the summer experiment

It’s Thursday. Right? So, I’m late with this post. Forgive me. After my last final yesterday, I went insane cleaning, shopping & reading The Hunger Games. (Now I’m even more excited about learning to gather my own food!)

At this point in our relationship, you know that I love several things:

  1. goals
  2. lists
  3. lists of goals

This post is the start of a goal, or rather an experiment with the goal of learning something about our food choices. It will culminate in a list of posts related to said experiment that take place over the summer.

Joe & I are both doing some serious re-evaluation of recent diet choices. For instance, today I had an apple & a cookie for lunch. For dinner, I had half a beer, a few pieces of asparagus, a brownie & banana bread for dinner. No, I’m not pregnant. I’ve just been coping & celebrating the death of finals week.

When Joe & I first lived together in St. Louis, he tolerated my vegetarianism. He coped well. Even when I made these odd vegetarian ribs that end up being just like the boneless “ribs” served in school cafeterias. Now, he’s more than tolerating my largely meatless diet. He’s a constant reminder that it’s what we really want to be doing. And he’s even toying with the idea of doing some things–dare I say it–vegan.

Now. I don’t think it’ll save the world. I don’t think it makes sense for everyone, for every day, for every diet. I also don’t think really healthy farms come from completely eliminating farm animals. We need their poop, their feet pushing seeds into soil, their teeth chewing down the pastures. It’s a cycle. But how can I make my piece of the cycle more efficient?

This is the question I always seem to be asking.

We want to do some things vegan. But which things? And why do they make sense? I want to toy with vegan baking & see how the products can be used in French recipes that really depend on good butter. What this dialogue looks like inside my head: I love Earth Balance & think it’ll fare rather well… but are there other, more natural products to use instead? When I have the choice between (a) organic butter or (b) vegan butter that is probably conventional, higher impact & maybe even genetically modified soy, what do I do? The gut says butter, & that’s how I’m trying to live. From the gut.

So, will we enjoy local cheeses & splurge on butter? Yes. Will we use this summer to explore vegan options, including making cheese from nuts & adapting some favorite recipes? Absolutely. Will I chronicle the mess here? I cannot wait.

That’s it. The premise of the summer experiment: How does one go vegan without going vegan or relying on goods more processed than their animal-based counterparts? What will we learn about our bodies & diets as we do it? What will we learn about our ingredients? What better time to do this than summer in the breadbasket that is the Midwest?

Obviously, we’re not vegan. We’ll mostly be vegetarian. And we sometimes won’t even be that. But this summer, I’m searching for the line–what makes sense, & what can we learn to do without? The vegan recipes we’ll rely on will be filled with simple, local ingredients rather than the endless oils, substitutes & fancy-pants stuff I find in so many blogs. How is that making anyone’s diet less complicated?

I just want some simplicity. And I want, when I speak with people about the future of food, to understand all aspects of it & what goes into consumption decisions. Are you ready for this crazy ride with us? This isn’t a journey to the vegan label. I honestly don’t know what it is yet, but I know that there are a lot of things about people’s motives for going vegan that I’ve been feeling connected to lately. And we’ll see where that takes us. I feel like we’ll be largely helped by Well Vegan, which lets you figure out how to plan a vegan diet for two weeks. For free. (After that, it’s a service they charge you for… but after that, you should be able to figure out some basics yourself, right?)

Hopefully, we’ll become more simplistic in other ways, as well. Turning off the AC. Leaving the truck parked. Not allowing any food to be thrown away & looking more carefully at what’s in the sales sections. All kinds of fun!

It all starts tomorrow, a day filled with food fun from start to finish. Two friends & I are heading out early to a Local & Urban Food in Indianapolis. After that, Joe & I will be tilling the rest of our garden; sewing lettuce, squash & pumpkins; and figuring out what to do with all the cilantro that randomly started growing in our plot. It. is. enormous. I wish I could mail it to all of you! Can’t wait to share photos & fun new facts with you.


About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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