My New Year’s Resolution is straightforward: In 2008, I’m going to eat less meat. I’m not ready yet to go totally vegetarian, but I’ve set the realistic goal of eating meat only on the weekends or when eating dinner out at a restaurant (which I do rarely enough to make it a valid exception).
There are various reasons for doing so, which range from environmentally conscious to extremely vain — not to mention the fact that what I eat is one of the few daily routines that I haven’t yet addressed in my Going Green quest.
The vain reason is that eating less meat will likely translate into eating more healthy foods ( i.e. , vegetables), which in turn will do good things for my body, skin, and hair. The eco-conscious reasons are slightly less palatable. First, there’s everything I’ve read and learned about concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and factory farming, about the alteration of cows’ stomachs to force them to eat corn (unnatural, but abundant) instead of grass (what their bodies were made to eat), and about shoving thousands of chickens into coops where they get fat without ever seeing the light of day. (Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation , Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma , and myriad online sources all do a better job of detailing those transgressions than I could do in this small space.) Then I considered that vegetarians’ diets produce substantially less greenhouse gases than carnivores’ do, according to several studies, including one conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
I figured that if I can learn to bring a coffee cup to work in the interest of reducing waste, I can teach myself to eat less meat in the interest of reducing deforestation, water pollution, and methane emissions.
My going flexitarian (eating mostly vegetarian meals, but not ruling out meat entirely) dovetails nicely with some other personal goals — to bring my lunch more often (thus eliminating take-out food packaging), to save money, to eat seasonally (no more munching on tasteless tomatoes in January), and, as always, to unobtrusively proselytize to my friends and loved ones. But to do all this, I need to cook more than salads at every meal. My endeavor calls for creative recipes, especially if I’m to overcome the challenge of sharing a kitchen with someone who considers Skittles a fruit and Reese’s Pieces a “health food.”
I found inspiration in a few cookbooks, some written by local authors (and available at the Portland library), others by celebrity chefs. There are so many food tomes out there today that my selections were by no means comprehensive — merely arbitrary choices that happened to have appealing ideas. Here are some of my favorites so far:
• Creamy Root Vegetable Soup from Peter Berley’s The Flexitarian Table (Houghton Mifflin, 2007) — This book is a treasure trove of seasonal meals that have both vegetarian and carnivorous components. Berley pairs his root vegetable soup, for example, with this recipe: Sauerkraut with Fried Tempeh/Smoked Whitefish, Green Apples, and Onions. The Red Onion-Shallot Compote, too, is as delicious on Chickpea Cutlets (see below) as it is on grilled chicken.
• Winter Squash and Sage Ravioli from Stonewall Kitchen Harvest: Celebrating the Bounty of the Seasons , by Jim Stott, Jonathan King, and Kathy Gunst (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2004) — Many of these seasonal recipes, compiled by three Mainers, are for meat lovers, but there are several vegetarian options that make great dinners (with leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch). One of these is the ravioli, which uses pre-made egg-roll wrappers rather than homemade pasta — a welcome and realistic substitution.
• Chickpea Cutlets, from Veganomicon , by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (Marlowe & Company, 2007) — Who doesn’t have cans of garbanzo beans taking up space in their cabinets? This recipe, from “America’s best-selling vegan chefs,” combines a few simple ingredients to make a hearty entrée, well-paired with any of the book’s appetizing side dishes.
This is going to be a two-part column, and by that I mean that you can expect to read more about my flexitarian mission in next month’s Going Green installment. In the meantime, check out www.thephoenix.com/AboutTown to see additional recipes and comments.
Deirdre Fulton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.