DON’T GO INTO THE BASEMENT

If you’re a vegetarian, that is, because the standing freezer down there is now full with roughly 250 pounds of beef. Krissy went in with a co-worker on half of a locally bred and butchered steer, and her quarter of a steer is now taking up several shelves in the freezer. Athena, who is our resident vegetarian, registers her (entirely posed) horror.

Actually, this is a fine moment to note that Athena recently passed her one year anniversary of being a vegetarian a few weeks ago. She started doing it to see what she thought of it and has kept at it ever since, with all of us doing a bit of research to make sure she’s getting all the nutrients she needs and so on. It does take some effort to keep a vegetarian lifestyle around here — Athena is one of the very few in her school who does — so I’m pretty proud of her for making the choice and sticking with it.

Massive purchase of beef notwithstanding, we’ve all cut down our consumption of meat here at the Scalzi Compound (the massive purchase will last us quite a long time), and Athena’s commitment to not eating the stuff is the major reason why. So good on my kid.

68 thoughts on “DON’T GO INTO THE BASEMENT

  1. It’s great to hear that she is setting a good example for you. If I followed my kid’s dietary advice I would be eating pasta and cheese for every meal, with an occasional peach yogurt for variety.

  2. I tried being a vegetarian once and started desperatly missing meat very quickly.

    So good on Athena on sticking with it, I couldn’t. How are you handling the protein thing? That was the main reason I went back to meat, well, besides the taste, that is.

  3. The protein thing: Combinations of vegetables can replace proteins one usually finds in meats and also we’re doing things like supplemental protein drinks, etc.

  4. Absolutely good on Athena.

    Bacon has always been my weak spot in the not eating meat scenario.

  5. Good for her. Too many kids her age ‘commit’ to something that requires a big sacrifice for little reward … for about two weeks. She’s an impressive exception.

    As for the meat, you might want to add an outer layer of tinfoil over the butcher paper to help prevent freezer-burn. Oh, and I hope you refrigerated the meat until cold before freezing; it help to prevent the formation of large ice crystals by freezing it to fast for them to grow big. Too bad you don’t have a ‘Deep Chiller’ type freezer, those are set at about 27 degrees Fahrenheit, cold enough to preserve but not so cold that ice crystals form and grow quickly.

    Still… *weeps for the lost texture and flavor*

  6. Haha.. that picture is funny. Good for her.

    I’ve tried for awhile to survive without meat. It’s a difficult endeavor, especially as I was raised having beef at least once a day. One thing I have done is grow some of my own protein. Kale. Purslane. Wild spinach. etc. While not particularly satisfying, they’re packed full of vitamins. Depending on my mood, I’ll bake a chicken breast, but mostly I eat vegetables these days. I’m much healthier because of it.

    I’m also about a year away from finishing my catfish pond, though. :) mmmm… protein.

  7. uldihaa:

    “Oh, and I hope you refrigerated the meat until cold before freezing”

    The butcher took care of all of that for us. We received it frozen and just transferred it.

  8. It’s nice to see Scalzi’s Law in effect. I went to Godwin High School, so I knew all about Godwin’s Law long before I came here…but bacon beats Nazis any day. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to Denny’s. All this talk about meat and bacon is making me hungry…

  9. I seem to remember Giles Coren writing as the Times restaurant critic that there were now so many willowy young ladies of vegan persuasion in central London that they could safely be put on the menu without fear of eradicating the supply, unlike tuna. Don’t tell your daughter.

  10. For the last two years my wife and I have bought half a (locally, humanely raised) Berkshire hog each year – does a nice job of filling a couple of shelves in our upright freezer with a few packages left over for another shelf, and the one we bought in 2010 ran out just abut the time the one we bought in 2011 came in. As with you, the farmer/butcher took care of the packaging and freezing; we just transferred the meat to the freezer.

