Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Momed: A blissful meat reunion

For years I’ve been telling people, “I could easily be a vegetarian – I love tofu!” As it is, most of the meals I make for myself are vegetarian, and on most days, I don't eat more than 3-4 ounces of meat. For years I’ve been thinking about testing it out – saying “good bye” to those turkey sandwiches and occasional meat or seafood dinners I enjoy when I go out, and “hello” to beans, soy protein, faux meats, and an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

“I’ll feel cleaner, lighter, happier!” I thought. “I’ll have loads of energy, my skin will glow like I’m a Brazilian sun goddess – I’ll be the picture of good health!”

Yet, for some reason or another (mostly laziness), I never went more than a couple days without meat. It’s infinitely easier to slap together a turkey sandwich for lunch than to pack together a balanced vegetarian meal like a quinoa salad with beans and all the fixings that are required to make it palatable. I already spend too much time in the kitchen (and at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Gelson’s, the Farmer’s Market…) as it is.

Last week, however, after some intensive eating at the Taste of Beverly Hills, I impetuously decided to dip my toe into the vegetarian pool for a few days.

Five to be exact.

I ate my usual oatmeal for breakfast; quinoa, bean and veggie salads for lunch; fruit for a snack; and then for dinner some combination of tofu or beans with more veggies and more whole grains.

It was great on paper – a meal plan to be extolled for its virtuosity and restraint.

But by day four, I felt like crap.

Even though I wasn’t actually craving meat, by Thursday afternoon of last week, I could hardly focus when talking to my mom on the phone on my drive home from work. I wasn’t hungry, but I felt punchy, a little dizzy – not full of energy like I had imagined.

The next evening, I met Esi from Dishing Up Delights for dinner at Momed, the casual, modern Mediterranean restaurant I had the opportunity to try at a media event earlier in the summer. As we settled into two seats at the communal table, I still didn’t feel like chowing down on animal carnage, but I knew I needed to feed my body some form of impactful protein with iron. As much as I love fried chickpeas and tahini, a falafel just wasn’t going to cut it that night.

After much debate on my various animal options (including the duck shawarma pita that is still my favorite thing on the menu), I finally decided on a dish that is decided un-me – a Lamb and Beef Koefte with Herb Salad over a whole wheat pita, served with rice pilaf and my choice from their marketplace salads ($14). Esi and I also ordered the Zucchini and Feta Cheese Fritters with yogurt sauce ($6) to start.

While the fritters were satisfying – packed with tender shreds of zucchini and irresistible when paired with the tangy herbed yogurt – it was the well-seasoned lamb and beef koefte that brought the win home for me. It wasn’t that it was mind-blowingly good or even something I would necessarily seek out again, but it was exactly what my body needed at that moment.

The koefte, which is essentially a sausage-shaped concoction of ground beef, lamb, peppers and spices – was an intimidating sight for someone who hadn’t eaten meat in five days – especially in its context. It overwhelmed the accompanying herb salad and disproportionately small whole wheat pita, and I eventually needed to order an additional pita ($1.50) to get through the entire thing. I was grateful for the Moroccan carrot salad with raisins and cinnamon that I had requested for my market salad. The vibrant al dente carrots helped lighten the load from the lofty Mediterranean-style meatloaf.

When Esi and I left the restaurant, I felt energized by my substantial meal of meat. I was ready to hit the town – ready to paint another wine glass red (with Barbara d’ Alba to be exact). While I imagine my vigor was mostly mental, I did feel better the next morning during my long run at the beach, and continued to feel better as I ate more animal-based protein over the weekend.

I still love tofu and vegetarian dinners and salads, but I now know that a meatless existence is not for me. The best way for me to be “the picture of good health” and an approximation of that “glowing Brazilian sun goddess,” is by eating a balanced diet that – blissfully – also includes the occasional strip (or two) of bacon.

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Esi said...

I'm glad I helped pull you back on the meat train. Such a good dinner!

Rose said...

