Lent. A world without meat from now until Easter Sunday. It’s going to be a long 40 days. Yes, yes, I know; Lent is more than simply abstaining from meat. It’s about self-examination, personal improvement, and deepening one’s connection with their faith. All admirable reasons to observe Lent.
But to be honest, my observance of this year’s Lent is not due in part to my own personal adherence to the tradition. No, I’ve decided to stand in solidarity with my girlfriend, Maria – she’s Greek Orthodox. And given that this is my first observance of Lent, I’m pretty sure the absence of meat in my diet is what I will remember the most. It’s not that I eat a diet overly loaded with meat; but make no mistake, the meat will be missed. Cooking eggs in bacon fat, roasting a chicken on a cold day, a gyro from the Greek Deli, an ocassional steak. No more.
But enough with the whining (at least I can still drink wine), I’m actually looking forward to Lent. I like the challenge. I’ve gone vegetarian before, but never at a time when I was fully dependent on my own cooking (while working on a campaign in 2003 I relied heavily on a takeout diet of bagels, veggie subs, pizza, and some of the best falafel around). And while it may not be the point, exactly, Lent has the potential to be an excellent culinary learning experience – an opportunity to improve my cooking skills, explore a variety of new options, and expand my repertoire of recipes. See, this is where the “self-improvement” part comes into play!
As for the rules, we’re only excluding meat so fish is still an option. I think my biggest challenge will be finding different ways to incorporate protein into my meals. But, I’m hoping to gain a new familiarity with grains and legumes. And hopefully we won’t just rely on three square meals of pasta a day. Although, I am looking forward to cooking up some clams with linguine real soon. Luckily, I recently acquired Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, which includes hundreds of non-meat, veggie-friendly choices. We’re going to become fast friends. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
On a closing note, the timing of this year’s Lent is a bit interesting. For many, Lent begins on Wednesday. But for the Greek Orthodox, Lent began yesterday, the day after Valentine’s Day. In addition to a gift, I also gave Maria some chocolates for Valentine’s. What did she give me? A ban on meat for 40 days. Where’s that wine?