    I admire Athena’s fortitude in being vegetarian, though I’ve never had any interest in pursuing that lifestyle myself – I like to eat food that tastes good to me, and vegetables in general don’t. I eat them because they’re good for me, the same way I take medicine when needed. (If eggs and cheese are included, it makes things much easier, but I still like my meat.)

  11. We did this once when I was a kid. Bought a freezer to accommodate the bounty. There was a lot of hamburger and lesser cuts, but I always thought it tasted good. Enjoy the grilling!

    Dr. Phil

  12. Have a vegetarian barbecue for Memorial Day… and remind everyone who asks that cows are vegetarians. <vbeg>

  13. If I had the space and funds, buying into a meat CSA would be a serious consideration. As it is, I was happy to pick up two pounds of local lamb sausage at the farmers market this morning.

  14. Just out of curiosity what was the reason she went veggie? Was it because she doesn’t like the taste of meat or was it a cruelty issue? I always find that really interesting to know about other vegetarians

  15. I find I’m a semi-vegetarian …. depends on the time of year, I guess. My sister’s gone the all-veg route for several years, which I think is great. I admit part of me think it’s great because I can’t resist a plate of ribs …. and part of me thinks it’s great because now, I don’t need to share things like a plate of ribs like her, and can eat them all myself.

  16. I’m somewhat of a semi-vegetarian myself. It is not something I set out to do, I just started trying to eat healthier and this is where it’s going.

  17. From what I’ve come to understand frozen meat can only last for a year in there freezer. Among I wrong? Anyway, anecdotly (sp?), my twin sis and I didn’t go down to the baesement cause we as a year family would “pick” potatoes after they were reaped (Pocatello, Idaho). After a few months Proily the eyes would grow and looked alien! Strange things are in basements.

  18. Brava to your daughter…From experience I know that the “way of the plant” is hard, especially in the teen years. But with all the glorious veggies coming up at this time in Ohio, it is a lot easier. We found some wonderful beets at the Troy Farmers Market this morning, with the leaves still on the root. Two meals coming up there…

  19. Good for her. I went veggie when I was eleven (in rural Montana, no less) and have stuck with it for fifteen years so far. It takes a bit of knowledge to do it in a healthy way, but once you learn to cook it’s all good. I can’t imagine eating meat.

  20. I wish I had the courage of her convictions. I’d love to go vegetarian for moral reasons (I pet cows, sheep, goats and pigs when I have the chance…from an emotional perspective I respond poorly to eating things that I can pet) but simply can’t last for long periods without seriously missing meat. At least I’ve cut down significantly.

    Good for her – and for you and Krissy, for supporting her.

  21. A few friends and I have done this once before and are about to do it again. The grass fed beef tastes remarkable, and I’ve noticed that I actually eat less of it before I’m full. A one-pound steak is good as a dinner for two, for example, when we used to eat a good bit more than that. Good for you for supporting your local farmers. And good for Athena (though I would never join her)!

  22. I have served vegetarian meals a couple-three times a week for years. Its a health thing, Americans eat why too much protein & the way we raise cows & pigs his a horror for the environment & the meat we eat.

    Just about a year ago I was diagnosed with throat cancer & had surgery & radiation treatment that destroyed my saliva glands. I discovered that without much saliva eating meat is damn near impossible. But it has also forced me to become a much more serious vegetarian, Its not that hard but it does require breaking a lot of habits. You don’t need protein at every meal and you don’t need meat, eggs or dairy to get it. The only thing I would worry about is B12 vitamins, which you only really have to worry about if you are vegan, eggs & cheese will see you through other wise.

  23. Aron – she and coworker went in on a half a cow and then split that between then, hence a quarter. It took me minute to realize that too.

    Good for Athena for sticking with the whole vegetarian thing. I’ve considered it myself but I’ve found myself not feeling full unless I actually have meat with dinner, and found out after a blood test that my metabolism reacts strongly to carbs so they leave my system too quick for me to feel full.

