A meat-eater’s view of Mindful Eating

By David Riviera

I am a meat eater. My uncles and cousins raised hogs for as long as I can remember. My parents bought their meat from local butchers with livestock direct from the farms. Meat and potato meals were the staple of our diet. I know and understand the climate impacts of producing meat, but it is a tradition tied to generations of my family’s livelihood.

I’m no stranger to plant-based meals. Vegetarian and vegan options are often available at many large conferences and events, and these menu choices can be found on a wide variety of local restaurant menus. I think these plant-based dishes are delicious, appealing, and inviting. As a person who eats meat, it’s unlikely I will convert to a completely plant-based diet, but the experience of exploring alternate meal styles makes all food more interesting and delicious.

Poutine at Fig + Farro

Do It Green! Minnesota teamed up with Fig + Farro, a plant-based restaurant in Minneapolis, to present a workshop on Mindful Eating for its December Green Coffee Talk. The workshop was presented by Fig + Farro’s Climate Series Salon + Supper Club with hosts Christian and Michelle.

Mindful eating is the exploration of food and eating from a sensory perspective. Food’s texture, appearance, and taste as it passes over the taste buds can be heightened with careful intent and patience during the meal. Look at, smell, and feel the food on your lips before you take a bite, then chew slowly and discover the texture on your tongue.

Our dining experience at Fig + Farro began with this meditation step with slices of oranges and strawberries. Participants were free to share their ideas, thoughts, and experiences with the group. This community conversation was a welcoming environment that allowed us to enjoy our meals even further.

Jambalaya at Fig + Farro

I ordered poutine as an appetizer and jambalaya with plant-based sausage for my entrée. Having had a discussion about the characteristics our food can possess, these dishes took on a new level of enjoyment. I particularly enjoyed the mushrooms in the poutine gravy, and the flavorful plant-based cheddar cheese.

I also tried a Beyond Burger. This is a plant-based meat substitute with a texture very similar to beef. This patty was very delicious, and stirred the nostalgia of grilled burgers at summer cookouts. I often question the motives of plant-based meat substitutes that try to simulate meat, and realized this may be in part for people like me, the meat eater, that cannot give up a traditional and familial history of meat in their diet.

This was not my first time to Fig + Farro. I had previously visited and discovered I have a strong liking for jackfruit. This plant has a great texture that’s meaty with a unique flavor. I enjoyed their jackfruit tacos this past summer.

I recognize the climate impacts of producing meats like beef where the methane from cattle can be 26 times more damaging to the atmosphere as a green house gas than CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels. I acknowledge the carbon footprint of transporting, processing, and refrigerating meat for the supply chain of our grocery distribution systems. I see the benefits of plant-based diets, and the mindful practices of shopping local, taking steps to reduce waste, and being cognizant of your food choices and the impact they have on the planet.

It’s never too early to introduce youth to the benefits of plant-based diets and mindful eating. Young people who are aware of their community and the unity it takes to work towards reducing carbon can become leaders for their generation and the next. Small steps can change society, and I believe becoming more aware of our earth, our environment, and the food choices we make can improve the planet, and each of us individually.

You can review the notes from this recent Green Coffee Talk to find more ideas, information, and references about Mindful Eating.

David Riviera is the Web Manager for Do It Green! Minnesota. He holds a Master of Education in Youth Development Leadership from the University of Minnesota, and is a trained Climate Reality Leader.

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