To recap, I was raised in a large Italian family and my Italian immigrant grandmother did most of the cooking. That meant that we eat mostly peasant food and meat was pretty much a rarity in our house. We'd maybe get a leg of lamb on Easter, and Sunday dinner always meant "meat sauce," but at least two or three meals a week didn't have meat, eggs or fish in them. Even when meat was served, it was more of a side-dish.
My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a wealthy Jewish family that was pretty Americanized. Meat was on the menu every night, and was usually the central focus of the meal.
As an example, this weekend my family spent the weekend at my in-laws beach-front home. In one meal, my mother-in-law served a) grilled loin of pork, 2) grilled rack of lamb and 3) a bread stuffed with sausage and pepperoni. The only reason there were any vegetables on the table was that I went to a local produce stand and bought the ingredients for a tomato salad and some local corn which we grilled.
Despite 20 years of trying to wean my husband off the meat, he still gives me a hard time any time a meal doesn't have meat in it. We're talking about a dude who eats meat at every meal he eats out. I'm talking breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I bring this up because Mark Bittman has written a pretty thoughtful piece on Meatless Mondays. In it, he points out that not only can humans get protein from vegetable sources, but that those who are not so "meat dependent" tend to be healthier.
T. Colin Campbell, author of “The China Study” (a long-term study linking animal-based diets to chronic disease), insists that our protein quota can be met very nicely by a whole food, plant-based diet, and that it’s when we exceed the recommended amount (usually by eating a disproportionate amount of animal-based foods) that we can begin to see adverse effects, like increased risk of heart and kidney diseases, cancer and osteoporosis. Campbell suggests that in the past century we’ve had such a reverence for protein that we’ve mindlessly focused on the idea that we need as much as we can get. Consequently, we consume too much, at least twice as much as we need, and most of that from animal products.Bittman also goes into a little Diet for a Small Planet spin and points out how our meat addiction is bad for the planet as well. (BTW, I read DFASP in college and it still has relevance today.)
After years of cooking to try to make my husband happy (and putting on a lot of weight in the process) I now try to go meatless 2 to three days a week. My husband isn't all that happy (although his doctor is), but I'm trying to do good for us and for the planet.