I grew up on meat and potatoes. And for a long time, I kept that tradition—quite literally—at my own table. Every evening I'd serve my husband hamburgers, chicken, pork chops, or steak . . . and potatoes. My idea of gourmet cooking was to add some rice or mix in a little salt. Sometimes I even used butter.
Then, abruptly, the tradition ended. My father-in-law suffered a heart attack; and, shaken with fear, I modified my menu. No more hamburgers or steak.
I now served chicken, potatoes, salad, and no butter.
Soon after starting this new meal plan, however, I became pregnant. And with great gumption, my doctor asked me to eat green things. I rose to the challenge. "You mean salad?" I asked.
"I mean broccoli or spinach," my doctor replied.
"Broccoli?" I whimpered. "Do I have to?" It seemed a little beyond my kitchen skills—and my taste. But love for my unborn child eventually changed my plate's contents: chicken, potatoes, salad . . . and broccoli.
I thought I was good for life.
A Fork in the Road
Then in my early thirties, life changed. A dear friend, 15 years my senior, unexpectedly became a vegetarian. She'd struggled with severe allergies and chronic fatigue, had researched her treatment options, and had finally decided vegetarianism could help. I was doubtful about her choice and still pleased with my own eating approach. Secretly, I wondered, Why would anyone add more broccoli to her diet?
But over the course of three years, my friend's health improved dramatically. She lost ten pounds. Her skin rivaled mine in youthful vigor. She no longer fell asleep in her chair during a conversation at 8 p.m.
I began to get curious. Soon, my friend and I started discussing a vegetable-based diet.
Intrigued by her claims that eating veggies is good for people and God's creation, I decided to do some research. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Being Vegetarian seemed to fit my level of nutritional knowledge. So I opened the book to some encouraging information: "Vegetarians have lower rates of cancer, coronary artery disease, diabetes, [and] high blood pressure." And in a world of toxic overload, the next statement was good news: "[Plant] fiber can bind with environmental contaminants and help them pass out of the body." I also learned vegetables protect against free radicals, bothersome molecules that speed the aging process and impair the immune system.