Monday, March 22, 2010

Turn those Lenten Fridays into Meatless Mondays!

Lent is a time of year, where many Christians observe 40 days of strict guidelines. For many, it is a time of year to forego something particularly significant, or add a new habit that will last at least the 40 days. Starting Ash Wednesday, and every Friday until Easter, those observing Lent give up meat. It used to be that the entire 40 days were meat free, but just as the fasting for the 40 days was amended, this period of no meat turned into meatless Fridays.

As I think of this no meat time, it occurs to me, that one of the challenges of going meatless, is finding healthy, non repetitive vegetarian recipes. But yet, if one picks up a copy of "Cooking Light" a magazine full of relatively healthy recipes, or reads "In Defense of Food" or "Eating Animals", if one turns on the T.V. and watches several interviews, or listens to the latest diatery guidelines, that person will find that having at least one meatless day per week is the newest suggestion. Perhaps it is a fad, just as the low carb craze or sugar free twinkies was, but I'm disinclined to believe so. Our anscestors never had the access to meat we have, and even our closest older relatives didn't require pounds of meat per meal. We have more access to meat than any other group of humans in history (even than others in some parts of the world), yet we have the highest rate of diseases.

Can meat be blamed for all of societies problems? I believe it would be silly to suggest that. I do, however, believe that choosing a day of the week - "meatless Mondays" is the typical suggestion, to cut meat out of all meals, may be a very wise decision. First and foremost, it forces us to look beyond the scope of steak, baked chicken, and pork chops. It requires a type of cooking that can't be microwaved, and a certain level of knowledge of how to spice dishes up with herbs, seasonings, and citruses. It also significantly helps our wallets. If a family of four, spends $10 for the chicken breasts that are picked up for dinner, not buying those chicken breasts 52 times per year adds up to $520 savings. Some families spend more and some less, but the point is that no matter how much your family spends, there will be some savings involved. Meatless meals can also be high in the same proteins and nutrients that meals that include meat have. For example, combining rice with beans and guacamole, in some type of vegetarian, Mexican inspired dish, would provide the same amount of protien(if not more), healthy fat, and vitamins as a dish with meat.

Of course, if we decide going meatless one night per week means having a cheese pizza every Monday, then the health benefits are fewer, but the monetary value remains the same. It also will contribute to the health of the soil, animals, and plants that are involved in the industry by sending a clear message that meat that has been pumped with hormones, soil that has been fertilized with only 3 elements versus the wide variety necessary, and plants being under utilized to make room for more soy and corn are not what we need or want. We need and want to be able to choose from a wide selection of healthy foods at the supermarket. If every family gave up meat for one day a week, I am fairly confident (though blindly guessing) that the impact of lost revenue would wake the industrial farming industry up. It may send a clear message that we are going back to our roots, and eating the way we know we should be, verus the way they have demanded of us. And when that message gets sent, and the industry cleans up, we'll keep our Meatless Mondays, because we will have built such a wonderful library of vegetarian choices, but we will also invest back into the meat trade, choosing our 6 other dinners every week based on how honestly and healthfully our meat is raised.

So, I challenge you, can you turn your Lenten meatless Friday into a Meatless Monday? What can and will you learn from doing so? And how much better do your pants fit now??

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