On her website The History Kitchen, Tori Avey explores the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s food can inspire us in the kitchen today. Learn more about the History Kitchen.
I’m not currently a vegetarian, but I was for several years. It started in high school for ethical reasons. My father, who grew up on a 1,000 acre farm in the Sierra Nevada mountains, was an agriculture professor at our local university. From a young age I was exposed to all aspects of animal husbandry—the good, the bad, and the ugly. As an adolescent I believed that vegetarianism was something to aspire to, and I slowly began to cut out red meat. I finally gave up meat completely at 16. I kept at it for many years, but in my early twenties my health began to suffer. I discovered in college that I was sensitive to soy and prone to anemia (a strange genetic quirk in my family). It proved difficult to keep myself healthy and energized without the protein of meat. I slowly introduced meat back into my diet and my health improved. Even so, I ate meat sparingly. Recently I learned the word “flexitarian,” which best describes my current approach to eating. I eat vegetarian most of the time, reserving meat only for when I really crave it. That means I’m eating meat once or twice a week (sometimes less). My husband is the same way. Growing up in Israel, his mom cooked lots of vegetarian dishes like eggplant, hummus, and shakshouka. We’re happiest with a simple dinner of eggplant stew or lentils with rice. Our eating habits change around the holidays and special occasions, but generally speaking, being a flexitarian feels right to my body. I don’t have trouble staying at a healthy weight, I have lots of energy and I feel great.