Feelin’ flexy

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.”

[penne puttanesca photo]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.

[lentil dal photo]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.



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  1. Thanks for recommending Fine Cooking! I’ve been fortunate that The Huz has been very patient with my dabbling in a veggie-based diet and it’s nice to be able to make a dish and surprise him with the meat he might be craving while not having to make a separate dish for each of us.

    Good luck on the 9-miler tonight and stay away from the wildlife!
    .-= katherine´s last blog ..So Much To Celebrate =-.

  2. Yes yes! My husband is a big meat eater and I usually cook us up two different versions of the same dish (although some nights I cook up two different dinners). Its actually not that much more extra effort. Running in the dark sounds oddly fun to me. Hope your week is treating you well!
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Ups, Downs, Spicy Acorn Squash & Baked Shrimp =-.

  3. Sexitarian flexitarians haha. I liked this post! What I usually do with my family is I’ll offer to cook a vegan dinner and if they want meat (which they normally do), that’s what they’re in charge of. Team-work dinners 😎
    .-= Danielle (Coffee Run)´s last blog ..Squash Stalking =-.

  4. A couple if suggestions that we have found that works.

    1.) Make a batch of meatballs and keep them in the freezer. Every time I want boring pasta again, she can put some meat balls in hers.

    2.) Lazagna can easily be made as a half and half. Put veggies on one half and meat on the other. That way youre only making one dish, but everyone is happy.

    It was a big adjustment when I altered my diet at the beginning, but its very easy now. I still eat some meat on occassion, but for the most part if she wants meat, she cooks it and i’ll cook something for myself. I then cook most of the meals the way I want and she is happy to eat it.

  5. As chief cook and bottle washer for my family of six, I can say it’s not that hard to eat vegetarian and cook for meat eaters also. There are lots of things that you can easily cook two versions of without much extra effort. Although I would love it if my hubby would go veg, I agree that it would be lousy of me to just stop cooking what he eats.
    Thanks for the magazine rec, I’ll have to check that out 🙂
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Label Reading 101 =-.

  6. I recently became a vegetarian a couple months ago. My boyfriend and his family are BIG meat eaters (they are Russian) and his mom has totally started doing the “flexitarian” approach when we come visit. She prepares pretty elaborate meals and there are so many ingredients that meat can almost always been subbed for something else. Also my boyfriend was totally one of those “I could never give up meat” people and I have to say he went from eating meat every day to eating it once or twice a week – and I don’t even think he realizes it!

  7. a suggestion: Meat Lite. lots of foodie websites are discussing this approach to a healthier diet, and it’s much easier to do on a daily basis.

    it also allows an individual to actually research the meat they buy, and maybe – hopefully – stop feeding into the whole meat business at most supermarkets. buying directly from the farmer is always a better deal, especially when dealing with freerange animals.
    .-= Laura M…ski´s last blog ..Blogging malaise? =-.

  8. I have the Flexitarian Table, and I LOVE it!! I just made the phylo dough lemon tofu and kale pie for dinner this past weekend, and my husband ACTUALLY ate it. It was a miracle. He hates tofu, but he actually at this so I was happy! He just left for 4 months, so it gives me some time to wean myself off meat without him complaining the background. Plus, I can perfect my vegetarian recipes while he is gone, so when he gets back I can surprise him with some good vegetarian food! Great post, and funny fact!!
    .-= Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete´s last blog ..Deployment and the Military Spouse =-.

  9. I was a vegetarian in college – more years ago than you are old, well almost, Matt. I loved it but also love other things. To compromise, I do one meal a week totally meatless. The kids manage.

    I am putting this issue of Fine Cooking on my list to pick up, along with the new issue of Clean Eating.
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..The Flour Baby Project =-.

  10. ThirstyApe says:

    I definitely agree that flexitarian is the way to go if someone is looking to add more plants to their diet. Dawn Jackson Blatner’s book The Flexitarian Diet has helped me to completely change my eating habits. She is very knowledgeable and is currently featured on both the USA Today website and Fitness Magazine website with several videos that give great, simple nutrition tips to incorporate into your lifestyle.

  11. ThirstyApe says:

    Woops, messed up my previous post. Here’s the link to Dawn Jackson Blatner’s videos on the Fitness Magazine website: http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/videos/healthy-how-to/healthy-grocery-shopping-guides.htm

  12. Thanks for posting this! I’ve been “trying” to go vegetarian for 2 years now and falling back on the “I cook for my meat eating husband” excuse. However… I’ve been meat free for a month and trying the flexitarian approach too cooking. It’s been surprisingly easy!

  13. I’ve been flexitarian for just over a year now and it’s wonderful. I’ve even converted my husband! Thanks for the links to more recipes!
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..The Return of Highlights from My Reader =-.

  14. Thanks for the suggestions. My husband is a big meat eater, and I have been trying hard to convert him, without much success. Fliexitarian…I think that could be a great option for us!

    Glad to hear that you are feeling great after your 50K.

  15. LOVE this! i think it is a GREAT concept for those who have to wade through a family with both veggies + non-veggies. and that pasta puttanesca fact made me laugh. out loud.
    .-= Holly (The Healthy Everythingtarian)´s last blog ..To Thy Lords + Ladies =-.

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