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May. 24 2010 - 1:19 am | 762 views | 1 recommendation | 7 comments

A Meatless Week for a Mega Meat Eater

When Seattle food writer Lorna Yee (@lornayee) announced on Twitter that she was “Planning to go veg for one week May 24-31st,” one of the first reactions to fly out of the Twitterverse gate was:

Intrigued, I contacted Yee to learn more about what she had in mind. Acknowledging that “I don’t know anyone who eats more pork than me. *blush*,”  the Seattle Magazine scribe told me that the plan was to lay off her beloved meat for seven days, beginning today, and share the ups and downs of her meatless adventures on her blog, The Cookbook Chronicles.

Lorna Yee. Photo: Lara Ferroni.

So the morning after a judging stint at Cochon 555, a traveling heirloom pig-off, Yee will be entering a strange new world indeed. She agreed to check in on both ends of her experiment; our first e-mailed exchange follows.

Lorna, you’re a self-described, unapologetic meat lover.  About how much meat do you eat in a typical week & what do you like to sink your teeth into?
I’ve never thought about the amount, but I do purchase 1 ½-pound  steaks for my husband and me to share quite regularly. I would guess I consume an average of about a pound of meat per day. I buy a lot of pork, mainly pork shoulder because it’s an inexpensive cut, and so delicious when slow-cooked. I also cook Chinese red-braised pork belly at home quite often. I always have thick-cut, gourmet bacon on hand, and sausages too. Both my husband and I adore grilling lamb burgers. We do a lot of flank steak, short ribs, rib-eyes, and whole roast chickens at home, too.

And now you’re about to embark on a week without meat.  What brought on this dietary switcheroo?
After watching Food Inc. earlier this year, I felt a little guilty about the amount of meat I’d been consuming. I started doing Meatless Monday, but I started eating too much junky food on those days. I do love to bake, so I’d often bake a cake or cookies on Meatless Mondays, which is entirely normal…except that I’d end up mindlessly eating a tray of cookies for lunch and/or dinner in lieu of preparing a vegetarian meal from scratch. That was a little too much sugar, and eating that way still left me ravenous because I wasn’t getting enough protein.

What do you hope to learn from a meatless week?
I hope to broaden my repertoire of vegetarian dishes, which is sadly lacking at the moment. I do eat vegetables, but I often cook them with bacon, or some sort of meat. I’m currently training for a half marathon, so it’s especially important for me to be fueling myself with nutritious food so I have the energy to do my runs. I am really excited to experiment with tempeh, which I tried for the first time recently at a vegan restaurant I was checking out for work.

How are you preparing for your meatless week, both pragmatically/logistically and emotionally?  Any books or other resources you’re consulting to ‘de-bone’ up?

I chose the week of May 24-30 to do Meatless Week because I happen to have surprisingly few restaurant meals/social engagements planned. I have zero restaurants I need to check out this week for Seattle Magazine, which definitely makes things easier. I only have two restaurant meals out with friends, and one BBQ to attend at another friend’s house. I have already e-mailed my friend who is hosting the BBQ and volunteered to bring a vegetarian dish to her house, so I’ll be sure to have something to eat. I don’t expect my friends to go out of their way to provide anything special for me this week. They are being very sweet and supportive, but they will be enjoying their signature pulled pork that they make in their Green Egg. I know the smell of that good pork will be my biggest temptation this week!

Are you optimistic that you’ll make it through the week without a smidge of pork belly?  What’s on the menu so far?
I think I’m a pretty determined person, and I tend to always see things through. We do have a few restaurant meals planned on the calendar, and it’ll be a bit of a challenge not to throw in the towel and start ordering my favorite (meat) dishes. Still, the payoff — seeing how difficult (or how surprisingly enjoyable!) it is to eat meat-free for a week seems an invaluable experience, and I am looking forward to it!

Some dishes I’m thinking about trying this week: Homemade falafel with a lemony cucumber yogurt sauce; a quinoa and roasted veggie salad with goat cheese; some sort of kale and avocado salad; crostini with cannellini beans and wilted Swiss chard; maybe a cheesy mushroom polenta dish with poached egg; grilled vegetables with my favorite Romesco sauce; and a tempeh burger.

I have always enjoyed eating tofu, and I’m sure we’ll have that at some point this week. I ate a wonderful roasted beet, hazelnut and fava bean salad at a restaurant today — perhaps I’ll try to recreate a version at home. My husband is a pasta freak, so that’ll definitely make an appearance. I would like to make some sort of vegetarian Indian dish, because I love to eat but don’t often prepare Indian food at home. I recently took a pie class from the legendary Kate McDermott, so I’ll be baking a nice pie with the fruit we get at the farmer’s market, too!

Is your meat-loving husband on board for the challenge?
He is…except for the day of the BBQ!

We’ll check back with you in a week to see how you’re faring.  Good luck!

Lorna Yee is co-author of  the newly published “The Newlywed Kitchen.”


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  1. collapse expand

    A POUND of meat per day?! Really? Please scale back, honey… First, the human body can only use 4 oz of protein per day. The rest is literally going to waste. Second, it’s really hard on your kidneys to process that much meat. Really hard. As in, major trouble down the road. Third, eating that much meat is a drain on our collective natural resources. I hope you’re at least eating more sustainable types of meat.

    Hopefully after this experiment, you’ll realize that you don’t need that much meat on a daily basis, and you’ll start to eat healthier both for you and the planet.

    • collapse expand

      4 oz of protein is about 113 grams. One pound of 85% ground beef contains about 84.3 grams of protein. In any case, excess protein is stored for energy, just like everything else, and the excess nitrogen from this conversion is excreted in urine. As for the kidneys, high protein intakes have been problematic only for people who already have renal disease.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Sorry, too much of anything is bad for the body, including protein:

    http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-protein-diets/an00847

    “Your body can’t store excess protein. During digestion and metabolism, protein is broken down into amino acids — the building blocks of protein. Your body uses these amino acids to make enzymes and other proteins. But any “extra” amino acids are stripped of nitrogen. The non-nitrogen parts of amino acids are used for energy or converted into fat, and the remaining nitrogen is eventually excreted by your kidneys and liver. These waste products have been shown to cause kidney injury, and in the presence of liver disease, excess nitrogen can cause further problems. High-protein diets may also increase the risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis. If you have kidney or liver disease or any chronic health condition, talk to your doctor before starting a new diet.”

    So yes, it’s hard on the liver if you have pre-existing conditions, but it can also create problems.

    Love your meat, but only eat 4 oz a day for optimal health.

    • collapse expand

      None of these warnings are empirically grounded. As one review puts it,

      “Simply stated, there is no scientific evidence whatsoever that high-protein intake has adverse effects on liver function. Relative to renal function, there are no data in the scientific literature demonstrating that healthy kidneys are damaged by the increased demands of protein consumed in quantities 2–3 times above the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). In contrast with the earlier hypothesis that high-protein intake promotes osteoporosis, some epidemiological studies found a positive association between protein intake and bone mineral density. Further, recent studies studies suggest, at least in the short term, that RDA for protein (0.8 g/kg) does not support normal calcium homeostasis.”

      Furthermore, the British Liver Trust recommends more protein, particularly from animal sources, to people with certain liver diseases.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    About Me

    You might know me from The Washington Post, where for a dozen years I dished up cooking content, both as Web chat hostess ("What's Cooking") and daily blog minx ("A Mighty Appetite").

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