Now that I was on my vegetarian journey, I needed a plan. But I was not in hurry to give up eating meat just yet. This was my journey, and I alone would dictate the pace and direction.
My favorite meat was pig meat, yet I was unsure about giving up pork, ham, and bacon. However, I was determined to be a vegetarian and eating swine flesh was now only a very limited option. My focus was now on reading online articles about food and vegetarian cooking. The foods on these sites looked delicious and relatively easy to make, but there was a road block on my vegetarian journey: I didn’t know how to cook. I also viewed cooking as a woman’s job.
I hastily ditched my chauvinism and wasted no time learning how to cook. My sister Rika helped me learn to cook, and after a month I could make an assortment of pasta dishes and vegetarian burgers. I liked many of her recipes and adapted many of her food combinations to suit my taste buds. My plan to stop consuming meat was simple: eat meat in small portions while including meat substitutes. I also kept a diary for motivation and to keep track of my progress. I started eating less meat on 1 May, 2013.
At Frühstück, or breakfast, my parents and brothers Hilmar, Kurt, and Arnu ate sausage, bacon and drank orange juice. My sister made cheese and tomato sandwiches, and I had fried eggs. I had never cooked before and was proud that the fried eggs turned out perfect – soft and definitely not rubbery. The two of us then joined the rest of the family for breakfast, and after a lively discussion about meat consumption and its impact on the environment, went our separate ways.
I have Zwischenmahlzeit, or in-between-meals, at our workplace canteen. I skipped my regular beef sandwich and tried a fruit smoothie instead. It was unexpectedly refreshing and settled quite well in my tummy. I did not feel lazy as was the situation when I ate meat. I had enough energy to keep me going until lunch time, and when Mittagessen, or lunch, had arrived, I was only moderately hungry.
Lunch was a heavy, meat-laden affair at the local restaurant. My colleagues ate bratwurst and beef roast with onions, while I had soya strips and grilled vegetables in a wrap. I told my co-workers that I wanted to become a vegetarian, and they burst out laughing. I may have casually mentioned at one time that vegetarians are grazing animals and can be eaten. Then I was pleasantly surprised when some of my colleagues pledged to eat less meat. Germans are becoming increasingly concerned about the ethical treatment of animals and the health impact of factory farming.
Abendessen, or dinner, in the Stolz family is between six and seven in the evening. While most of my family ate Weisswurst, sauerkraut, gherkins, and pork, Rika, her fiancé Hendrik, and I ate seitan and noodles in a spicy tomato sauce with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. I had never eaten seitan before and was amazed the vegetable protein tasted decently close to meat. My future brother-in-law is a meat eater but enjoyed eating the vegetarian meal with us. Maybe we have another vegetarian in the making? I certainly hope so.
Every Wednesday in May was a meat-free day, and I was happy with my progress. On the first of June, I wrote in my diary that becoming vegetarian was easy. I was overly optimistic. The following day I reverted to eating meat and feasted for the entire week on smoked pork loin, ham medallions, and other meats. June and July were difficult months, but as I spent more time eating out with my vegetarian friends, my hunger for meat lessened. Associating animal suffering every time I ate pork helped me to stop eating meat.
By the time Oktoberfest arrived, I was a vegetarian. My vegetarian journey was by no means over, as an entire world of new and exciting foods had opened up to me, and I was going to have great fun exploring it. I once thought vegetarians and vegans were miserable and sad people, but I learned quite the opposite. They were happy and well motivated people who want to make the world a better place to live in.
Photo of Veganz vegan supermarket in Berlin. Image by Josefine Stenudd