50. The Lenten Experiment: analysis

Years ago I started keeping a list of every book I read, because when people ask me what I've been reading, I can never remember. Now I can at least say, "I'll get back to you."

When people ask me what we eat, I draw a similar blank. "Uh... let me look in the refrigerator and see if I can find any clues..." But now, thanks to the Lenten Experiment, I know what we've been eating recently.

I just went through nearly 50 Lenten posts and listed the meals I'd recorded. Subtracting meals out and our week off, I ended up with 31 meals to consider.

Here's what I found out.

About 2/3 of our meals were vegetarian (not vegan). The other 1/3 included small amounts of fish (salmon, tilapia, fish sticks), turkey sausage (in soup or stew), or--once--chicken. We followed St. Benedict's advice to eat no quadrupeds.

We ate a lot of Italian-inspired meals: risotto (twice), gnocchi (twice), whole wheat pizza, whole wheat spaghetti (twice with ratatouille, twice with vegetarian meatballs), lasagna (twice), and beer-flavored pasta & cheese that no self-respecting Italian would get near even though the pasta were gemelli.

We had cheese tamales once and variations on the tostada four times (once with beans, once with potatoes, twice with fish). Once we had omelets, with ratatouille.

Despite our daughter's claim that we eat nothing but lentil soup, we had lentil soup only once--but we did have black bean stew three times.

I baked lots of bread.

We ate lots of vegetables and fruit: artichokes, arugula, asparagus, avocado, beans (black, green, and white), beets, berries (blackberries at least seven times!), brussels sprouts, cabbage, garlic, lettuce, onions, oranges, peas, peppers, ratatouille (eggplant, zucchini, onion, tomatoes), spinach, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.

And all that good food was only for main meals: we had more fruit with breakfast and lunch, and yogurt and flax seed and cereal and bread and peanut butter ...

It would have been difficult to eat meat or to buy fresh (instead of frozen) fish and maintain the thrifty budget. There was little room in the budget for junk food: most desserts were fruit, and snacks were usually peanuts or cashews.

I knew that a thrifty diet would be likely to increase carbs and decrease protein--not necessary a bad thing in a country where most people eat more protein than they need. I used whole grains whenever possible. Most of the bread I baked was whole wheat, sometimes mixed with oat flour and corn meal. Most of the pastas I used were whole wheat. The arborio rice for the risotto was white, as was the flour in the quiche crusts. I imagine masa harina--the tortilla ingredient--is also processed.

Fish. Cheese. Yogurt. Nuts. Beans. Vegetables. Fruit. Whole grains. If we keep this up, we can save enough money to go live in Azerbaijan, where people live to be 120. Though apparently their longevity requires more than a spartan but healthy diet--it also requires years of back-breaking labor. Not sure I'm ready for that.

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