Being Mexican and having been exposed to eating meat my whole life; my journey to eliminating meat from my diet has not been an easy one. Most of our traditional Mexican dishes involve meat, and when I say meat I mean pork, beef, goat, poultry… etc. The fact that I’ve had to learn to cook using more vegetables, tofu and legumes has been a great challenge, but another challenge has been my family! They don’t seem to understand and to this day I am still questioned all the time (“You still don’t eat meat?”) and my mother worries that I am not getting the appropriate nutrients that I would receive if I were to eat meat again. One of the most difficult times is the summer because that’s when the family gets together and when my family gets together there is almost always “carne asada” (a BBQ) involved. I tend to opt for the alternative… rice and bean tacos with roasted vegetables!
As I read more about the importance of our diets and get the facts on the benefits of becoming a vegetarian, the more I share not only with my mother, brothers and sisters, but with my children as well. The first thing I took out of my diet were hotdogs, my ten-year old son questioned me for a long time why I wouldn’t eat a hot dog, so I told him to research how hot dogs were made. I’m not sure if he saw the whole video through, but he questioned if after all that process, if that was still meat or food! He was pretty grossed out after that. I am the one who cooks at home, so I get to decide what my children and husband eat. I needed to find ways to have them eat less meat and more vegetables and legumes. I began to research alternative recipes online and read about what other people were posting in terms of their diets. I have found blogs to be helpful when looking for new recipes because people talk about what they eat and they also tend to share ideas of how they turn a “regular” meat dish into a meatless dish. Let’s take enchiladas for example; very traditional Mexican dish and they are usually filled with shredded chicken or ground beef. The alternative fillings I’ve used are mushrooms (sometimes nopales (cactus)) and fresh Mexican cheese and they were a hit!
In our reading Here Comes Everybody it is said that we are living in the largest increase of expressive capability than ever before. Before the Internet or social media our opinions/ideas didn’t really matter or didn’t go very far. If we saw something on television or heard something on the radio that we did not agree on or wanted to share with our friends/family, the only way to express ourselves were with the person sitting next to us or we had to remember to share our opinion/idea at our next friend/family gathering. Today, the size and speed of communication has increased and due to this breakthrough in technology and communication we have the ability to change society.
I’ve shared my alternate recipes with the rest of my family and began to cook with less meat and I’ve noticed that my family doesn’t miss meat very much. They still eat meat on occasions, but not as often as they used to. I have also shared my reasons for opting to a vegetarian diet and why it’s important not only for our health, but for the environment as well.
Four top reasons why people become vegetarian:
- Health– according to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and people of all ages and backgrounds can get this condition. Statistics have shown that if a man cuts meat from his diet, his chances of developing heart disease drop by 50%. A meatless diet provides more antioxidants and vitamins.
- Ethical reasons– many people disagree with the conditions and treatments animals receive before being slaughtered. Animals are forced to live in crowded and stressful environments and are fed hormones in order to make them grow faster and produce more (this too is not good for our health).
- Environmental reasons– going vegetarian is not only good for our health, but it’s also good for the environment. Large amounts of water are used to raise cattle; this water can serve other purposes such as growing more crops. Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming; mass production of cattle gives off this greenhouse gas, which pollutes the air. Not to mention, cow pies have been linked not only to a staggering source of pollution, but also to massive fish kills and health outbreaks.
- Global food shortage– some of us may wonder why hunger still exist in the world even in the 21st If mass production of cattle were to be eliminated, then one-third of the grain grown to feed cattle for mass production could be used to feed people starving in other countries. The large amounts of water that it takes to raise mass production cattle can also be used elsewhere.