‘Teaming up’ to go vegetarian

By Michele Lee Bernstein

“I want to go vegetarian in 2022.”

My husband Phil announced this in December 2021. He had read one too many books about factory farming, and decided that this was the best way for him to make a difference. It was a noble idea, but there was one thing standing in his way. He doesn’t cook. I’m the main meal planner/shopper/cook in the house. For the past 40 years, I’ve cooked, and he’s cleaned up. He wasn’t asking *me* to go vegetarian, but his announcement seemed…presumptuous.  

Chicken and fish have always been the main proteins in our diet. Phil actually wanted to go pescetarian; he’ll still eat fish. That meant I just needed to go ixnay on the ickenchay, right? At least at home. I’m still very happy to order meat for myself when we dine out. This worked out very well when we ordered a pizza that featured bacon, figs, and caramelized onions. We asked for bacon on half the pizza. And then I asked for the bacon that was supposed to be on the other half to go on my half. More bacon for me! And it meant that half of the pizza was protected from the world’s fastest pizza eater. I’m still savoring that victory. 

It hasn’t been a hardship to cook without meat. Fish, cheese, beans, and tofu are good sources of protein. There are also interesting plant-based meat substitutes if we’re craving “pretend meat,” and some are pretty convincing! New York Times Cooking is full of interesting recipes, and I love trying new ones. The one thing I haven’t given up is chicken stock; I still use it in risotto and soups. I told Phil I won’t serve him chunks of animal flesh, but there might be non-visible chickens involved in our dinner. As the non-cook, he’s accepted that.  

Summer is a great time to enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables. We’ve had blueberry bushes for the past 20 years, and this year’s crop has been excellent. I won’t pretend that the blueberry desserts are particularly healthy, but Phil didn’t make this dietary change based on health! I’m trying to use the blueberries fresh during the season, and we also have several gallons of blueberries in the freezer for baking all year round. Here’s a link to three of my favorite blueberry desserts

Clockwise from left: Blueberry cobbler, blueberry cream pie, blueberry nectarine galette.

We’ve definitely become more thoughtful about our food choices. I still eat meat, but a lot less. Phil says he’ll make exceptions for meat, too. He doesn’t want to be “that guy” at the extended family’s traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Also, he’ll still eat White Castle hamburgers, as an homage to this childhood favorite when he’s in St. Louis. Flexibility and moderation! 

Phil and I can’t solve all the factory farm issues in our food supply. I’m sure that the dairy products we consume have issues, too. But every step we take to reduce our consumption of animal products helps. Phil recently requested a book about fish farming from the library…should I be worried? Naw, I’m all about the wild caught salmon. I was a summer cannery girl in Alaska during college, and I’m a fish snob! 

Michele sorting salmon roe.


Michele Lee Bernstein, PDXKnitterati, designs and teaches all over the country, in person and virtually from her home base in Portland, Oregon. Her new book, Brioche Knit Love: 21 Skill Building Projects from Simple to Sublime combines her love for teaching and designing. Michele blogs about knitting, food, and music at PDXKnitterati.com. You can also find her on Instagram, Facebook, Ravelry, YouTube, and Twitter; she’s PDXKnitterati on all platforms. 

Michele Lee Bernstein, a jill of all trades (and arts)!

Editor’s note: Michele last wrote for VOA in 2012 (about becoming an empty nester) and 2013 (about learning to snorkel). We met in 2011 when I was recruiting local bloggers to become part of an Oregonian News Network of community blog partners. Everyone said she had the best knitting blog. She did — and still does. We both live in Northeast Portland, we have many of the same friends, and we have mutual interests in food, books and travel. .

Tomorrow: Luisa Anderson, My year of health

16 thoughts on “‘Teaming up’ to go vegetarian

  1. I love your bacon deal. That was definitely a win-win 🙂 We’ve toyed with giving up meat ever since seeing Michael Pollan speak about a decade ago. It’s so hard! My brother gave up meat as a teenager for similar reasons as your husband. Almost 30 years later, he’s still going strong. There are some really tasty meat substitutes out there. I recommend the soy chorizo from Trader Joes!

    • I’m still chuckling about the bacon! And I love fried chicken sandwiches, so I’ll always sample those.