  24. YMMV, but for me, 3 years an ovo-lacto vegeatrian (college age):
    * first year, I still lusted for meat; smell made mouth water;
    * 2nd year, repelled by meat; smelled of death; could smell it in the stench of carnivores;
    * 3rd year, neither attracted nor repelled; Buddhist non-attachment; second-order effects dominated; * by early 4th years, started eating meat occasionally, as salad bars were less available then compared to now, and relatives cooked traditional meals for holidays. That was a chaotic attractor. Still there, 40 years later. Most cynical comment to me in the 3 years: “You just go through nature with a slow knife. If it can get out of the way, you leave it alone.”

  25. That’s great about Athena! I’ve been a vegetarian for 17 years, and had two healthy boys without any supplements (except prenatal vitamins). The rest of my family eats meat as I believe it’s a personal choice. Congrats to Athena on her one year anniversary!

  26. Good on Athena for standing her ground, good for Krissy and you to get this local meat.

  27. We’re picking up the slack for her (and also both of the vegetarians in the state of Texas apparently) by smoking over 50lbs of meat for our annual Memorial Day/Anniversary BBQ (19 years).

  28. A quarter of beef lasts the three of us about a year, but that’s with a teenage boy as an active and enthusiastic consumer of the beef. Each time, we end up running out of the hamburger first, and leaving the best cuts until last, not on purpose, but because we’re just used to eating a lot of ground beef as an ingredient, rather than large steaks in chunks. So it’s funny each time we get to the end and we say, “What, T-bone AGAIN?”

    We’ve done beef quarters a couple years in a row, and I am getting tired of so much beef, actually. This year we are sharing an order of mixed meets with family, so we’ll have a bit more variety.

  29. Good for Athena and for you for helping her. I’ve been vegetarian for around 8 years and for those who think vegetables aren’t tasty I suggest you go on line and check out the River Cottage vegetarian dishes as well as those from many other cultures – India springs to mind. You just have to be imaginative in your cooking in the same way you do with meat if you don’t want to get bored.

  30. yay for athena for sticking with vegetarianism, and yay to you for being a supportive parent. when i first went veggie and then vegan years ago when i was still a teen/living with parents, the initial reaction was a lot less…open-minded.

  31. I think the only person in my house who is a bigger fan of our weekend BBQs than I am, is my 8 year old daughter. A nicely-grilled steak, done well on the outside and semi-pink and tender on the inside, is definitely her idea of food nirvana. That, and a rootbeer ready at hand to wash the beef down with,. I am hard pressed to disagree with her culinary tastes in that regard. MMMmmm!

  32. We do this in my family, except that we also raise the steer, shoot it, hang it, and then spend several Saturdays cutting it into pieces (we do about 6 steers a year for extended family in big massive farm family– butchering things.) It’s a great way to do things if you have the freezer space. You support local farmers, you have healthier (and better tasting)) beef, you save money. Growing up, I never realized that things like steak were kinda expensive. It was chicken that cost us money!

    When my grandfather passes away and we no longer have a farm from which to get meat, I hope to do this same thing, for the reasons listed above.

    All that said, if you don’t have one, you might want to consider a small generator. One good power outage can waste a lot of meat, especially if it comes during summer.

  33. We went vegetarian late last year. Don’t miss meat at all and the meat fat that used to block up our 120 year old drains ain’t a problem no more either.

  34. @Erin: Even though I’m from cattle country, it was beef that was expensive! When I was growing up, we raised/butchered/froze our own chickens, then ate chicken EVERY. DAY. FOR. MONTHS. Seriously, once I left home I didn’t eat chicken for maybe 5 years, I was so sick of it.

    We always had a huge garden when I lived at home; tomatoes, peas, carrots, beets, radishes, squash, zucchini, pumpkins, rhubarb, strawberries… For a few hours’ weeding and watering every week, we got the freshest possible vegetables. Supermarket veg just can’t compare, not to mention the sense of accomplishment in knowing that you grew your entire dinner salad. I dunno how big you are on gardening in Scalziland, but you’ve definitely got the acreage… Maybe Athena might dig (hurr hurr) having a small garden plot?

