Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I'm still relatively new to observing the seasons of the church year, since I grew up in the very non-liturgical Southern Baptist Convention. We celebrated Christmas and Easter and had special offerings to support denominational mission work in the weeks running up to the holidays, but we never talked about Advent or Lent, much less Epiphany, Pentecost, and so on. So I never even thought of giving up anything for Lent until I found myself married to a former Catholic and attending an unusually liturgical Presbyterian church.
Most years I've picked tiny things to give up. I've given up buying books, which is no real hardship when your to-be-read pile is as big as mine and you're still going to the library every week. I've attempted to give up swearing, which lasts until someone cuts me off in traffic. But this year my husband had the idea of giving up meat. Which is serious. I'm from Alabama. He's from Oklahoma. We're cradle carnivores.
After brief reflection, I decided to go for it. It's difficult enough to feel like a real spiritual discipline in keeping with the season, and it's also a chance to cook and eat more mindfully after getting into a rut. And I decided to blog about it here, partly because it's such a slow reading year so far that I'm running low on things to talk about!
We're not going to be 100% vegetarian. We're taking Fridays off. (Sunday is the traditional day to break a Lenten fast, but my husband liked the idea of doing it kinda backwards, and I wanted our Sunday cooking to match what we're eating the rest of the week, since the weekend is a good time to make a big batch of slow-cooked food to have leftovers to take for lunch.) And, because my husband is using the Catholic definition of "no meat," we're allowing fish. But I've never been a big fish eater (horrible of me, living in Seattle, I know), so I'll attempt to eat it when he cooks it, but I won't cook it myself or seek it out in the cafeteria at work.
So. Anyway. Today was my first vegetarian day. I was home from work for the second day in a row with a sore throat, fatigue, and fever, so I went for comfort food that required little preparation. I skipped breakfast, not intentionally but because by the time I woke up for good it was almost noon. We had some Easy Mac around the house from our last Costco run, so I had it for lunch and enjoyed the soothing blandness.
By dinnertime I was feeling better, so I made pasta--just a pound of penne with a quick homemade sauce: I sauteed a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic and some red pepper flakes in olive oil, then added a can each of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, plus most of a package of fresh basil. That plus spinach salad from a bag made dinner. Simple and pretty tasty.
So far I haven't diverged much from how I normally cook and eat. I make that exact sauce all the time, only I usually toss in some pancetta or prosciutto with the garlic and pepper flakes. But I've been digging through my cookbooks, and I plan to start experimenting soon--I can't live on Easy Mac and pasta for 40 days!