The Truth Behind Our Food | How Gardening Forced Me to Eat Plant Based
It was my senior year of high school that I decided my diet needed to change. At the time, I called myself a vegan. I had completely cut out all animal products from my diet: meat, dairy, honey, etc. I struggled for an entire year to make that goal happen. I had no idea what I was doing, and my only resource was the internet and other blogs I followed that gave minimal nutritional information. I was also between 17 + 18 and still really didn't have a whole lot of mental focus at the time. My dedication to any one subject was subpar at best. Looking back now, I really have Tad to thank for getting my creative-attention-deficit brain to crack down on the things I do best: writing and growing plants. And embroidering, too, I guess. Back then, I remember eating a lot of bread and those frozen veggie burgers from the health food aisle. I was living in Texas during my senior year of high school, The Woodlands to be more specific, and if you know anything about that suburb then I don't have to say much else. They did have really fancy grocery stores, though, and I wanted to try everything in the "Vegan/Organic" aisle. Little did I know that even though it was labeled healthy and organic didn't necessarily mean the ingredients inside or how it was processed actually meant that. While that controversial subject is still at war in my own head, I wasn't actually eating a whole lot of plants. Isn't that stupid? I was just trying to replace meat with weird things like frozen processed vegetable matter, breads, and oils. I hardly cooked myself anything and going out to eat with friends after school and theatre rehearsal was a freaking nightmare. Sorry, friends, that I made you go to so many weird places to eat!
It was a pizza topped with chicken at this really awesome pizza place in Panther Creek (you know which one I'm talking about) that made me change back over to having meat in my diet. It was also a visit to the doctor who had to run several tests and discover I was becoming severely anemic as well. Oops! I ate that pizza like a champ and built my iron back up little by little. I was also the heaviest I had ever been in my life at that time, so the weight loss side of it that I was hoping for totally failed. I got back on the meat, started running religiously, and a few short months later lost a fair amount of weight and found out I was pregnant. Of course, my diet changed then, too.
Now, it's been three years since that moment, and I am starting to find myself meandering back down the path of a plant based diet. I have a lot more resources now than ever before, and I try really hard to keep up with what is actually healthy and what is not. It's not something I'm an expert in, and I've never met with a nutritionist or dietician. But if you've been keeping up with this series, then you know that I am dedicated to discovering more about what eating locally grown, organic food is all about. Why is it better? Well, I think that's based upon your own opinion, but here's the fact that I know so far: local, organic food is food in its most raw form. Who wouldn't want that?
When I started this series I wanted a solution to eating meat. I wanted to find a solution for myself and also for my parents, also for my son who 99% of the time refuses to touch meat anyway. There had to be something that was better for all of us, something that was better for the farmers, the animals, the system, and the environment. So I started looking into purchasing only local meat and organic meat if I could find it. And that's actually still going really well. Basically, I wanted to get away from that system that felt like it was overpowering all of us. The meat industry just seems really nasty to me and even though I only know a majority of this information from the side that is against the industry, I don't want to come out and tell you that everything that happens in the meat and agriculture industry is terrible and/or that you shouldn't buy into it. I'm not that person; I still don't know what is right.
But when it came down to it, eating meat that was organic, fed the correct type of feed for its body, and grown at farms near our home made us feel so much better. We are lucky enough to live in a farming community that has a lot of options for this type of farming and meat choices. One of my dearest friends raises organic chickens, turkeys, and pigs. We purchase her meat because it tastes better, makes us feel better than before, and supports her family right then and there. I couldn't ask for a better option for all of us. And my parents will still probably purchase her meat because they're not ready to give it up yet.
Two weeks ago I brought up the question, "Is Homesteading Environmentally Friendly?" I recently learned about how agriculture is the one of the leading causes of pollution on our planet. That was kind of shocking, especially considering it was something that I promoted so highly. Conventional farming is something that I'm still really confused about when it comes to the products made. Yes, conventional farming requires pesticides, GMOs, etc. But that doesn't make the farmer a bad person. And organic farming doesn't make an organic farmer a better person. Okay, we've got that out on the table right? But both forms of farming do emit a lot of pollution. They both take away a lot of land that is used to raise meat for human consumption, a lot of animal waste. I didn't like reading about how much space is being destroyed in our rainforests to raise beef. That was kind of horrible to hear. And I'm not necessarily a huge conservationist, but it just started to make my stomach turn because what was the point of it? You know? Why did we have this rising desire and demand for meat when we could just consciously make the decision to say no to it?
And I realized that I had actually been eating a mostly plant based diet for the past two months. It was something that I hadn't even been trying to do! And that made me really excited and happy. Why wasn't I trying? Because I had been spending the past eight months working to grow my own vegetables. It was something that I wanted so badly, something I wanted to prove to myself that I could do, to prove to others that I could accomplish this feat that so many found exhausting and time consuming. While all of the work was happening, I was discovering ways I could cook and use these herbs, fruits, and vegetables in my everyday life. They were precious, and I didn't want to throw away my money and time on them like I would at the grocery store. Does that make sense? We used to purchase fresh produce all of the time and just let it sit in our fridge and go to waste. Really sad! I read some articles, watched a few documentaries, and decided that the next step in my journey to a better lifestyle for my health, environment, and family was to just cut out the meat. Am I a vegan or a vegetarian? Not yet. I don't know if I ever will be officially. I'm not a purist. I bold that because it's something that I really want to get across. I'll never be a purist or a one-sided argument type of person. I can't be because I've sunk enough money this year into purchasing laying hens who lay eggs. And I am going to eat those eggs. Will I eat the bird that produced it? Definitely not. I'll never kill them, unless their health is in jeopardy. I still want to raise honeybees, and I want to eat their honey. For me, that's really about all I want. I probably won't start cutting out dairy yet because I'm still afraid to cook and bake with dairy alternatives. I've made the conversion to other types of natural sweeteners; the dairy will come soon, I'm sure.
The availability of produce right in my own backyard has changed everything about how I live. I am up close and personal with produce every single day of my life. I watch it grow, feed it my labor and love. I can't help but feel this giant desire to eat what I've grown and figure out how it can work into our daily meals. I also have an affinity for making meals that are somewhat quick and easy, recipes that I can change and alter over time and based upon my mood. I am finding things that fill me without having to be filled with bread and meat. I feel better. I wake up and like my body again. It's been a change all around, and I am grateful for that.