      I think I prefer things that aren’t trying to pretend to be meat, because they’re just good on their own merits. But for lasagna, Beyond Sausage (Italian version) is good flavorwise, and if it’s cut into small pieces the texture difference ceases to be an issue. (It’s doesn’t have the right texture as a sausage.) I’ll definitely try the TJ’s soy chorizo!

  2. Pingback: Pesky-tarian | PDXKnitterati

  3. The part about the pizza made me laugh.
    I’ve tried many vegan burgers before, and loved them. I don’t think I have it in me to go fully vegan, but a lot of my daily meals are plant based.

  4. I could, but haven’t, gone vegan. My wife tried to introduce millet burgers to me decades ago and I suggested we direct our social consciousness to other issues and we happily make meals that are largely fish or fowl focused w/the occasional beef product tossed in. Your strategy with bacon on pizza? Brilliant!

    • Reduction and moderation is as far as I want to go; millet burgers don’t sound appealing. I do like gardenburgers for texture and flavor; they’re not pretending to be meat (I think Impossible Burgers are over-engineered). Since we were mostly relying on fish and chicken for our protein, it hasn’t been too hard to change things up. Glad you like my bacon strategy!

  5. I admire your husband’s courage in proclaiming to the meal planner/prepper a big change like this, and you for being so amenable to the change. Btw, is that scarf in your bio photo one of your creations? My gosh but that’s gorgeous work. I always regretted not having my mom teach me how to knit, though her skills were pretty basic compared to this beauty.

    • 40 years of compromise and humor goes a long way when faced with such a proclamation!

      The scarf is one of my favorite designs in my book. Designing 21 projects and writing that book on a short timeline last year was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but definitely worth it! I could have used 3 more months…

      It’s never too late to learn to knit! But only if you want to. So many great things we can immerse ourselves in. I stopped playing the piano because knitting took over my life!

  6. Vegetarianism is not for the faint-hearted. Did you know, for instance, that the highest proportion of people who have developed diabetes comes from the vegetarian/vegan community ? The problem is with what vegos call protein: sure it’s good stuff, but it’s secondary protein and the body wants some of the primary stuff, too.
    I know this kinda thing because of having been vego for six years and having to give it up on account of incipient anæmia. Basically, if you want to be truly vegetarian (good on Phil for including fish – a primary source of protein) you must take various of the body’s necessaries in capsule form.

  7. Fantastic post! I went vegetarian (pescatarian) in 2004 and managed to maintain the lifestyle for four years, though my partner complained bitterly about having to make two different meals each night. We ended up compromising and have split the week in half for the last decade of our marriage. One particularly delightful memory of that time was when I was leaving to do an internship in Ukraine, and I asked my dad what the Ukrainian phrase for “I’m a vegetarian” was. He told me the phrase, which I communicated to my host family. After a few weeks, I noticed my stomach wasn’t feeling well about 10 a.m. each morning. I realized my host mom was putting meat and grease drippings into my morning kashka or cereal. I phoned my dad and asked him what the communication breakdown might be, and he told me that the Ukrainian phrase for “I’m a vegetarian,” pretty much means I’m only eating vegetables, and it’s making me sick. I need meat in order to feel healthy again. We moved to Montana several years later, and I stayed with a local family while looking for a house to move my family to from Oregon. The first night I ate dinner with them, they had a stew with potatoes, carrots and some kind of meat. I casually explained that I don’t eat meat but would gladly pick around it. They promptly said, “That’s not meat, it’s elk.” That’s the day I gave up not eating meat, though I delight in vegetarian dishes anytime I can make them.

    • I’m too lazy to make two meals every night; I just have to find things that we both like at the same time!

      “That’s not meat, it’s elk.” Ha! I’ve heard people say, “that’s not meat, it’s chicken,” thinking that if it’s not RED meat it’s okay. Whoops!

      Thanks for commenting!

  8. Dietary decisions are so complicated anymore – so much research that contradicts every point. I think you two have found a happy balance. I tried Veganismo for a solid 3+ months; started the week before Christmas. Not my best decision. Great blog contribution!

    Also, your knitting is amazing! I will need to get your book to up my knitting game past dish cloths, scarves, and hats!

    • Dish cloths, scarves, and hats are good! I like things that don’t have to fit in a particular way, so all the designs in my book are for accessories, from a brioche point of view!

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