One of the common things people say to me, when we’re talking about being vegetarian, goes like this:
“I think I could probably be vegetarian, but the problem is that my wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/kid eats meat like a fiend, so it would never work.”
If this is you, I implore you just to try it. If you have a desire to cut out the meat, even if not completely, then you’re doing yourself (and the animals you’re eating) a disservice by taking the easy way out and blaming your chuck-chomping on someone else. And you have a terrific opportunity to be an example for your meat-loving loved ones. You don’t need to poke fun at them and call them savages; simply by being a vegetarian at their dinner table, you’re changing their image of vegetarians from one of pasty, tree-hugging weirdos to one of normal people who eat consciously.
Logistically, though, it’s hard. If you’re the cook, it’s kind of a dick move to just all-of-the-sudden stop making meat for your loved one. If they’re the cook, good luck getting them to make meatless meals.
Enter the flexitarian approach. It’s a term that’s caught on over the past few years, helped largely by the books The Flexitarian Diet and The Flexitarian Table that you’ve surely seen in Barnes and Noble if you go there half as often as I do. Though it can refer to a diet that’s mostly—but not completely—vegetarian, I think the term is most useful in reference to meals that can be “flexed” — made in both meatless and meaty versions, in order to satisfy vegetarians and meat-lovers at the same table, without the need for separate menus and/or family civil war.
In case you’re not into buying books just because a stupid blogger tells you to, there’s a perfect way to try flexitarian cooking for cheap, offered in the most recent (Feb/Mar 2010) issue of Fine Cooking. It’s an article called “Flex Your Meals,” and it presents six meals that can easily be flexed to satisfy the whole family: vegetable red thai curry (+chicken); cannelini bean and kale soup (+Italian sauage); spicy red lentil dal with winter vegetables (+lamb); penne alla puttanesca (+shrimp); fennel, pepper, and saffron stew with garlic toast (+halibut and mussels); broccoli and shiitake stir-fry with black bean garlic sauce (+skirt steak).
Since Erin and I are full-blown veggies now, we were just happy to have some vegetarian recipes in a Fine Cooking issue. It has always been one of our favorite cooking magazines, but with only a few vegetarian meals in most issues, recently its arrival to our mailbox hasn’t been the cause for celebration it once was.
But we were so excited about this one that we made a day of it; we had the penne puttanesca for lunch and the red lentil dal for dinner. And we were happy with both: the pasta had a bright, fresh flavor, and the Indian dish was a nice, spicy lentil stew that even the meat-eating fam enjoyed. (We invited them over and said they could supply their own lamb. They didn’t.) Not quite like going out to Sizzling Bombay, but close. And it’s not really much to look at, sorry.
Fun fact: puttanesca literally means “of the whores, whorish, or whore-esque.” I guess it’s because the traditional ingredients in pasta puttanesca (olives, capers, tomatoes, etc.) were readily available on the street and inexpensive, making the dish suitable for those practicing the world’s oldest profession when they had worked up an appetite for a flexitarian snack. Sexitarian flexitarians? Told you it was a fun fact.
Nine miles in the dark
I’m meeting my group for a nine-mile run in the woods tonight, starting at 6 pm, so my headlamp will be out in full force. I ran three miles yesterday with my dogs, my first run since the 50K last Saturday. And somewhat surprisingly, everything felt great. No soreness, no injuries, even the blister I got from my new shoes didn’t hurt me. As much a toll I felt like it took on me while I was running, I’m ecstatic to be feeling so good already. I have a month and a half to train for my next one, and I’m looking for some big improvements. Assuming I don’t get eaten by a bear tonight, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.