04/09/2013 11:27 am ET Updated Jun 09, 2013

The Accidental Vegetarian

It wasn't yet 9 a.m.

"I'm going to be a vegetarian."

"What happened?" asked my almost 18-year-old daughter.

"I watched a documentary." It was true. One hour on Netflix on a lazy Sunday morning was all it took.

"I've been thinking about it for a while anyway, so I'll do it too. It won't be hard," she added.

Of course, it wasn't going to be hard for her -- I cook most of her meals. I also make her lunch every day. (Don't chide me. I've already had one kid go off to college, and hands-on caretaking ends. I do it because I want to do it.) The only meat my daughter eats is beef, which I'd been making once a week, and salami. Her palate has been a no-poultry or fish zone simply because of her taste buds, which I believe are hypersensitive, or even strange. That kid can detect the essence of a discarded spring of thyme in a 30-quart stock pot simply with one teaspoon full of broth. Makes her easy to feed but hard to cook for if we're aiming for something, you know, with flavor.

Then she said something surprising. "I don't think we've eaten meat in days anyway."

I backtracked over the meal files in my head -- not always an easy task -- when I claim not to remember what I've eaten for breakfast. She was right. Mainly she meant dinner, the only meal we eat together as the lives of the high school senior and debut author daughter/mother duo converge at the dinner table every night.

But how would she do without her salami sandwich for lunch or her turkey bacon at breakfast?

You guessed it. She'd be fine.

I'm not a bandwagon jumper, and certainly vegetariasm isn't something new. Nor do I believe it scores you points with the universe. But I did believe this change in our meals would have multiple benefits. First, we wouldn't be eating the animals that were flashing in front of my eyes every time I thought of the word hamburger or, God forbid, hot dog. (Good job, documentary-maker, good job!) Second, as long as we didn't lean heavily on processed vegetarian foods (or Oreos, which are vegan, for the record) we'd be eating even healthier. Third, after 49 years I was really bored with what I liked to eat. Because I love to cook and cooking for two (and soon for one, when my kids depart for different colleges in August), I thought this might be a way to make my meals more interesting, my food shopping an adventure in conscious consumerism combined with my penchant for good eats, instead of a dreaded routine errand and the same dinner every other night. And I was right.

I wasn't trying to make a statement. We do not have a no meat flag in front of the house, and I don't think I've told anyone until now. I'm not fighting any battles here except my own. You can eat what you want and I won't raise a brow. We're still eating eggs and dairy and I'm eating fish, although it's more of a concept, since I rarely cook fish. But this life experiment has also brought us a new topic of conversation. Trying new foods because we sort of, well, need to try them. Different kinds of hummus -- the idea of making our own. Lentil this and that. A meat substitute or two. We're checking labels and recipes for different things than we've checked them for in the past. It's true, I still don't like tofu, so maybe I'll never be a card-carrying vegetarian. And we are incorporating some of the packaged veggie burgers into our lives because sometimes you just need to pile it high on a bun, bake up some fries (my favorite culinary oxymoron) and call it a day.

It's been a month. So far so good. We agree we're not missing anything.

At first I thought ahead to Thanksgiving (as all good cooks and eaters are prone to do) and thought, "Okay, on Thanksgiving, I'll eat turkey." But now, just a month later, I think not.

Unless, of course, there's a documentary I happen to watch before then.

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