Friday, July 27, 2012

Turning Veggie - Protein Alternatives and Nay Sayers

It's almost a month since I've turned pescatarian. Why? I've wanted to go pescatarian for years and felt a bit like a hippocrite when I indulged in meat. How can I say that I believe in animal rights and support inhumane farming practices? Aside from ethical reasons, I'm also doing it for my health.

So far I'm feeling good. My metabolism has picked up and my energy levels are fine.

I've had to explore alternative sources of protein. Common vegetarian sources are tofu (flavourless, texture too soft or spongy) or lentils (starchy). I miss chewing on succulent stuff so here's what I've tried:

1) Quinoa-a tasty seed which is soft and chewy when cooked. I like it better than lentils for texture.

2) Mock Meat-so far I've only tried it in Chinese-Thai buffet restaurants. From a distance it looks like meat but it does'nt taste like it and sometimes the texture's totally off. I crave only for it's chewiness. On it's own it's bland and lacks juicy fat. It can be delicious with good preparation though however mock meat is mostly accessible in canned form and I'd prefer to stay away from processed foods.

3) Nut meat-another canned form of meat free protein, typically fried. I hate boiled peanuts and that's exactly what it tastes like. It's a pain getting it out of the can. I had to scoop it out with a spoon and it looks like wood filler. Pass.

4) Paneer/halloumi cheeses-these are chewy and resists melting when grilled. I prefer the texture of halmumi but it's very salty. They are both delicious fried and goes well with sun dried tomatoes and rocket. Paneer is not as rubbery. It's an indian meat alternative and I like buffing up omelettes with it.

5) Supermarket meat free Quorn and Cauldron. Quorn do good chicken nuggets (breast meat is flavourless anyway) and Cauldron do tasty sausages.

6) Aubergine-not really for protein but in terms of meat-like, the texture is tender and slightly chewy. Soaks up oil like a sponge but tastes great when fried!

7) Natto-is soybeans impregnated with a bacteria and fermented. I bought it from the frozen section of a Japanese grocery store. It's stringy and stinky as mouldy cheese. It comes in a polystyrene foam box with tiny airholes and small sachets of mustard and seasame oil. I also added a raw egg yolk, mixed it up and it got stickier and slimier-delightful! The taste definitely an acquired one. If you manage to like the stuff, it's tasty on hot rice.

8) Soy protein-in dehydrated form it looks crusty and unappetising. Once reconstituted, it looks like cooked mince so naturally it's for pasta or burgers. Very cheap as it's less than £2 for a large bag. Just make sure to pack in flavour for the dish as it's tasteless on its own.

Now just few rants about my diet. Someone said I was not eating meat "to be cool". That is not true. Most of my friends are not vegetarian and I don't force my decision on them. You ask me and I'll give you an honest answer. I'm not doing it to pander people on "idealistic beliefs".

The comment ticks me off because through my experience so far, it's not easy eating like a vegetarian. Try going out with a bunch of non-vegetarians and the veggie options on the menu are crap or you have to eat salad. And pay just as much for vegetable dishes as you do meat, which is an artificial mark up. Meat should always cost more than veggies because its an inefficient food to produce.

Another common response is that humans are omnivores so we are supposed to eat meat. I'm not purporting otherwise. Hey I admit meat tastes good and every now and then I'll eat it. However if I can live without, I'll opt for other sources of nutrition.

And finally, I hear "you need meat to be healthy" a lot. Sure meat can have higher levels of protein, B12 and iron (and absorption levels) however if you make an effort, you won't have to deprive yourself. There are meat free substitutes for all dietary requirements, you just have to get it. Don't forget you can also be unhealthy as a non-vegetarian. It's all up to the individual.

I'm hoping the statement: "this is just a phase" is not true. Only time will tell!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Three New Lifestyle Changes

1) I'm cutting out booze. Too much leads to trouble (ie, read Gotenburg trip) and it's unnecesary calories.

2) I'm becoming pesco-ovo vegetarian (only eat fish and free range eggs) for health and ethical reasons. I'm working towards only eating a small portion of meat when I need a hit of iron. So far it's challenging but I feel better not eating meat, both mentally and physically.

Although finding tasty protein is difficult and yesterday I was craving it. I resorted to cold plain tofu as a snack. It's NOT tasty on it's own.

Tonight I had dinner in a Chinese Thai vegetarian restaurant. I tried mock meat for the first time. Some was spongy and bland but I liked the fake duck which is served as peking duck pancakes. It was delicious.

3) I joined a gym and go three to four times a week. Did my first spin class today and it was tough. Leg muscles are the largest muscle group so doing spin is a supercharged way to burn calories. There's nothing like a workout where sweat is dripping down your face and certain moves are like simulated lovemaking!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The British 10K for The Whitechapel Mission

To raise money for The Whitechapel Mission, (a charity to help London's homeless), I ran the British 10K through central London. 

Tens of thousands of runners braved the rainy weather. What summer????

There were two things which moved me (sorry, pun) during the race. Firstly there was a blind runner accompanied by a helper. It was the most touching thing I had ever seen. Secondly there was a guy yelling the cheer: "AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!" With a surge of patriotic pride I responded with a bunch of runners. Hearing us roar powered me up.

My time was 54 minutes and I haz a medal!

A photo finish.

I'm proud to have done The British 10K and now I can't wait for my next race. It's the Le Grande Classique in Paris. 16km from the Eiffel Tower to Versailles Palace. So excited!

Off topic but I went to the garden to pick some mint and saw a fox!