What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I come from a carnivorous family. Get-togethers usually revolve around a slab of meat serving as the edible centerpiece.
A couple of months ago, I flirted with the idea of giving up meat at home. There were no ethical reasons behind the thought. I just wanted a challenge: A challenge to incorporate more veggies into our diet, a challenge to make a yummy meal without the safety net of meat. Sounds simple enough, right?
Not quite, considering my husband, too, is a carnivore through and through. He HAS TO have meat with every meal, even if he ONLY has meat. When I first proposed the idea of going meatless, the conversation went a little something like this:
Me: Hey, Love, what do you think about giving up meat for a while?
On the grocery trip following our lengthy discussion, while my husband sat at home, I had a flash of boldness as I strolled past the various packaged meats: I’m not going to buy the thing that our meals have always revolved around, I decided. I would fill our plates and bellies with vegetables. And so a secret challenge was born.
I wasn’t just going to give up meat, I was going to give up meat and not tell my husband…just to see how long it would take for him to notice.
To make it more interesting, I gave myself some rules:
1) No meat at home. If I cooked the meal, NO meat could be used.
2) Lunch was not included. I wouldn’t consume meat for lunch (I HATE sandwich meat) but I would buy deli fixings for my husband, who LOVES sandwiches. He would have figured me out by noon on day one if he didn’t have his meaty sandwich.
3) Eating out didn’t apply. If we ate out, he could order whatever he’d like…because how am I going to talk him out of a juicy burger from Yardhouse?
4) No lying! If he asked me about it, I had to be honest!
Our first meal was basically a giveaway. My husband was out all evening and didn’t see me make dinner which means he couldn’t see what was going into the end product. We didn’t eat together, so I wasn’t present for any meal-related questions he may have had.
I looked up vegetarian recipes online and found one for a stir-fry that used cauliflower instead of rice. YES!
I cut up red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, an onion, and jalapeños. I then grated one cauliflower head. I added 1 tbsp of olive oil to a large frying pan threw in all the veggies and cooked it for about 10 minutes.
It didn’t look as appetizing as the picture online but it was edible and served its purpose. The next morning as we were getting ready for work, I asked my husband if he liked dinner. He said it was OK but it needed more seasoning. He didn’t mention the missing meat.
Ida: 1 Meat: 0
We had a barbecue with some friends on Night 2, which consisted of cheeseburgers. Night 3 was spent with my mother-in-law where she grilled up some chicken with a side of rice. On Night 4 we found ourselves amongst friends and a whole turkey! Three nights of meat in a row!
I didn’t make any of it, so I was technically still following my self-enforced rules. I was worried that three nights of meat would make my husband more aware of the lack of it on his dinner plate at home. Regardless of whether or not I prepared the food myself, I considered these days losses in my battle against dead animals.
Ida: 1 Meat: 3
Emerging from a three-night meat bender, all I could think come Night 5 was: what am I going to make for dinner? I had some leftover cauliflower so I decided to use it as rice and throw it in a salad. I was running late at work so I asked my husband to grate the cauliflower for me. A risky move but hey, I needed the help!
When I stepped foot into our home, it smelled like fart. Like full on FART. Why didn’t I ever notice how gross cauliflower smells? Needless to say, that was the last time I used cauliflower. I shredded some romaine lettuce and topped it with black beans, cauliflower, and tomatoes. I dressed it with Italian while my husband used ranch. He told me it was “yummy.” Victory!
Ida: 2 Meat: 3
On a high from the night before, I decided to keep it simple for Night 6: cheese pizza. I got the dough, sauce, and cheese from Trader Joe’s. It took mere minutes to assemble.
It hadn’t occurred to me to throw some veggies on top to dress it up and hide my secret. This silly slip of the mind left me feeling exposed and vulnerable. I had come this far; I wasn’t going to lose because of a cheese pizza! To my surprise, he didn’t say a word and ate half the pizza. Score one more for me.
Ida: 3 Meat: 3
The final meal arrived. Meat and I were tied. The dinner of Night 7 would make or break the secret competition I had been carrying on. What was on the menu? A large, flour tortilla filled with refried black beans, crispy potatoes, tomatoes, onions, sour cream, and homemade salsa.
As I was assembling the burritos, my husband wandered into the kitchen and studied my work before asking, “Where’s the meat?” I knew I was caught. He asked me several more times: Where’s the meat?
Adhering to the code of honor I developed seven days before, I broke down and told him what had been going on all week. After trying to convince me to put sandwich meat, liverwurst, and frozen chicken nuggets in his burrito (I said, “no”), we sat down to dinner.
Before taking his first bite, he turned to me and said, “I am not an experiment.”
By the end of the meal, he was singing a different tune: “If we’re going to do this, I’m going to need bigger portions.”
Sure, the whole point was to go a meatless week without my husband asking questions and in the end he figured out my ruse BUT he found the final meal delicious and was willing to try continuing the experiment. I will not admit defeat, but instead call it a tie.
What I learned:
1) It’s not easy to come up with fun, yummy, meatless meals.
2) Using a variety of veggies makes the meal look prettier.
3) My husband needs meat…but not as much as I once thought.
Two months after the challenge, I haven’t used meat in any of my meals. The secret rules still apply, except now they’re not so secret and my husband is a willing participant. We feel better and have lost a couple of pounds.
Still, he won’t be giving up those sandwiches anytime soon.