On January 1st last year, my boyfriend and I decided to eliminate meat from our diet. For me, it wasn't that much of a challenge as I am not the biggest meat eater but for him, good Irishman who wouldn't consider a meal without any sort of animal flesh included, that was some commitment.
Our plan was simple: have as many vegetarian meals as possible, occasionally introducing fish or seafood whenever we felt like it.
I will add here that I personally committed to going dairy free for a month, but after 10 days without cheese, I had pretty much lost the will to live, so I gave this up quite quickly. In my defence, I am French, and cheese is like a cup of tea for an Irish person, a part of our identity.
The first 10 days seemed really easy. After the amount of food we had eaten over the Christmas break, our bodies were in serious need of a detox anyway. Things started to get tricky around January 15th, when we started to crave a good fry for Saturday brunch.
During this month, I did a lot of research to find vegetarian and vegan recipes that would be as satisfying as a meaty dinner. And it is fair to say that the Internet isn't running short of ideas. From veggie shepherds' pie to noodle salads, chickpea curries and veggie quiches, I saw myself cooking more creative meals than usual during this month.
After a whole 31 days, we both agreed that this experience had been 100% positive. Our digestion improved, we saved a lot of money, we felt better about ourselves from an environmental and ethical perspective. The one negative side I noticed was that sometimes I felt a bit weak and lacking energy. I never usually crave meat, but after 20 days, I was desperately looking forward to the "reward" we had agreed on (please don't judge).
On February 1st, after a long day of mental drooling in the office, we went to Bunsen and got a juicy cheeseburger, probably the best I had ever had. But don't think that this month was all for nothing and that we didn't learn anything. This couldn't be more wrong. Our cheeky Bunsen didn't mean that we would go straight back to our old habits.
One year later, I can say that this meat-free month drastically changed our diet. My boyfriend doesn't ask me to add chicken to his pesto pasta anymore, and we enjoy Indian dhals and vegetarian casseroles on a regular basis. When we decide to have meat, we make sure it is the best quality. When you don't eat a lot of meat, you are happy to pay the price and get the best you can afford.
* If you ever decide to go vegetarian, ask your GP for advice first.