  35. A quick question to Athena:

    HOW CAN YOU HAVE ANY PUDDING IF YOU DON’T EAT YOUR MEAT?

    (Seriously. This question has vexed philosophers throughout the ages.)

    (Or at least since 1979.)

  36. Kudos to all of you. We are omnivores with one omnivorous and two vegetarian kids. We don’t cook meat at home, but we eat it when we go out. I like to think it models courtesy and harmony among people with diverse views. Or, as my brother-in-law put it during the blessing one Thanksgiving: “Lord, there are wars being fought over differences smaller than the ones in this room.”

  37. Bravo to Athena for making the choice and sticking to it. We’ve (my daughter has) tried several times over the years and it just doesn’t seem we’re cut out for it. So the most we can do is cut back on meat consumption and try to make sure we do some meatless meals in the course of a week. After of month of no red meat I start dreaming about it…my acupuncturist says I have to eat it to stay healthy. Yay. Like you, we’ve just purchased a share of a well-raised beefer and I have no shame in enjoying it.

  38. My fondest memories of the Vegetarian period in my life were from my visits to Le Commensal in Montreal. They sold food by weight, had an entire room dedicated to deserts and were packed with laughing people who were eating, drinking wine and smoking unfiltered Gauloises. It was glorious. That’s where I learned that a vegetarian diet is only a synonym for punishment in the US.

  39. Athena went veggie approximately the same way I did. I decided to try it for a week and see how I liked it. After a week I liked it fine, so I decided to see how long I could do it.

    That was in 1978.

    Last time I got a little meat by accident (not counting bite-and-spit events) was in 2001, when the pasta stuff I got from the deli buffet turned out not to have bits of tomato in it as I had thought, but bits of prosciutto. My body tried violently and audibly to reject it, and I’ve been more careful since. I don’t think I could go back now if I wanted to. Which I don’t, so that works out!

  40. I remember about 25 years ago, Darrell Schweitzer commenting to me that it required a fairly high-tech society to support a healthy vegetarian diet. As I was not long out of my mol-bio and biomedical engineering days at MIT, the assertion provoked a fair amount of consideration that ultimately compelled me to agree.

    It’s much safer for a girl to be a vegetarian than a boy because of the reliance on protein-substitution through phytoestrogen-laden soybean products and the like.

    Strange that a personal liberty choice, when it’s intelligent and careful in its application, harms no one, induces so much interfering indignation by uninvolved outsiders.

    More power to you, Athena.

    JJB
    Omnivorous Rex

  41. That’s great that she made a decision for herself and she’s sticking to it and cool that you guys are totally supportive.
    I went from non-veg (I’m originally from oklahoma where the commercials say “beef, it’s what’s for dinner”) to veg over a decade ago. If she’s ever in the mood for a new recipe, I put a new vegetarian one up every friday on the blog on my website. It’s an eclectic mix of side dishes, main dishes, desserts, condiments…
    My husband’s Indian (where they have a lot of vegetarians) so there are quite a few Indian dishes too.

  42. Happy vegetarian anniversary to Athena. (Sadly the comments don’t get any better as you go along, but you do develop a fine ability for tolerance. And people will probably give up the “you can’t live without meat” argument after maybe another year or so.)

    Also, I think it’s interesting that people who are worried about the protein/health aspect seem to think vegetarians eat exclusively vegetables. Maybe the problem is in the label. Remember the grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. A whole spectrum of soy products (I don’t think it’s as dangerous as some people make it out to be; see poor Asian cuisine). Also dairy and eggs, if you’re lacto-ovo.

  43. It’s funny that all of the posts here are either about vegetarianism or the details of preparing and storing meat. And not a single fight!

  44. We did the same thing with a couple of friends last month. Our local farms tend to slaughter steers at a lower weight, so we ended up with about 80 lbs rather than 250 – I don’t think my freezer would have accommodated that much, even if I had emptied it out completely beforehand. This is grass-fed, grain-finished beef from a farm in Delaplane, VA, about a forty minute drive from my house, and it is AMAZING. Hard to see myself buying beef any other way, to be honest.

