You've probably noticed that my username is 60 40 and may have even wondered what it means. Well ...my username is 60 40 and I am a meataholic. It is something I have always been but I am working on it (which is why I chose that username though it should be more like 80 20). I live in the great state of North Carolina where people use meat for toothpaste. Ok, that's not fair or nice of me to judge every single person that lives here but it is a pretty accurate statement when describing the majority of them. I grew up eating meat with every meal and never thinking twice about where it came from. I mean, I knew where it came from because I lived next to a man who raised and sold cows and had an uncle (rest in peace, uncle Fish Head) that raised and sold hogs. I had uncles and cousins that would go hunting for deer every season (proud to say that I never have) and went on the occasional fishing trip (ok, so I'm guilty of that one but in my defense I was a kid and very bad at it since I never caught anything). I loved animals and was the owner of several dogs and cats throughout childhood but to me they were different than the "eatin' kind". I would never have dreamed of cooking and eating one of our pets but it never occured to me that there really was no difference in the animals I loved and took care of like a part of the family and the cows that lived next door.
Fast forward to the age of 22 in 1999, when I finally got a computer, went online for the first time and met an awesome girl. Back then, you didn't tell people that you met your girlfriend online because that was only one step up from one of those Video Dating Services but now everyone does it. She was 27 and had grown up in Ohio and then moved to Florida in her teens. Being a Floridian and eventually going to work for Universal Theme Park, she had experienced a lot more than I had in the variety of foods that were out there. She opened my eyes to a lot of different types of food and cultures and I was grateful for that. When I would visit her, she would get me to try new things. One of which was my first Veggie Burger. It was very good but I still loved my meat. She was not a vegetarian but she did eat more vegetables and vegetarian dishes than I ever did. At one point, around 20 years ago, she did attempt to be a 100% vegetarian but it didn't go so well and the doctors told her to stop because she wasn't getting the proper nutrition she needed. It's not like today where there are so many books and internet sites to help you understand how to eat properly as a vegetarian. So, she went back to eating some meat but not as much and it was still more healthy than what I was doing.
Her coming into my life was the best thing that had ever happened to me and it did cause me to change some of the things I was eating. I had not completely changed my diet much from the stuff I had grown up on but after we began dating I starting cutting a few things here and there because I had put on a few pounds since my teen years and wanted to slim down a little. I still ate my Doritos, Little Debbie Cakes, canned spaghetti and drank 3 sodas a day but there were some slight alterations to my diet.
I also didn't want to end up like my mom. She was a diabetic, overweight, and in a nursing home at the age of 48. She had suffered from complications during her heart bypass operation and it left her unable to walk or move much more than her arms down to mid-chest level and give an occasional wiggle of her crumpled up fingers. I visited her every night and it was horrible to have to watch her slowly gain more weight in her bed that was basically her prison. She passed away a few years ago at the age of 58 (miss you mom) ...and that is something I didn't want to happen to me.
When I moved into my own home and finally did my own shopping I made a few smarter choices but I still didn't eat a very healthy diet. Most of all, I still loved my meat. I also didn't drink any water which led me to my first hospital visit at the age of 29 with severe hydration and kidney stones that were too large to pass. That was enough to force me to kick my 3 soda a day habit but it wasn't until I married my Florida girl that I started making big changes.
Over the past few years, we have done our best to become more healthy people. I've never eaten so many vegetables in my life. I even attempted to grow my own in a small organic container garden with some tomato and pepper plants that someone gave us. It was not too successful but we did manage to get about 15 good tomatoes and maybe 20 different peppers (I may be from the South but I am by no means a gardener). Anything that we can find to change in our diet to whole wheat or organic was a huge part. Although, this can be expensive since it's always cheaper to just buy processed junk or fast food but in the long run it's going to cost you. Just like everyone else in this country, we were hit by the economic depression. I mean, severely hit. As in, we've been close to losing our home and every day we hang on by the skin of our teeth. We have been able to find good deals though on vegetables and fruit at the local flea markets and have recently discovered a fabulous Discount Grocery store unlike any other that we have even seen. I know, some people hear things like Discount, Salvage, Discontinued, etc. and turn their noses up but when I can go and buy boxes of organic cookies for $1.00 that are usually around $3.00 or $4.00 and cereal for $1.50 and $2.00 that is usually $4.00 and $5.00 there's no way I'd rather go back to places like "Wally World". With all of the food that gets thrown away in this country, there should be places like this on every corner but instead they are sometimes hard to find. If you make a point to look for them though, you'd be surprised at what you can get. Right now, I've got a pantry full of great stuff like "Back To Nature" pasta and cookies, "Barbara's Puffins" peanut butter cereal, "Earth Fare" Honey Bear Grahams ...the list goes on and on. I eat greek yogurt and nuts and berries for a snack and drink lots of water and it's all been very helpful to our weight watching and also fun to look for new things to try...
But it's still been really hard to let go of meat. I grew up on it, in an area where everyone worships it and I could never completely get it out of my life.
In 2006, when I was on an errand in the city, I took a stray cat from the busy downtown streets into my new home. She was my first pet since I was a kid and it slowly began changing my life again. Then, I took in a dog from an abusive situation ...and then another cat with health problems from an animal hospital/shelter that no one wanted and had been there for years until their bosses in another state found out and they had to get rid of him ...and finally a puppy from another abusive household that had a serious worm problem. As we welcomed them in, fixed them up and they became like our children (since we have none of our own) I started feeling bad whenever I ate my steaks and porkchops while they sat across the room. My "kids" were living, breathing creatures and up until a short time before so was the supper I was eating. We had changed a few things for dietary purposes such as choosing lean beef and then eventually changing to turkey meat but up until then had not considered going completely Vegan.
Now, a few years later, we have made a lot of other changes. I eat better than I ever have and am constantly looking to improve my diet. I'm not going to lie, there is still a long way to go before I can consider myself a complete Vegan but I hope to one day soon get there. I make new discoveries every day through books, tv, news articles, websites and I love cooking and creating new things to try. I make a killer bean burger, have converted from chicken to Quorn ...and recently discovered this wonderful thing called "Jackfruit". I had read how it can be prepared to taste just like barbecue pork! I was skeptical but decided to give it a try. It took me about 6 months to find an Asian Grocery that carried it and the cans were a little dusty but it was well worth the wait. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to prepare it from a fresh Jackfruit but this will do for now. I will post my recipe later, which was adapted from a couple of different ones I saw. It is pretty easy to make and I loved it.
So, here I am. 35 and I am working at being a vegetarian ...one step at a time and day by day. Which goes to show you that it's never too late to make a change. And if I do get the urge to grill up some red meat, I'll just look into the great big eyes of my Chocolate Lab (she kind of resembles a cow) and think about how we really are all the same. People, Dogs, Cats, Cows, Pigs, Deer, Fish, Chicken ...we all share one thing. We are all breathing, living animals.