Today is World Vegetarian Day. Since I've been a vegetarian for the past 25 years I thought I would make mention of it. I won't go over all the moral reasons for becoming a vegetarian. I could show you all the cruelty photos and talk about that aspect, but it's like religion: If you aren't feeling it, no one is going to make you believe. It has to come from your own heart. I will only make a brief mention of the fact that with the world running out of space,it's 'food for thought' that according to the United Nations raising animals for food uses 30% of the Earth's land mass.It takes 13 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. Add to that the extra energy wasted transporting food to the animals and then transporting the animals to slaughter, and then the meat to processing plants and then on to stores. Cutting out the middle man and just processing the grains and vegetables in the first place makes more and more sense. There is also the health aspect. I think it's worth noting that I am a fat lady,(My metabolism was ruined years ago by pills I was given to level my progesterone.) and yet, pretty darn healthy. My Dad and my sister both had high cholesterol and high blood pressure by the time they were my age. All my levels are good. I had very slightly fatty liver last year from being overweight.But I lost 40 pounds so I am no longer ready to be pate'.
Ken agrees with vegetarianism morally, but he is, as he puts it, "a slave to his taste buds",and his favourite thing is Prime Rib. But when we talked about having kids he agreed that they would be raised as vegetarians, but would be given the choice when they were old enough to understand what eating 'meat' really means.I am proud to say that they are now 22, 18, and almost 14, and none of them have chosen to 'go over to the other side' yet! My Dad wasn't happy with the decision when Emma started to eat solid food. I also had to argue with our pediatrician when I had Emma. He told me he did not want her to be a vegetarian 'at this time'. I bluntly told him that whether he liked it or not, that's what was going to happen, so he might as well deal with it. He listed his concerns for the nutrition she would be missing, and when I had a substitute for everything, he finally said, "Well, you seem to know what you're doing." I was very careful with the kids' nutrition. I had the book 'Vegetarian Baby', and I made sure their diet was full of vegetables (My kids will mostly only eat them raw.), and whole grains, and plenty of protein, in the form of lentils and beans,tofu, and soy based artificial 'meats'. Happily, my kids have almost never been sick. They almost never get colds or flu. Not one of them has ever had an ear infection. (Breastfeeding is supposed to be a big help with that, so that may have been what protected them there.)I think Fuzz has thrown up 3 times in his whole life.They have been absent from school less days than most of the kids they go to school with.
I do still eat dairy and eggs. I have a particular weakness for chocolate milk!But I haven't knowingly had meat or anything made with meat fat or meat ingredients for 25 years. You'd be amazed at the things you never think about containing animal products until you have to check all your food! Gelatin, (Indian and Asian groceries carry vegetarian safe versions. Beware though, they take a little longer to thicken, and they don't get quite as firm as the regular version.)and marshmallows are something you don't realize how much you'll miss until you haven't had them for a while! Gelatin (in gelatin and marshmallows),is made from such things as horse hooves. Sound yummy?And watch that red colouring. You might be eating crushed beetles! (Carmine or cochineal colouring). We used to get some great marshmallows that were supposedly vegan, but, and the irony of this was not lost on me, THE FACTORY BURNED DOWN. Years later we found out they were cheating and using fish gelatin. (Ack!) The last couple of years we have found various vegan marshmallows that have had varying degrees of quality. The Sweet and Sara ones are great, but very expensive. Dandies were an alternative, but they weren't very 'puffy'. At first we thought it was because Emma carried them all through San Francisco under her arm! But we bought them again and they were the same way. They dried out and shrunk very quickly, even unopened. But they have obviously revised the recipe or something and now they are GREAT! Emma called me this summer. very excited, to tell me that Whole Foods now carries them and they were puffy and wonderful. She was absolutely right and I have been stuffing my face with them this summer.
I eat a lot of 'fake meats'. I found I didn't like the gluten based artificial meats.Here is a list of my favourites.
Morningstar Farms nuggets and patties
Quorn Tenders (chunks) and cutlets (The Gruyere cutlets are good too!)
Loma Linda Frichik (Great for 'fried chicken!)
Loma Linda Fried Chikn and Gravy (I use it in my holiday loaf and it makes great 'chicken' salad.)
Loma Linda Chik Stiks (They taste a lot like croquettes.)
Morningstar Farms Grillers Original (for 'Hamburgers', or tacos)
Morninstar Farms crumbles (for tacos or stroganoff)
Loma Linda Linkettes 'hot dogs'
Quorn crumbles (VERY close to hamburger in taste and texture.)
Morningstar Farms Corn Dogs and Mini Corn Dogs (Fuzz's favourite)
Wham frozen 'ham' substitute (LOVE it! Creamed chipped Wham or Wham and cheese sandwiches!
Morningstar Farms breakfast patties (They also do link 'sausage' and maple and hot spicy patties.)
Morningstar Farms 'bacon'
Ken always loved the Loma Linda 'scallops'.
