On Being Vegetarian...
My daughter has always been one of those quick-to-get it kids. She figured out at a pretty young age (five years old) that chicken nuggets aren't some fantasy labeled food, but is actually the meat of a real, used-to-be-live chicken, a fact that made her feel pretty bad. She would tell me that she didn't want to eat an animal and she would say things like "Do you think his mommy misses him?" or "Why did this animal have to die?" She is a very compassionate child, with a very big heart for all living creatures-whether they are animals, insects, humans or toys (because in her eyes, they are real, too!) I could see how much it bothered her, so one evening I explained to her what being a vegetarian was. I told her that we could be vegetarians but also said "That doesn't mean you get to eat mac and cheese or peanut butter jelly sandwiches every single day, it means you have to eat vegetables and be willing to try new things." I told her that if she wanted to be vegetarian, I would happily support her decision and do it with her. She is now ten years old and we keep finding ways to support the lives of our furry, scaled and feathered friends every day!
There are several obstacles about being vegetarian, even more if you're vegan. We are working towards a vegan diet, but are currently selectively dairy-free vegetarian. (We don't eat dairy products if it has Vitamin A Palmitate, or doesn't specify rennetless or plant based enzymes.) We don't like to eat a lot of substitute foods (like tofu, plant based "meat" or soy based products like "cheese" or veggie dogs.) One of the most common questions I get is "But what do you eat??" Well, we eat everything but meat, or things made from animal by-products. I have a Pinterest board with lots of recipes that are either vegetarian, vegan or adaptable as such. Eating at a restaurant is often challenging, especially here in the south. There's just not a lot of choices. Most of the time, we are offered side dishes or we're told we can "just take the meat off" when we are ordering our food. My daughter doesn't like lettuce at all, and since we don't eat cheese, the traditional kid-fair of grilled cheese, quesadillas or macaroni and cheese choices are not an option. We now have a select few restaurants where we can get a good meal. For the most part, though, we cook at home. My daughter cooks with me and she loves it. She has learned to try everything and give it a second chance, if she didn't like something the first time. Steamed asparagus wasn't her favorite but she loves it sauteed in coconut oil and sprinkled with lemon. She used to turn her nose up at cauliflower or broccoli, but now she gobbles them both with no complaints! In fact, she orders broccoli instead of fries-unless they have brussel sprouts on the menu! That kid loves brussel sprouts!
Recently, I've had a lot of people ask me how to get started, or ask for book recommendations so they can incorporate a meat free meal into their repertoire. I have several books that I love, but today I am going to leave you with a link for the one that got us going. It is my very favorite vegetarian cookbook because it is sorta like cooking school. You can cook your way through this book and, at the same time, learn new techniques, names of veggies you've probably never heard of, different types of cuisines, how to adapt a recipe, how to make vegan substitutions and even things like what goes into cheese-making or how to make your own tofu. This book is seriously good stuff.
I'm hoping to feature my favorite recipe next week sometime (it's the one on the cover) but I have to get to the farmer's market for some heirloom tomatoes first!
I really need to do a more in depth post about our animal-friendly lifestyle. I'll try to do it when I have more time, but until then, here is a short-and-sweet informative link that may surprise you. In today's world, where there's a lot of smoke and mirrors, it's good to be informed. Take a moment to really find out what you are eating and how you can improve. Make simple switches-like, buy a few apples instead of a candy bar or box of donuts. Not only are you making a smarter decision for your health, you are also supporting the farmers of the world! Without farmers, we have no food!