The Vegetarian Dilemma

by Ouida on May 27, 2010


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I am a bit late writing this post because, well, because I was watching Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance video on youtube. I didn’t even know what a Lady Gaga was until Glee.  I have discovered I am a Gleek.  See, I was in chorus in school when I was a kid and I loved it.  I loved the holiday shows and the competition.  We even won regionals.  But no cool costumes….uh-uh.  I guess back then Elton John was today’s Lady Gaga.  At any rate, wrapped up in my youthful reverie I got to working on this post late.

When I was in medical school I had a friend, Abigail, she showed me the city of New York, on foot.  Said it was the only way to see the city and I think Abs was right. We’d walk from the West Village to 92nd street.  I did that trek probably twice a month and traversing the city east to west was no big deal.  Abs and I went on a great many errands together in support of her vegetarianism.  We went someplace on the West side to get Miso, for its B12; we were always going somewhere to get something.  I ate raw broccoli for the first time at a Farmer’s Market that Abs took me to and thought it was awesome, but of course I then had to get a slab of cheese to eat it with.  My favorite sandwich in school was a rye, raw broccoli and swiss sandwich.  Pretty good eats when you are a student on a budget.  Abs was thin and healthy looking and I was chubbing up by the day despite all the walking, because I also had a weakness for the abundant New York city food carts.  So becoming a vegetarian would have appealed to me except that it seemed so hard.

The summer before I got to medical school I landed a teaching position at a summer school.  The school cafeteria leaned toward vegetarian cooking.  I ate walnut burgers, tabbouleh, salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, chicken, some lean meat and, I a have to admit, an occasional kielbasa.  I decided I could be a vegetarian if I could just get someone to cook for me, because otherwise vegetarian cuisine seemed to consist mainly of tofu and the green salad.  My experience with Abs, as wonderful and educational as it was for me did nothing to change my mind.

Concerned that the Southern diet might be putting Black folks in the ground early, the National Institutes of Health got together with several Black chefs in the early 1990s and reworked some favorite Southern recipes. My mother sent me a copy of the resultant cook book.  The recipes were horrible.  No, red pepper is not an adequate substitute for ham hocks in greens!  These folks reworked favorite recipes and made them unpalatable.  I still have the cookbook as a reminder that some things are best left alone.  I just assumed I would be an inveterate meat eater stopping at every street cart I could find.

In 2003 I went to Gobo in New York.  OMG! outstanding vegetarian cooking prepared by kids!  I decided that enjoying vegetarian cooking was as much about texture as flavor.  Some of the food was so well textured that I thought I was eating meat.  Alas, Gobo doesn’t publish a cook book so I was left to enjoy a one-time eating experience thinking that I would never be able to incorporate more vegetarian dishes that I enjoy into my life.  Then a friend of mine, Artemis, had a business conference in her home in 2006.  Artemis is a former Body for Life Grand Champion and she had a friend cater the conference.  Her friend provided salads with barley, potatoes, beans, nuts, wheat berries, quinoa, apples, pears.  There was meat for those who felt they had to have it,  but those vegetarian dishes contained such nutrition, texture and flavor that I felt I wasn’t missing anything by passing up a serving of meat.

That’s the vegetarian dilemma, that good vegetarian cooking is so inaccessible that much of what passes for vegetarian cuisine leaves a person feeling that they are missing something and just have to add a juicy slab of meat to get a complete meal.

While we were in Peru, I learned about quinoa, nature’s complete protein, the food of the Incas.  Quinoa contains all 8 essential amino acids, calcium, Iron, vitamins B and E.  Quinoa can be substituted for rice and easily incorporated into a daily cooking regimen.  When I got home from Artemis’ I resolved to do better and found the whole grains council website.  This is a great educational website and contains easy-to-duplicate, delicious recipes that can be incorporated in to everyday eating.

Today I visited the Huffington Post.  I don’t know why.  During the last presidential election, I lived on that site practically visiting it several times a day.  I haven’t been on the site in months, but decided to go today.  There, on the front page, was “Meatless Monday & the Protein Principle”. As you might guess the article talked about the amounts of protein we consume.  Nearly twice the amount that we need daily to keep us alive.  Most of that protein is consumed as animal protein with all of the attendant fat that goes with it.  The great thing is that the article came with quick, easy and tasty-appearing recipes.  I am going to try the spiced potatoes with lentils and barley recipe in the article this weekend and report back to you.

Have you gotten stuck on the Vegetarian Dilemma?

What are you doing to increase the percentage of lean foods in your diet?

Please comment.

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The Vegetarian Dilemma (revisited)
June 2, 2010 at 10:02 pm

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