Did you catch Part I ?
The next set of influential books along the accidental vegetarian journey were “Master Your Metabolism” by Jillian Michaels and The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. I had been a Jillian fan for a while, and I listened to her radio show while working out. Little known fact, I actually have a black belt in taekwondo, and JM’s badass, take no prisoners, attitude resonated with me. As a biologist, I really appreciated Jillian’s effort to get all of the science exactly right in her book, yet still make it accessible to a mass audience. JM was the first one to open me up to the fact that lean cuisines and all the 100 calorie packs I had been eating were really total crap, and that while counting calories was important, the quality of your food was also important to your health.
I came a little late to the Michael Pollan party, but went through the same phase as everyone I knew who had read his book. I devoured “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” quickly, and then wanted to share everything I had suddenly learned about the evils of corn and soy with everyone around me. Even now, I feel like it’s a pretty safe bet that when you hear someone talking about how corn is in “like, everything, we eat” chances are they’ve just finished reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” I also really appreciated Pollan’s writing, and just enjoyed the book from both a literary and an academic perspective. Plus I loved being able to say “this guy literally put a Happy Meal through a mass spec!” That’s worthy lunch time conversation when you work in a lab.
These two books led me to switch to organic meat and dairy. I also started going to the local farmers’ markets, and dashing home on Wednesday evenings to try and make the Davis Square Farmers’ Market before the cheese guy had run out of fresh mozzarella. I made some really great meals of caprese salad with toasted sourdough bread that spring and summer. I have an incredibly high tolerance for repetition, but even if I didn’t everything from the farmers’ market tasted so fresh that I couldn’t get enough. I got (and killed) my first of many basil plants that summer.
I also started bravely working my way through a whole bunch of unfamiliar ingredients. I took particular pride in conquering fava beans, which I found for just two weeks at the farmers market. The shelling and the blanching and the additional shelling were a total pain, but they were the freshest, greenest thing I had ever seen. I promptly pronounced that fava beans tasted like eating spring, and I made an incredible meal of fresh fava beans, pancetta and parmesan.
I was still eating plenty of meat, but I had switched to organic and the price differential alone had me eating slightly less than I had in the past. I was starting to use meat more as a condiment than as a main course. We’re still early on in the accidental vegetarian path, but we’re far away from dorm room cheeseburgers.