First, I enjoy reading your blog, thank you for writing it. I have a little bone to pick. From your description it sounds like you went from eating a couple of servings of meat a day (turkey sandwich lunches, salmon dinners), to eating no animal products at all. That is a really big adjustment for your body, and while that sort of change works for some people, for a lot of people it doesn't. This is why people considering vegetarianism or veganism are often urged to slowly move towards that diet. I realize that I'm in no position to tell you what you should put in your body, but before you conclude (especially publicly) that not eating meat makes you feel ill, I really wish that you would give it a more reasonable trial.

Diana said...

Rose - I apologize -- I realize now that I should have framed the post a bit differently. I actually don't eat very much meat on a daily basis as it is. Almost all the meals I cook at home are vegetarian, and when I have a turkey sandwich, I only use about 2-3 ounces of turkey. I regularly go two days without eating meat without issue -- in fact, I feel better and more balanced because of it. What I came to realize during my little experiment is that because of my active lifestyle (I do 6+ hours of intense exercise a week)I need more protein/iron to be and feel healthy. The plant-based diet just wasn't cutting it for me. Maybe I would feel differently if I kept it up for more than 5 days, but I don't think my body was necessarily "detoxing" from meat. I've amended the post to more accurately depict my diet prior to my 5-day vegetarian stint. Again, I apologize if it came across like I was dismissing vegetarianism -- I actually very much respect the lifestyle. I just don't think it's quite right for me given my lifestyle.

nelehelen said...

I, too, have been TRYING to not eat meat, but I always fail. I can go 5 days easily without any red meat, but by day 6 I want a burger. However, I don't think I can ever go vegetarian. Pescatarain, quite possibly. I love veggies, but not THAT much. =P

And I still haven't been to Momed! Any other recs from there?

weezermonkey said...

My friend wants to take Momed to the Hollywood Bowl. I'm not sure that's what I want to eat there.

What say you? Is it food that will travel well? Note that I'm not crazy about stuff like tabbouleh and grape leaves (which I know is "good" food for picnics).

Jenny said...

I'm totally on your page.. I WANT to be able to be vegetarian! But not only is it just too hard for me, my body really appreciates meat. What can I say.. I'm Type 0 blood = Hunter Gatherer.... which explains my need for cookie dough.. (errr. or not)

-Dessert Darling xo

stuffycheaks said...

I've been contemplating on doing at least the Meatless Momdays, seems like an easy way to start, except it cant be meatless Mondays, gotta be a diff day cuz Mondays are my biggest eating days. Hard to say no to foie, duck and osso bucco though, sigh..

Anna A. said...

I would love this Momed place! And you know what my relatives in Greece say every time my dad visits with all his protein bars? "LAMB IS THE BEST PROTEIN BAR!"

Diana said...

Esi - Agreed! So fun! Repeat repeat!

Helen - Yeah, pescatarian I could probably do -- I am fond of the fishies! Momed is great though - you should definitely check it out! I looove their duck shawarma and their mushroom flatbread pizza is tops too if you go with a couple people and want something to share.

Weez - They have a lot of deli salads that would travel very well and they aren't all tabbouleh-esque. There's quinoa too. ;) And lots of dips and such. The best thing is definitely the duck shawarma though which should be eaten hot. I have a feeling you'd love it, fellow duck lover!

Jenny - Haha, in that case I'm a Hunter Gatherer too! Which explains my need for chocolate, ice cream and salted caramels? Why not! :)

Stephanie - Funny, Mondays are usually my, "OMG I ate so much this weekend I feel fat I am going to eat nothing but vegetables all day." Except I never actually do. ;)

Anna - Haha I love your dad! I'm going to use that some time...

Rose said...

Diana - Thank you for the clarification, that does sound like a much more reasonable trial. Purely as an issue of curiosity, I wonder if there is some variable other than activity level, given that there are vegetarians and vegans that are serious athletes. At the same time, everyone is different, and I think we all have to do what we feel what works best for us.

nelehelen - One approach (which you might have already tried) is just to let yourself have the hamburger, or whatever, when you really want one. The occasional "lapse" (for lack of a better word) doesn't mean you have to give up eating a mostly vegetarian diet. You may find that the desire to eat meat lessens over time. If not, you may still be eating less meat than you would otherwise, which is something.