I’ll be back in the US in two weeks (!), and my return will, in all likelihood, end a series of dietary experiments that I’ve been conducting for the past year or so. It’s been more than a year since I’ve cooked anything. It’s been almost as long since I’ve eaten more than once a day. And it’s been nearly five months since I stopped eating meat.
I’ve never enjoyed cooking. It doesn’t matter whether the thing that I end up making is tasty or not, I just never enjoy the process, and there are a number of things that I’d rather do with my time. I stopped cooking in February-ish of 2014 when I moved from an apartment in Bangkok with a stove to one without a stove. Since then I’ve been eating out for every meal, or if not eating out, eating something at home that requires no cooking (e.g., a peanut butter sandwich or some fruit). But I’d say that I’ve eaten out 99.9% of the time.
Benefits: I eat food that is better than what I could make. The time that I would have spent cooking I now spend reading something on my phone or Kindle while waiting for my food. I get to try a bunch of different restaurants.
Once I stopped cooking, I started eating out more. Obviously. But I soon realized that eating out two or three times a day was too time-consuming, so I cut it down to once a day, going out for a big dinner sometime between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Sometimes it gets to be 11:00 a.m. and I’m already really hungry, and I know that I will be hurting if I put off eating until 5:00 p.m., so I’ll go eat something small like some fruit or cookies. But other than that, I eat just once a day. And I eat a lot. Tonight, for example, I had one bowl of chana masala, one bowl of dal fry, two portions of rice, butter paratha, and a glass of lime juice. The only downside to eating this way is that I either get waiters trying to talk me out of ordering so much or asking me how many people I’m ordering for.
Benefits: Between never cooking and eating only once a day, I’ve stopped buying groceries entirely. That saves time and money, because before I was eating out AND buying groceries. I save time by dealing with food only once a day, and I get to eat whatever I want until I am very full—a feeling that I love. I like the self-discipline that eating only every 24 hours requires.
I’ve already written about why I cut meat out of my diet, but to recap, the main reason was that I was curious. I wanted to see if I could do it and if I would feel any different. Well, I’ve now been a vegetarian for almost five months (though I have eaten meat twice in that period, both times being when I was invited over to people’s houses for dinner and didn’t want to be a jerk and not eat their food), and I can say that 1) yes, I can do it, and 2) I don’t feel any different. I feel neither better nor worse, and I think I look the same.
The biggest surprise to me is that my desire to eat meat has fallen dramatically. If/when I do go back to eating meat, my meat consumption will probably be a fraction of what it was before. The main reason for this is simply that I’ve realized I don’t need meat, and if I can choose between eating one way that involves killing animals and lots of pollution (i.e., eating meat) and another way that doesn’t (i.e., not eating meat), if all else is equal, why wouldn’t I choose to eat the way that doesn’t involve killing animals or pollution? And I think another, smaller part of the reason I’ve lost interest in eating meat is that it seems kind of gross now that I’ve been detached from it. Eating the flesh of something that used to be alive? Ew. This is not something that I felt before the vegetarianism experiment.
Benefits: I’ve tried a bunch of menu items that I otherwise would have ignored. Vegetarian food on the Indian subcontinent (where I’ve been for the past five months) is cheaper than food with meat in it, so I’ve saved money.
It’ll be interesting to see how my eating habits change once I get back to America. I expect that if these three experiments of mine aren’t replicated exactly, their effects will linger. I’ll still eat out as much as possible. I’ll probably still eat one meal a day that is much larger than the others. And I will eat far less meat than I did before. I’d say all three experiments have been successful.