Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box

Well, I'm back from my trip to Boston. I will be posting on various places I sampled for my article on being vegan while visiting the Back Bay later on, but for today, I just want to muse about that old phrase "thinking outside the box." Whenever I go home, it is inevitable someone asks me when they learn I'm vegan, "what do you EAT?" It seems beyond comprehension to so many that a meal can be had without an animal involved. "You don't eat fish?" "No eggs?" My God, you can almost hear them think, how do you SURVIVE? (You can also hear them thinking, what a pain in the ass, but that is an issue for another day.)

Here is where the thinking outside the box comes in. You HAVE to do this when you go vegetarian and/or vegan because, face it, if you have been omnivore most of your life, chances are you were raised in believing a meal had to have (1)meat (2)potato and (3)vegetable, the one element that most kids seem to think equates to torture. Going vegetarian isn't simply removing the meat and just having a dinner composed of side dishes (though there is nothing wrong with that, especially if you come up with memorable, savory ways to prepare them.) It means thinking PROTEIN instead of meat. Beans and tofu, and even grains like quinoa, contain oodles of protein. It is so simple to prepare meals around them. With the right seasonings and ingredients, as the hundreds of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks out there suggest, you can whip up some pretty yummy meals. I make a curried potato stew that is very hearty and filling in the colder months. Or one of my uber favorite dishes-- broccoli rabe with grape tomatoes and cannellini beans and TONS of garlic and red pepper flakes. Yummy! I just had that dish on St. Patrick's Day (thank you, Mom, for making it). The eating of the green! Who says it just has to be cabbage?

Here's the bottom line. We need to correct the thinking of people who believe going veg means opening three cans of vegetables and baking a potato to make a meal. Cook a meal for those around you who are cynical. Crack those cookbooks and come up with the tastiest dishes you can. Remember, eating vegan or vegetarian is not just about the veggies. It is about celebrating ALL life at the dinner table and there are thousands upon thousands of recipes that can enhance the celebration. Bon appetit!

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