Yes, it’s Vegetarian Week. Did you know that only about 1% – 2% of Americans are vegetarian?
That little fact is probably not a surprise to you. I say that not because being a vegetarian entails such a Spartan diet. It really doesn’t. You have all these FABULOUS vegetables and vegetarian dishes, particularly from India and the Middle East, that provide lots of savory satisfying flavors. The difficulty, at least as I am experiencing it, is threefold:
1) Not all, but a LOT of really good vegetarian dishes take extra time to prepare. You can’t just toss a couple of steaks on the grill and be ready in 20 minutes. Now, I am TOTALLY behind the whole Slow Food Movement. In fact, the food around our house is so slow it routinely takes me 1-2 hours to make dinner, which is typically served at 8:30 p.m. But TIME is not necessarily something I have an abundance of, so I have to really work hard to carve out that bit of space to make a dinner we’ll all eat and enjoy. (On the upside, at least we eat a family dinner 6 out of 7 nights I’m home.)
2) The rest of the world has not customized itself to accommodate vegetarians. Sure, things are a heck of a lot easier than when I became a vegetarian for the first time back in the 1980s when I was…well, younger. Even living in California I was hard pressed to find much more than a tossed salad and some steamed vegetables in those days. Now, although there are nearly always vegetarian options available, they are slim pickins’ in the overall scheme of things, which leaves us true food lovers a bit left out of the party when it comes to restaurant eating. That’s not even to mention that people are generally disinclined to invite you to dinner, for obvious reasons.
3) Traveling is PARTICULARLY difficult. And I travel a LOT. It’s quite frustrating to be stuck in an airport with options that only amount to cheese pizza and ice cream and then landing late at night at a hotel that offers only a tossed salad and fruit. It does make a girl a bit cranky.
I was just reading an article in Yoga Journal about some of the popular yoga teachers and how they travel with their own cooking supplies. Shiva Rea even packs a whole extra suitcase with a hot plate, pot, mung beans, rice and other supplies so she can cook in her room. She has even served up to 12 people by cooking up beans on her hot plate!
Well, I’m not sure how I feel about that. As much as I would like some of those mung beans and rice, I don’t know that I have the wherewithal to cook in my hotel room late at night. I generally am more in the mood for SERVICE, preferably in 30 minutes or less.
Despite these drawbacks, if you’ve considered a vegetarian diet but just can’t make the commitment, I recommend reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. It’s a very compelling read that puts a whole new face on the way most Americans eat. Believe me. You WILL NOT want to eat any beef, pork, chicken or fish after reading this book. You might not eat again.
Another helpful tip: PETA, whether you love them or hate them, is well organized and has sponsored its own Go Vegetarian website where you can even order a free vegetarian starter’s kit. I tried to send some to a couple of friends in need, but their form for friends isn’t working properly. Sorry, you’ll have to download or oder your own. Check out the website though. You can “Meet Your Meat,” take the “30 Day Veg Pledge,” get recipes and even become an activist.
And if you’re ever in Calvert County and in need of a good vegetarian meal, just let me know. It may be slow, but it’ll be healthy and vegetarian.