So tonight our family had our first “real” meal in a month – at least that’s how my husband Paul described it. We had a favorite chicken thigh and red sauce dish, complete with a glass of Pinot Noir and a small chocolate custard for dessert. We all raved on about it like we hadn’t eaten in weeks.
As noted in a past blog entry, the Pihos took a month off from alcohol, sweets and meats (except seafood), as a test to see if refraining from eating our favorite foods would make us appreciate them more. Can the sense of taste be heightened and refined?
Well, it was a long month and one that I am glad is over! But I did learn some surprising things about food and eating, and feeding my family.
For one thing, I confirmed my long-held belief that it is virtually impossible for one to be both a “foodie” and a “vegetarian.” The two are mutually exclusive. Eating meat is central our existence as humans; even Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma agrees with me on that one! If you’re so focused on what you’re NOT eating or drinking (meat, alcohol, fats, carbs, whatever your personal swear-off may be), you miss the point of what food is supposed to be: a joyous and pleasurable part of our lives.
What else did I find?
* Being a “vegetarian,” even in this limited sense, is hard. It’s difficult to think up things that are tasty and varied to eat everyday; the pasta-beans-rice repertoire gets really old, really fast. I realized how much I rely on my wonderful stand-by chicken recipes. All of a sudden, they didn’t seem so “routine.”
* If you’re going the vegetarian route, you have to work at the nutrition angle a lot harder than I am willing to. You have to make an effort to get things like tofu and cheeses into your diet, more of those non-meat proteins than I typically eat. I felt run down more often than usual this month; could a lack of protein or iron had something to do with that?
*Even though we weren’t doing this for health purposes, my husband did lose about 5 pounds. Not so with me, and I’m not sure why!
* With respect to Andrew Knowlton, the restaurant editor at Bon Appetit magazine who inspired this experiment, January is a lousy time to drop meats from the menu. If we ever do this again, it will be in August, when vegetables are at their freshest and best. On many cold nights this month, a piece of meat would have been perfect.
*Oddly – or maybe not so – I’ve slept better this month, every night, than I have in a long time. I do know that alcohol consumption is supposed to impede a good night’s sleep. I’m afraid now that there may be some truth to that!
* After about a week, my kids almost completely stopped asking for sweets. Their new post-dinner refrain: “Can I have a piece of fruit?” Goes to show that the best way to get your child to stop eating junky kiddie foods is to simply stop giving it to her.
And as for the results: did this experiment lead to more highly tuned taste buds, more of a sense of appreciation for favorite flavors? I’ll answer that question here next week.