Grog and Vittles

Food and Spirits by an Vegetarian in Atlanta

Friday, February 02, 2007

Blog about Veggie Tarian Ism

(This post originally appeared in Get Rich Slowly's article on Vegetarianism as a cheap way to eat)

I've been an ovo-lacto vegetarian since 2000.

The tricks to becoming a vegetarian are not complex. Some *are* hard though.

When I became a vegetarian, I was living in a fraternity house at college. I didn't have much money, and there was a lot of pressure and teasing about doing this "unmanly" thing. The small amount of pressure you will get from your parents and friends will not be anything as bad as many of us went through.

Eating out vegetarian:
1. Learn to order ridiculous sounding things "I'll have the chicken pad thai without the chicken or shrimp"

2. Don't complain when you occasionally need to order a pile of a la carte items to eat at a restaurant with your friends. On average, you'll make up for those times with all the times there are normal plates for you

3. Create a short explanation of what you're doing and why. Say it 42 times one evening (to yourself or partner). Now when someone asks, you won't have any emotional reaction at all, and therefore won't dread eating with them.

4. Expect many people to think you're a PETA member. Find one thing to object to about them, and one thing to commend what they've they've done.

5. Learn the difference between vegan and vegetarian. You will have to explain it *many* times.

Eating with your vegetarian family
1. Buy at least 2 good cook books. I'll list a few at the end of this list that deal well with this.

2. Learn how to pick out a veggie/fruit that is ripe (I use the book listed at the end). Unripe veggies taste nasty to everyone. And no, tomatoes you buy at the supermarket aren't ripe. All of those are unripe, just like the green ones. They've just been turned red with a dose of ethylene gas

3. Learn to cook more complex dishes. Meat is a complex thing. It has a lot of flavors that stand out. Veggies aren't very complex things on their own. You need to learn about 6 spices and 4 herbs to really be able to keep your food from being overly bland. I suggest cumin, tumeric, ground red pepper, coriander, mustard seed and black pepper for the spices. For the herbs, learn cilantro, flat leaf parsely, oregeno (dried and fresh) and thyme( dried and fresh).

4. *SLOWLY* change your fat intake. Many people will drop to 1/9th or 1/10 their fat intake when they "go veg" or "go vegan". This does *not* make them feel good, and also can cause their skin to dry out. We cook in butter all the time (while saturated fat, the buteric acid makes it act more like unsaturated fat in the body). Vegetarians still fry things. My favorite foods are eggplant parmesan (which is fried) and friend zucchini. You will have a much lower *saturated* fat intake when you're a vegetarian, and you will have a lower overall fat intake (which is only important from a caloric standpoint).

5. Learn to make filling foods. You will eat less protein as a veg. This is not a bad thing from a nutritional standpoint, you need very little protein when not trying to add muscle mass. However, the lack of protein can make some omnivores and new vegetarians overeat (if you're making stuff that tastes good). I cook dinner for 6-18 friends of mine every Sunday night, and we quite often see them overeating (and borrowing some Rolaids afterwards) when we don't observe this rule. Learn how to cook things like barley, lentils, steel cut oats and really try to think of "fiber" as a food group.

Eating when visiting friends:
1. This is the hardest part about being a vegetarian. If its a dinner party, let your host know, offer to bring a dish or two.

2. If its an event like a wedding, eat beforehand, and pick around (your eating habits shouldn't be worth bringing up to your hosts, who honestly have more than enough to worry about). Keep a pack of nuts in your pocket if you can't eat beforehand, and sneak some to fill you up. If someone provides vegetarian meals, thank them profusely.

3. Some times you have to chose between what you eat and offending people some. You can lie and say you already ate at a catered work thing, etc, but sometimes, you gotta pick your battle. Its not easy, but this just happens sometimes.


Good Cookbooks:
Three Bowl Cookbook - has whole meals planned out for you (honestly a hard part of vegetarianism)

Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant
- Dishes from all over the world (has some fish recipes, but plenty that aren't fish related).

Good veggie picking guide:
Field Guide to Produce

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