There’s a nice piece in the Globe by Devra First about this seemingly collective resolution some of us share to eat less meat. Also, for a slightly less mature look at the subject, specifically the recent health study that was done, here’s my (re-edited) post up at BlogHer, which I forgot to link to last week:
Findings from a study published last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that regularly eating red meat increases the odds of premature death. Pork, too, was lumped into the red meat category, unfortunately for me.
Now, I’m the first one to make excuses when the news is something I don’t want to hear, but I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: science is tricky. You don’t always know the whole story and how all of the variables were accounted for. For example, was it the actual meat that was killing people, or was it the stuff we’ve been feeding to the cows that’s killing people? Did the esteemed scientists build a time machine to go back and do the experiment when cows ate only grass and didn’t get injected with shit to make a fair comparison?
What about the social dynamics between the test group and the control group? Maybe the people who didn’t get to eat meat were jealous of the people who did, and they sent threatening e-mail messages to the others and the stress put the meat-eaters at a higher risk of heart disease. So the carnivores ended up making thrice as many cell phone calls to their friends and family for comfort, which put them at a higher risk for cancer. Did the researchers at least bug the rooms of all the test subjects? Maybe people genetically predisposed to premature death are genetically predisposed to love meat? Can you prove that's not true?
Here’s the thing: I like meat. I feel it’s an important and traditional part of my own particular diet. But I do agree that, like anything, balance is key. Skimming the study, I was heartened to read that the experts didn’t go so far as to recommend eliminating beef and pork entirely from one’s diet (unless you want to), but suggested that people avoid eating it everyday. That seems doable, except for the fact that I tend to fill up the empty space on my plate where the meat should be with eggs. What do the studies say about eggs these days?
The truth is, we’ve been cutting back on meat during the past year, ourselves, in the name of moderation and frugality. It hasn’t always been easy or free from controversy. Some of my strategies have included swapping in a bean or lentil dish for the meat. Thus far, this has not met with approval from the man of the house. Beans are a side dish, I was told. A more successful approach was cooking up a steak and slicing it thinly, then fanning the pieces out to make them look more impressive. Or on a salad so they look virtuous. This has worked well because it turns out that both Husband and I feel immense relief that we don’t have to eat an entire steak by ourselves. Who knew?
Another tactic is to look to ethnic cuisines for inspiration, particularly the ones with religious dietary restrictions, and see what kind of awesomeness the Indians, for example, bestow on vegetables and legumes. I love this cookbook for the beets and stir-fried cabbage alone. I recently made a very tasty lamb curry for the family with less than one pound of meat. It looked pathetic, I’ll admit, a few meaty chunks in a great pool of sauce. But the meal ended up being all about the sauce, anyway, as it soaked into the rice, and everyone wanted seconds of that and the greens braised in ginger cream. The meat was just gravy, so to speak.
Here’s another article worth reading by Mark Bittman that offers some good suggestions for how to reduce your meat intake should you be so inclined. Any meatless or almost-meatless meals you swear by?