    The same farm supplies our Halloween pumpkins, and they have pick your own apples and fall greens. They do pastured pork a few times a year as well, and we’re on the list to find out when they’ll have more available.

    I’m glad vegetarianism is working out for Athena. And I’m glad she doesn’t have the kind of parents who would fight her on it :) I’d hazard a guess that in a few years she *won’t* be the kid whose parents are calling the university to argue with her professors on her behalf.

  45. I have a friend who is a… um… militant vegan, and to get her to leave me in peace I promised to give the whole vegan thing a three-month trial if she would promise to STFU forever and ever about converting to the vegan lifestyle even if I started eating dead, charred animals covered in dairy products again. Cheeseburgers… yummmmmm.

    That was five and a half years ago. By the end of the three-month trial, I realized my arthritis pain (osteo… I understand from others this approach has less success with rheumatoid) had diminished considerably and my fibromyalgia didn’t seem QUITE so bad (on the Ally Brosh pain scale, I’d dropped from a constant 11 to wavering between 9 and 10). So my militant vegan friend is happy, I’m happy, and my grocery bills plummeted. Though the thing that really helped the fibro pain go from 9-10 down to 0 with the occasional 3 was taking up Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Right now, I’m having a day of 2-level pain, so I’m off to get a Band Aid.

    And kudos to Athena for bucking the trend, being willing to be “different” (not at all surprising, given who her parents are), and generally being an awesome kid.

  46. well done guys.
    As a public health veterinarian , i would recommend 12- 18 months (depending on the type of freezer) as the maximum time to store and consume frozen beef.

  47. Good for Athena. I became a vegetarian at 14. I was the only one in my high school and I had to put up with a lot of bs from others. Not that it stopped after HS, but it does eventually seem to diminish. Decades later I’m still a veg, and I eventually converted my parents as well.

  48. I totally don’t understand why anyone feels the need to knock anyone else’s food choices. I’m an omnivor. My sister is a vegetarian. My wife was raised on a cattle ranch and would slurp through your freezer in a month or so all by herself. The more raw the better. Yeah all of us and Athena’s choices as well. Happy anniversary.

  49. Le Commensal in Montreal.

    My parents visited there – my mom’s vegetarian – and it sounded wonderful. I would probably be piscetarian (seafood, no meat), except that my husband’s a professional cook and it would break his heart if he couldn’t cook meat for me. So I just eat it very rarely. As for gardening, it’s not as hard as it looks and the vegetables truly are like no other. The farmers’ market is a close second if she just doesn’t have time though. I find most people who say they don’t like any vegetables just have never gotten fresh ones cooked correctly.

  50. I agree, Shannon – my husband came from a family where their method of cooking vegetables was to boil them all until they were the same colour. I kid you not. No wonder he thought eating them was a punishment! But after seeing what a light touch, seasonal produce and a bit of respect can do, I’ve made a convert of him. Mind you, we are still omnivores. He’s a charcuiterer, though, so that’s not surprising.

  51. Congratulations to Athena for her persistence and to you and Krissy for being supportive! When I became a vegetarian many years ago at age 16, I was lucky to have a similarly supportive family. They enjoyed trying new recipes (especially if I cooked them) and also reduced their meat consumption, though no-one else gave it up for good. My mom helped me learn how to replace the meat protein with legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, dairy products, & eggs, while my grandmother modified some of her traditional recipes for me. If Athena is looking for recipes, please feel free to ask.

  52. I am so proud that your daughter has such an amazing follow through at so young an age. Speaks well of her parents, and of her! My husband and I recently made a decision to go veggie– while we eat mostly that way anyway, he would still have a steak or a piece of chicken here and there (once or so a month). To go completely veggie has been a long time coming.

    As far as the basement goes, that could be the perfect setting for a horror flick/book– a basement full of frozen meat…bwah ha ha !!!

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