I lasted as long as I did – I eat so much meat now I can’t process not having it for 2 months again.  Definitely have respect for anyone who can do it – its more than I can do.

But does leave me with the glorious dilemma of what I cook my turn around…