This is the time of year for Mardi Gras and Carnival. For many sects of Christianity, the day or days before Ash Wednesday are times of fun and celebration before the start of Lent, and the celebrations generate the buzz.
However, Lent is the stimulus for the festivities. Lent itself is a time of asceticism and self sacrifice. Forty-six days of self sacrifice this year, if you follow the Roman Catholic definition.
I was raised Catholic, with 12 years of Catholic school. One of the common Lenten traditions is giving up a vice, or making some sort of personal sacrifice. Theologically and perhaps practically, there are a lot of of conflicting reasons for this. Some feel that sacrifice mirrors the sacrifice of Jesus for humanity. Others feel that sacrifice is a form of self-discipline that helps train oneself to avoid the temptation to break or bend personal ethics or morality.
Christey and I are taking the Lenten challenge in a big way. We decided to go vegetarian from Ash Wednesday to Easter.
Vegetarian is something of a loaded term, from pure veganism to diets which include turkey or poultry. I was a vegetarian for several years in college, and I followed something of a Japanese Zen Buddhist diet (probably from reading Shogun too many times). I very rarely ate poultry, but seafood was okay. Christey and I batted a bunch of rules back and forth until we came up with a list of restrictions that seem almost arbitrary... but then again, I've met a lot of vegetarians who seem even more so.
Our challenge will be: * No land or air animals (beef, chicken, duck, pork, etc.) * Non-food is okay (we're not giving up leather belts for Lent) * No dairy, including cheese. * Any seafood is okay * Eggs are okay * Eating out at restaurants only once a week (this is a big one...)
We came up with the vegetarian idea pretty quickly, but the eggs, dairy, and seafood went back and forth. I didn't want to go pure vegan, and personally, I feel giving up both dairy and seafood is unhealthy without a lot of nutritional research. Being Floridian, we decided to keep the seafood and drop the dairy, but it was a tough decision. We also talked a lot about the eggs, but felt that the extra protein would be good, and ended up with the somewhat random decision that eggs aren't fertilized and thus not quite land/air animals. The fact that we'd be able to make/eat aioli was admittedly a factor.
Other than ironing out the details, we decided to do this last week, so the last few days have been an interesting series of meal choices. Do we gorge ourselves on meat and cheese before we have to give it up? Or do we ease ourselves into a meat-free diet?
It's more interesting since I've been a vegetarian before and Christey hasn't. I remember the sweet-tooth-cravings and the weird dietary changes that occur -- I never was a fan of pepperoni before I was a vegetarian, but I love it now. I had to learn to not overload on carbs like pasta and bread, or pay the price in carb-crashing. So, I figured during the last week or so, I'd gorge on bacon and steak. Oddly, it turned out that I favored a lot of strongly flavored meats during the last few days, like duck and lamb and I think I've only had bacon once or twice. I did have a lot of pepperoni, even eating a big huge antipasto plate one night of muenster, provolone, pepperoni, and sliced roast beef. I've been avoiding seafood just because we'll be eating a lot of it, and now it's something I'm craving.
Christey was more in the "ease yourself in" camp, but she ended up eating a lot of cheese and hamburgers. She focused more on the "don't eat out" rule and we ate out a lot, even if it was Outback or some other chain.
We planned a steak dinner tonight with a red wine reduction, stuffed with goat cheese and bacon. But, we ended up eating out at lunch and had a surprisingly good meal (we were trying out a new place without much hope, but it was fabulous). We were too full to have steak tonight, so we ordered pizza with extra cheese, pepperoni (of course), pork sausage, and mushrooms.
Thus, our Last Supper at the start of Lent. I know we haven't posted much lately -- we've had career changes and we've moved to a new house. Life has been getting in the way again. But, one of our final Lenten vows is to post more often during our dietary sacrifice, so hopefully you'll be able to follow along.