Eating Vegan: “It’s Not a Meal Without Meat.”

meatless meal

Do you feel like a meal isn’t a meal without meat? If you’re vegan or vegetarian, did you ever feel that way before you made the leap? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Last week, I had the good fortune to help out a local CSA at an Earth Day event. We set up a table and spent a couple of hours talking local food. Food is my favorite thing to talk about, so the afternoon flew right by!

There was one conversation that Margie, who runs that CSA, had that I sort of opted out of, though. A woman asked if we delivered meat because, “It’s not a meal without meat. It’s a snack.” It struck me as such a closed-minded statement that I just didn’t even know where to begin. Since I was there to represent Margie’s business, it also didn’t really feel like the time to try to dissuade her. That statement has been gnawing at me, though, so I thought I’d bring it up here.

That’s not the first time I’ve heard “It’s not a meal without meat,” and I have to be honest here: I don’t understand this at all. It’s never been true for me. Not that I grew up vegan. We ate meat, but it wasn’t an every meal situation. Even when we did have meat on the table, it wasn’t always the star of the show, if you know what I mean. So when someone says meat makes a meal, I just feel like I have no frame of reference at all.

The only reason I can think of is that when people picture a meatless meal, they imagine their current standard “meat and three” type dish and remove the meat from that picture. Of course that sounds awful! What’s left, right? An iceburg salad, some overcooked green beans, and maybe corn on the cob, if you’re lucky? No, thank you!

There are so many meals that don’t have a drop of meat and are super satisfying!

Really, I could go on and on.

The thing is, this doesn’t make me a great vegan advocate when someone brings up the old “meat = a meal” thing, so I’m turning to you guys! Do you feel this way? Why? If you did, and you moved past that mindset, what changed things for you?

{Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by kyntharyn}

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7 thoughts on “Eating Vegan: “It’s Not a Meal Without Meat.””

  1. Robert Santillan

    Hi Becky,
    The thought of giving up meat for me was easy. I have dealt with weight issues my entire life and the thought of being obese was something that I didn’t want to deal with. Pre-Diabetic was also looming and a change had to be made. Becoming a vegan was something that I never considered, but when I read about it, it made sense. So I tried it out on a 21-day kickoff trial and found that I liked it. I realized that I didn’t miss meat, not even a little bit and am working towards 1 year, July 1st, as a vegan. I cooked professionally for over 15 years so being around red meat, poultry and fish was common, but the challenge was to makeover all the meals that my body and mind was used to, which I have and will continue for the rest of my life. I think about my 2 daughters who are very young and think that I want to give myself the best chance to be here for them as long as I can and eating healthy gives me that mental and physical edge. So, the question is “Does meat make a meal”? Not in my house….

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Robert! It’s amazing how motivating health and family can be, isn’t it? I also went vegan initially for health reasons – I had super high cholesterol in spite of being a healthy weight and getting lots of exercise. I’m glad to hear that eating vegan is working for you. High five!

  2. I think it all comes down to how you were raised – you personally were raised without meat being present at every meal and without it being the big deal every time you ate. Many, many people grow up in a house where the meal is Meat Item andthensomeotherthings. My own upbringing was that way – my dad was raised in the 40s and 50s mostly on military bases, so meals were very standard southern fare, and my mom’s dad was a butcher, so meat on the table was the norm (especially after WWII rations were relaxed and people could get the foods they had been used to having before restrictions). Therefore, my parents had those expectations in place when dinner was served every night.

    If you are living on the poorer side of things, most fast food places and cheap eateries have Meat Item andthenthisotherthing as their combo and that’s what you’re exposed to. If you’re working the kind of grueling schedule being poor requires (long work days, long time spent on commuting, often juggling a mishmash of childcare solutions), your pre-made cheap options at the grocery store are often meat based.

    Interestingly, my mother also had a good quality green salad on the table with every meal, and if there’s not one with my meal now, it bothers me and doesn’t feel like a meal, which seems like a clear sign that it’s generally about what the table looked like growing up.

    The best comparison to help you understand might be to consider how you feel about meals without anything green in them. Fine occasionally, but if most meals didn’t contain a green veggie of some sort, it would bother you. (I assume, based on knowing you personally)

    1. That makes a lot of sense, Liz! And the point you make about a salad/greens is super helpful. I do kind of need something green on my plate to feel like I had a meal. If you told me I could never have kale or broccoli again, I would have a really hard time with that.

      1. I think that’s the only way to do it – there’s certain lifestyle choices some people make that I don’t understand at ALL, so I have to try and find something at the same… level? I guess in my own life to compare it to in order to see things from their perspective. (Like…if someone just loves watching sports, I don’t at all, so I have to find something I love to watch to compare in order to muster up some empathy for how they feel about sports)

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