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Flexiterian by Laura Barnwell

By Guest Writers on Mar 10 2014

As a proud northern lass, meat has always been a huge part of my diet and my recipes.

As January wore on it became apparent my “dry January” resolution was never going to happen and what a silly hungover fool I was.

However that meant I was resolution-less. To try to hide the shame of my borderline alcoholism and feel better about the health choices I was making, I decided ( along with a growing number of people) to give Vegetarianism a go.

Meat is expensive, time-consuming to cook, and some nutritionists would argue, rather unhealthy; red meat in particular being linked to increased risk of heart disease and bowl cancer. Plus the Vegan adverts on the tube were really starting to get to me.

The honeymoon phase

So the first week was brilliant. Newly motivated in my new project I made a whole host of tasty bean salads and vegetable based pasta dishes. And the supreme satisfaction of being able to say “could I have the veggie burger please? Yes I am saving the animals, and probably the planet…and probably your kids. You’re welcome”.

Smugness aside it really is quite satisfying knowing your making a choice to improve your life, and the lives of the other (and unfortunately rather tasty) animals on the planet. Plus I felt great and had a lot more energy and nicer skin, mainly due eating way more vegetables than normal to end up feeling full.

Some of the rather delicious recipes I tried:

Nachos with everything on them
Kale lasagna so yummy.
Butternut Squash and asparagus risotto (it’s gluten free too!)

Suspicious meat substitutes

I am suspicious of meat substitutes. They lurk menacingly at between the fruit and veg aisles and the meat section – quietly waiting for the unsuspecting carnivore to just assume the mince they picked up without looking is in fact meat. Even the words “meat substitute” conjures images of crushed up horse hoof or pigs eyeballs….Yes, suspicious I was.

However the lack of protein in my diet was starting to become a bit of a pain. I was getting sick of bean salads and my tofu making abilities are underdeveloped at this stage of vegetarianism (resulting in what was essentially the cooking of wet flannel and vegetables)

That’s when my friend Nadia made me a very delicious Quorn “shepherds pie”, and it was delightful! It absorbed all the flavour of the dish and felt hearty and yum. And from that moment on I was a convert. Bring on the fake meat.

To learn how to properly prepare tofu look here. Don’t make my mistake of thinking “oh I’ll just chop it up and chuck it in”.

Reality

So as the weeks went by my cooking skills increased hugely. Making veggie versions of meat dishes was a very cool challenge! It was fun to cook for friends, and see them pleasantly surprised by the result.

However, eating out was becoming VERY tempting. I wanted the sirloin steak, and the chorizo, and the smell of bacon was close to evoking hulk like need to find it, smashing all that stood in my path.

So I decided to go to a vegetarian restaurant and remove this temptation. I even took a red-blooded Australian carnivore to get a second opinion. It. Was. Amazing (the Australians verdict was one of shocked delight). One of the best restaurant’s I’ve actually been to in London ( and I’ve been here almost 7 years and have generous grandparents who take me to all kinds of posh places when they visit).

The Gate (in Angel) has such a yummy menu, even if there was meat on it you probably wouldn’t want it after seeing all the delicious things they did with veg. The atmosphere was brilliant too, vibrant and kind of fancy-casual.

Balance

So my month passed and I came to the end of my experiment. And the first thing I did? Spent £7 on an organic grass-fed steak form Waitrose and enjoyed every bite. Not because I didn’t enjoy my veggie weeks, but because I realise there can be a balance.

If I only eat meat once/twice a week it means I’m getting all the benefits of eating a ton of vegetables, and have spare cash to spend on good quality, “ethically” sourced meat thats way more nutritious than usual supermarket meat. I do believe there are a growing number of semi-converts like myself called “flixitarians”. They, like me now eat a fraction of the meat that they did before, and enjoy a lot of the veggie benefits at the same time.

Mission successful! And hopefully I saved some baby pigs?

More from Laura here