How I accidentally became a vegetarian…

Now this is a story all about how
My carnism got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I accidentally became a vegetarian AND it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it might be AND I haven’t actually missed meat at all (well maybe I missed a cheeseburger once, or twice, but that’s OK)…

Monday (15th May) marks the start of national vegetarian week. So I thought it would be nice to share how I accidentally became one…

It all started when our poor little rescue dog was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, arthritis and cruciate ligament problems –waaa. She had an operation that cost £2000 (hooray for pet insurance) and has to take tablets everyday to help with the arthritis and inflammation. Every time we were in the vets we felt like we were in that scene in the Wolf of Wall street where Jordan Belfort is standing on his yacht throwing fist fulls of cash around. Bye money, bye!

inca bad leg
After her cruciate ligament operation

While this was going on my boyfriend and I both got glandular fever. URGH! We were seriously struggling with post viral fatigue. He was a professional athlete at the time and we would struggle to push a trolley around our local supermarket and have to have a lie down when we got home. Here was a guy who would bust out a couple of hundred miles on the bike and still be buzzing around enjoying life, s…t…r…u…g…g…l…i…n…g to do a weekly shop. We were unrecognisable to ourselves. I would be walking from the train station to work some days as though the air was made of treacle wondering how I was going to make it to the door. The train station was less than half a mile from my office.  It physically felt like life was uphill. It was physically and mentally exhausting.

Anyway, back to the dog… we decided to try and save some money by eating vegetarian meals in the week and then meat on the weekend. So far so good. We were happy because we were saving money and could visit the posh butchers for two steaks on the weekend. We had been sticking to this  for a month or two when the boy turned around to me and said “have you noticed we’ve been able to get out of bed a bit easier recently?”. I replied something along the lines of “well bloody hell yes we have and you have been on your bike for the first time in ages”. So we decided to try 100% veggie. Now this wasn’t a miracle cure. It didn’t fix us overnight. I’m not sure if it was purely psychological because by gaining some form of control over what we were eating we felt that we had more control over how crap we were feeling? Anyway, we began to slowly dig ourselves out of the exhausted hole we were sat in.

Burrito dog – not suitable for vegetarians

I happened to see Deliciously Ella on a TV programme (I had the day off work and was taking advantage of day time TV) and was excited to learn that she made predominantly plant based meals. This excited me because most vegetarian recipes seem to involve cheese and although I love me pizza, some nachos or a boursin, I don’t want my diet to mainly consist of cheese. I also didn’t want to merely swap meat for a substitute such as Quorn because (apart from my obsession with the Quorn Southern Fried Chicken Bites) I find they are a disappointing second to the real thing and the texture sometimes makes me feel all funny. If this was going to be something we were going to stick to, we had to change the way we thought about and prepared food.

The first thing I tried was the Carbonara recipe I saw Ella make on TV. I’ll be honest with you, hopes were not high once I realised I had to soak cashews nuts (?!) and buy something called nutritional yeast that looked a bit like fish food. However, it was bloody lovely.

Lemon and Lime Dahl recipe from the Vegetarian Society, Brown rice and Chana Masala from Rick Stein’s “India”

High on the success of my fish food Carbonara, I ordered her first two books from Amazon: Deliciously Ella and Deliciously Ella Every Day. As I said earlier, if we were going to do this vegetarian thing properly we had to change the we cooked so I bought nearly all of the ingredients from her “store cupboard” page. This was an expensive shop and would have been a nightmare to find everything in the supermarket so I was a little bit lazy and bought everything on Ocado (they had an offer on where you got £20.00 off your shop if you spent a certain amount of money). The following weeks were simple (and cheap). Plan what you were going to eat, buy fresh veggies (because we had already bought all of the grains and pulses for our store cupboard) and try a new recipe. We quickly learned what we liked e.g. Middle Eastern Inspired Salad OR Butternut Squash and Lentil Dahl, and what we didn’t like e.g. pollenta mash should be killed with fire. Before long we got into a routine and the recipes became second nature to throw together. One thing I will say is that Ella can sometimes be a bit over-zealous with her spices. I tend to add a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon and slowly add more to taste. It’s not because the food is hot-spicy, it can be a bit overpowering. I once left the boy in charge and there was so much turmeric… SO… SO much turmeric.

Deliciously Ella’s Pad Thai recipe

I used the Deliciously Ella books as a foundation to experiment with my own recipes and find new recipes online and on Pinterest. My lovely friends and family have bought me recipe books too. My favourites are:

I have been a vegetarian for just over a year and my diet is more exciting, flavoursome, enjoyable and fulfilling than ever.

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