Where’s the beef?

It’s hard to do anything to reduce your footprint on the earth if you don’t spend some serious time reflecting on your personal habits.  From cleaning supplies to transportation needs to filling your food needs a serious look at your consumption can lead to a large impact on the world with a few changes.  Lately I’ve been looking at my family’s meat intake.  Over the past year we’ve fully made the switch to locally raised meat products, but my analysis is still showing that we are eating more than we need to.

snipshot_e47svcp1v42.jpg It’s a hard thing to change, this affinity for meat.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that I like a good steak as much as the next person (or possibly even more), and I personally have no compunction about eating meat, as long as it’s sourced from a local humane source.  But I do know that you can still eat too much of it, and even when it’s raised humanely, eating meat still has a large impact on the world.  The question is what to do about it.

I live in the Midwest.  In the middle of corn and bean monoculture.  Where raising hogs is big business. This meat country.  Any kind of meat.  Meat is the centerpiece of every meal.  When I was growing up practically every meal contained a meat, some type of potato and another side dish.  That’s just how everyone eats here, and that’s how my mom cooked.  (Probably to deal with some picky kids because my brother and I were very picky growing up, but that’s how it is everywhere)

The question is how do I break out of it?  It’s a tough shell to break out of.  I’ve grown up cooking a certain way, and changing the way I cook is quite difficult.  The few times I’ve cooked without using meat as the main item, or at all, it’s been quite liberating.  In fact, I kind of like the challenge of it.  It’s easy to cook with meat in the meal.  I guess it would be like asking someone who is Asian to cook up a Midwestern meal.  They would find it challenging, but could probably adapt.  I’m essentially doing the same thing.  I’m trying to forget my Midwestern roots and learn more Asian types of dishes where meat isn’t the centerpiece of the meal. 

But these meals I’ve cooked have always felt like something was missing.  Maybe it’s because I’ve got it ingrained in my head that a meal should consist of a meat centerpiece.  When I see my kids eat they don’t really care if the meal has meat in it or not (although they do routinely complain about having stir fry AGAIN) so it appears that this feeling I have must be something that has been learned by me over time.  I don’t notice that I have this feeling when we have a pasta meal without meat, perhaps because I grew up with pasta meals on occasion without meat in them?  I’ve noticed more lately that when we eat a meal it isn’t the meat that I go back for when I get seconds.  Maybe that’s something my body is telling me subconsciously?

I don’t really know where I’m going with this whole thing.  I’m just kind of talking and thinking through my fingers.  Maybe some of you have dealt with these same types of things?  Could you offer any insight?  It seems difficult to take the final step to stop cooking meat with meals mostly because I’m not really sure how to cook without it.  That seems like kind of a lame reason, but it’s mostly true.  It could be as simple as just not cooking it, but still having all the same side dishes.  That seems kind of boring.


I don’t know.  It’s a hard thing for me to figure out.  I guess I’m trying to reduce how much meat we eat, without feeling deprived after we eat, but still keep meat in our diet to ensure we get all the necessary nutrition.  I guess I’m blabbing on here trying to figure out how to reduce it further.  It seems like I’ve taken the easy steps but these next few seem to be a little larger and I’m more unsure about it.  

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3 responses to “Where’s the beef?

  1. Well Matt, let me “weigh” in on this. The Koreans incorporate meats more as a flavor. There soups are mainly watery with stalks(no I didn’t spell that wrong) and on occasion some real pieces of vegetable, usually radish or cabbage leaves. There is very little meat in the soups. The side dishes consist of kimchi(fermented cabbage with red chili seasoning) cabbage salad with the occasional sliver of cucumber and/or carrot, pickled radish(ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING), some more pieces of vegetable stalks and or various stems, and what looks to me to be some sort of weed. Occastionally there will be cold mashed potatoes with some sort of maybe pumpkin dressing on it. The majority of the meat is pork(duegygogy). The other types of meat are called:soolgogy(beef), moolgogy(fish), dockgogy(chicken) and I think it is also called dockgogy(duck), it sounds the same to me, but the restaurants that serve duck usually just serve duck, so never really had to learn that word. Roasted duck is wonderful, wow. Their marinated meats are called Galbi. The Galbi tasted pretty good too. Just take the gogy off and put Galbi in it’s place.
    It is rare to find a “Korean Restaurant” that has a good meat dish.
    Also, part of the reason for the extremely slight build is due to the lack of protein in their diets. I don’t know much about some of these vegetables, but it seems they don’t have as much nutritional value. Someone inform if they do. Cabbage? Radish? Turnip? These seem to make up the majority of the vegetables that they eat, as far as I can tell, maybe 75%. I am not saying I know a lot about nutritional, but I did take a couple of classes about it in college, but also, my teacher sounded just like Mr. Mackey from South Park, so most of us didn’t listen to him. Just make sure of the nutritional value of the vegetables that you do it. Wow, that was a long comment. haahaha. I just hope I made a little bit of sense.

  2. A doctor once told me that you only need a piece of meat the size of your fist a day or the size of a deck of cards. Which really is not much. My grandsons are not much for meat, so maybe they have the right idea. Peanut butter an jelly sandwiches. If I could get them to eat different types of beans it would help. An other foods. They go over board on the peanut butter sandwiches. Anyway making alot of stews or soups helps to down size the meat also.

  3. Umm, Ben, cruciferous vegetables are among the most nutritious vegetables you can eat – cabbage, radishes, turnip. And lacto-fermentation, which is how you make various forms of kimchi, increases nutritional value, as well as providing natural antibiotics.

    The short stature of most Asians, including Koreans, is genetic, not related to protein deficiency in any immediate sense – levels of malnutrition in South Korea (I assume it was South Korea you were visiting – seems unlikely that you got into NK), are just abou the same as levels of malnutrition in the US.

    I understand that Korean food can seem alien if you are from somewhere else, but it sounds to me like the above is simply the application of your food prejudices to someone else’s cuisine. I’ve also been to Korea, and loved the food – I make kimchi weekly here in the US and eat all the vegetables you list, as well as many weeds, and not only do I find them delicious, but my kids eat them too.

    Different strokes, obviously, but this pushes a button for me. I find it troubling when people say nasty things about other people’s cuisines – because I think food is never disgusting, hunger, that’s really disgusting. Food is just a matter of taste.

    As for the meat issue, most koreans use meat as a flavoring, when they use it at all (they also eat a lot of soy foods), and that’s an easy way to adapt to lower meat use. Make soup with good broth, but use the meat in another meal – you don’t need big chunks of whatever it is in the soup. Or chop it fine and use it as a seasoning in mexican dishes or a stir fry, a casserole or a stew.

    As for leaving it out altogether – I find that mushrooms make a really good transitional thing – they have that “meaty” taste and mushrooms can substitute for meat in a lot of dishes. They are great for you too!

    Sharon

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