I made the decision to become a vegetarian upon my return to my senior year at Fordham. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I knew I would have to cook three meals a day being stuck inside. I was an inexperienced chef, and my dad cooked meat four out of the seven days a week at home. The decision came natural to me for a various number of reasons - sustainability, animal rights, and simply because cooking raw meat was a tricky and slimy process. It was a natural mental and physical adjustment that worked out for the better.
I needed to remind myself that pros outweigh the cons. I came to realize that not only is becoming a vegetarian good for heart health and reduce cancer and diabetes risk, but as a student, I truly cared about price. My grocery list was smaller and less expensive than if I purchased various meats at double digit prices. The only cons were finding protein and B-12 alternatives. My dad made it really simple for me - master regularly incorporating the great powers of tofu, eggs, yogurt, pasta - to which I was already familiar with but needed that consistency to really take me to the next level! However, meatless options already in my palate granted me so much confidence as I walked into my Bronx kitchen.
I knew another difficulty was socializing and eating meals out at school. The weather is still warm and the excitement of the new school year is still in the air. And so exists readily available meat options at a restaurant - burgers, chicken, steak, etc. Right away, I knew that I had to actively look at the menus before I ate out, quickly learning that vegetarian options are throughout the menu. I didn’t give vegetarian options much thought before, even when it was a money saver.
I also knew I was starting a new job this semester at a dry cleaners downtown and that packing lunches would be no foreign concept. Luckily, I’ve been making two servings the night before, one for dinner and one for lunch the next day. It’s eased my mind waking up the next morning as I scrabble to get my things and get out the door.
My mental switch from eating meat to becoming vegetarian has done wonders for my mental health. Not only am I able to compartmentalize my meals with dinner and then work the next day, but it has allowed me to feel like I’m taking in the right calories with foods that give me energy. I feel much more motivated to attend class, head out to dinner, and take on the kitchen.
My favorite meal to cook is tofu with rice and green and red peppers, sauteeing the tofu and peppers with toasted sesame oil and teriyaki marinade. I’ve been very fortunate to want to expand my palate more and more with oils and flavors, much more than you get from a typical meal plate. I’ve also been making more salads with a balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, and touch of honey dressing, tasting raw and clean. I want to experiment more with combined meals, such as meatless burritos or tacos with rice or side salad, or curry or stir fry with sides of broccoli and corn.
This new found energy and motivation has painted out my semester clearly in my head. I motivate myself to try new things and take on challenges in hopes of carrying that energy forward professionally and new relationships and connections.