The Morningstar Farms, Verisoy, and these particular Loma Linda products are soy based. The Quorn is what's called Micoprotein, and, don't gag, but it's a fungus. Remember, mushrooms are a fungus. Think of it that way. I can eat a whole cup of Quorn (Well, I can't, because it's too much!) and it's only 80 calories. The calories and fat content of soy 'meats' are way below the real thing. There is a slight amount of cholesterol because alot of them contain egg whites for binding.Also, there tends to be a lot of sodium, so don't eat too much of them in close succession.The products I mentioned are, to me, the closest in flavour to real meat. As you can see from my choices, I lean toward the chicken side of things. I think I always preferred chicken, turkey, and fish to beef anyway.I'm still waiting for someone to make fake 'tuna fish' that tastes good and doesn't smell like cat food! Morningstar Farms makes a lot of different burgers, but Grillers Original are the best 'burgers' they make, in my opinion. The burger crumbles are pretty much just as good though. I use either to make tacos. Other than not being as greasy, it's very like the real thing.
Verisoy 'chicken' is hard to find and only available in Asian groceries, but the 'drumsticks' are very like the real thing, (Only with a stick instead of a bone!), even down to the somewhat sticky texture of the 'skin' when it's fried. Emma and Fuzz love them. Ivy doesn't like much food at all, so don't go by her! She only eats Morningstar Farms 'chicken' nuggets. My only problem with the nuggets and patties is that they are all breaded. Sometimes you need unbreaded 'chicken' to cook with. That's why I was so excited by Quorn. The cutlets and tenders are unbreaded and can be thrown into recipes where you would use regular chicken. I throw them in Indian food,noodle things,all sorts of things.They're also good in a sandwich with mayonaise! A tip though, Quorn can be a bit dry, so always have a drink handy.
There are other non specific things that are also great, but not copying any particular type of meat, like the Morningstar Farms Pizza burgers.Emma highly recommends Gardein products.
Morningstar Farms and Quorn are available frozen in most grocery stores, at least around here.I can't get Linkettes 'hot dogs' around here any more. Emma shipped them to us when she was going to film school in San Francisco, but now that she's back here we will have to order them by the case. They are totally worth the trouble though. They are the closest to real hot dogs that I have found.
We used to be lucky enough to live very near the Worthington Foods factory, which makes Loma Linda and Morningstar Farms foods. We shopped at the factory outlet store until they were bought out by Kellogg's and the factory was moved to Michigan.Famously vegetarian Paul and Linda McCartney had food shipped to them in large quantity from the factory outlet too.
Our Trick or Treat night tradition is Crescent Dogs,(Linkettes, with or without cheese, in crescent rolls.), because they were something quick and filling when I was busy finishing last minute costume stuff before we ran out for Trick or Treat. On Christmas mornings Ken's mother always made them eat before opening presents, so she made them Sausage Rolls. These are sort of the English version of crescent dogs. So on Christmas mornings Ken would never let the kids come down until he made the 'fake sausage rolls', out of Loma Linda Big Franks.On Thanksgiving and Christmas I have always made 'Meatless Roast'. The recipe comes from a cook book by Linda McCartney, but was originally sent to me by a vegetarian friend, with her adjustments. I made adjustments of my own, and even my Dad had to have some every year!There also nut loaves,and all sorts of things to replace that turkey or ham at holidays.Just replacing one meal a week with a vegetarian meal will save you lots of calories and fats in the long run, not to mention the animal lives it will save
. Alot of people feel they couldn't survive without their meat because they love the taste. It takes a strong will to give anything up. I loved turkey. I ate tuna fish on a regular basis. French onion soup(made with beef broth)...mmmm. When I went vegetarian I thought I might cheat and have some fish if I ever went to England again, because the fish was so good. After I had been a vegetarian for a while the thought disgusted me. I went through stages where the smell of cooking meat made me sick, then I could ignore it. Now I just think it stinks. I am never tempted to eat meat. The thought that I would be eating the body or organ of an animal just seems barbaric to me now,and I was raised on a farm where I watched my mom wring the necks of the chickens we had for dinner. (Although somehow I'm not sure I connected the chickens she killed with the food on my plate.Seems amazing to me now, but I don't think I did.We had certain chickens that were our pets, so I'm not sure how that works. When I was a little older my dad shot a pheasant and mom plucked and cooked it. I refused to eat it, hating that the beautiful animal I had just seen walking around in the field was now dead, and it was our fault.Oddly enough,I was allowed to refuse. Normally my mom came to the table with a paddle or a switch to 'encourage' me because I wasn't much of an eater.)
You probably eat vegetarian sometimes and don't even realize it. That ravioli, or fettuccini you had,that omelet ,macaroni and cheese, bean burrito. They're all vegetarian,or can be.The next time you go to a Chinese restaurant, try ordering bean curd (tofu) homestyle or braised bean curd. It's delicious!