Have you ever discovered something about yourself that everybody else already knew?
It took qualifying for the Boston Marathon for me to realize I was a runner. And yesterday I had another Earth-shattering revelation—I’m a vegetarian.
I was making Korean Cabbage Salad with Tofu (recipe below) from Robin Robertson’s Vegan on the Cheap. The recipe calls for Asian chili paste, which I had to buy since I’ve never used it before. When it came time to add it, I took a little taste to gauge the heat, to avoid inadvertently killing my wife.
It tasted like fish. Smelly, fishy, fish.
I took a look at the label and read that it contained shrimp. For the tiniest fraction of a second, the old me, the still-eating-fish-every-once-in-a-while-and-certainly-not-giving-a-damn-about-shrimp me, thought, “Just go ahead and use it. You bought it, you’re stuck with it. Nobody will even notice.”
But immediately I knew that I couldn’t do it. That there was no chance I’d do it. Exactly like when some tiny part of you really doesn’t feel like running or going to the gym, but there’s no question that you’re going to do it.
Because it’s part of you; that’s who you are. And a vegetarian is who I am now.
What’s funny is that I never expected to get here. When I started this new diet, I still ate fish, because I thought it was healthy (I still think it is). But not eating certain animals taught me some compassion, and I came to like the idea of being a person who chooses not to eat any animals at all.
But even once I stopped eating fish, “vegetarian” wasn’t who I was. “I” was a person who would still eat crabs once a year at the beach because that tradition was more a part of me than being vegetarian was. And the fact that beers like Guinness were made with fish bladders wasn’t something that would stop me from drinking them.
“I’m vegetarian,” I said, “but I’m not going to be a Nazi about it.”
But yesterday I realized that “vegetarian” is who I am now (and I guess the old me would call the new one a Nazi).
I never made the conscious decision to stop drinking Guinness or to skip the crabs at the beach. But I didn’t need to. Those things just don’t sound appealing to me anymore.
And neither does using chili paste with a tiny amount of shrimp in it. I tossed it in the garbage and used some black bean garlic paste that I happened to have instead.
I encourage you to take a step back today and discover something about yourself that everyone else already knows. (I can only imagine how many of you are runners that won’t admit it, for example.)
Korean Cabbage Salad with Tofu
Here’s the recipe I mentioned. Like many of the meals from Vegan on the Cheap, it’s good but not knock-your-socks-off. Easy to make, healthy, cheap, and pretty good. This one comes in at under $1.50 per serving, and since we’ve cooked mostly from this book this week, groceries for four people ran us only 125 bucks for the whole week.
I’d recommend serving it with some rice, or maybe even Asian rice and beans. It’s got some good protein from the tofu, and lots of raw vegetables, but it’s hard to think of this salad as a meal on its own.
From Vegan on the Cheap, by Robin Robertson, Wiley, 2010
Makes 4 servings
- 1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained and patted dry
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 5 cups shredded cabbage
- 2 medium carrots, shredded
- 3 green onions, minced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Asian chili paste
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons water
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and set aside.
2. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch slabs and press well to remove any excess water. Cut the slabs into 1/2-inch cubes and toss with 1/4 cup of the soy sauce. Arrange the tofu on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
3. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, and green onions. Set aside.
4. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, chili paste, remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, vinegar, oil, and water.
5. Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Let the salad sit for 15 to 20 minutes to allow flavors to develop. Serve topped with tofu.
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