AUNIE MJ'S VEGETARIAN TIPS

 i was thinking about putting my family on a vegitarian diet for a month, any tips or cookbook recomends?

I have tips!

I’ve been a vegetarian since 1994. And to be 100% clear, I am not actually vegetarian. I eat small amounts of sustainable fish, though this is something I have feelings about and intend to stop. (And I have gone long periods fish-free.) A lot of people ask me WHY I am vegetarian (we’ll just keep saying I am, to make things easy). I just am. I always wanted to be. It always made sense to me, even as a small child. I aspired to stop eating animals, and I did. If you choose to do so, great! If not, great! Or somewhere in between, great! I have no feelings on what other people should do.

But I can tell you my diet improved GREATLY when I went vegetarian. The reason was threefold:

1. I became more aware of WHAT I was eating, because eating temporarily got more complicated. I had to ask what was in things.

2. Because of that, I read a lot about food and vegetarianism and cooking in general. I am an obsessive reader of cookbooks. I read them like novels. Becoming more informed about food increased my ability to feed myself well, and feed others well. Food became a huge passion.

3. Probably most importantly, I tried new things. I had to. I made a point to try every weird vegetable, to pick up stuff in the health food store, to just TRY. And your palate WILL CHANGE. Your body will respond differently. If someone gives you some meat by accident, you know it INSTANTLY. At least, I do. It tends to feel like I have just been given a sponge soaked in fat.

So my tips are based on those things. Here they are:

1. TRY THINGS

The world is full of really delicious vegetables and grains that, until recently, we tended to ignore or not use. These things have real flavors, real character. Beans are not all just beans. What I do is shove a few dollars in my pocket and go to the farmers’ market and just try stuff. I did this when I was stone broke, and I do it now, when I am not. $5 at the farmers’ market can get you really far. It’s winter now, so pickings are slimmer, but they are still there. The grocery store as well. 

2. DON’T BE FREAKED OUT BY THOSE MEAT REPLACEMENTS

In fact, I don’t like the idea of “replacing” meat, but whatever. If you are interested, there are plenty good things. Veggie sausages tend to be especially good, as sausage is really all about the spicing. My standby dinner in England is some Quorn sausages and some cauliflower mash and gravy. I could eat that EVERY NIGHT. In America, we enjoy the wonders of SEITAN, which is wheat gluten, which sounds TERRIBLE but is actually quite a lot like chicken and makes awesome stir-fries and all kinds of things. Veggie burgers vary WILDLY, so if you don’t like one in one place, try another. 

3. SOUP IS YOUR FRIEND

Pretty much any soup can be flipped into a vegetarian version, and many were born that way to begin with. Going veggie is a great opportunity to really open up to a WORLD OF SOUP. I would like there to be a theme park called WORLD OF SOUP.

4. READ

There are about eleventy billion great vegetarian cookbooks and sites. Here are just SOME of my favorites.

Mark Bitman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

Mark Bitman is the Minimalist at The New York Times and a really great food writer. This is a massive book filled with really excellent, fool-proof recipes. It’s a real kind of kitchen standard, kitchen Bible kind of a thing.

The Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

This book is basically the mac daddy of all vegan books out there. Even if you are not thinking vegan, you’ll like this book. It’s just awesome and down to earth and the recipes all WORK. Also, I love Isa and Terry. They rock. All their books are good. 

The Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon

This book weighs about seventeen pounds and is full of great stuff. It’s fun. It’s useful. It’s tasty. The food, I mean. Not the book.

The Vegetarian Epicure (and its sequel) by Anna Thomas

I was such a groupie for this book. Still am. It’s so 70s and so decadent and so well written. I read this book cover to cover regularly. Her new book on soups, Love Soup, is also amazing. 

The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop and Ann Stratton

Someone gave me this book years ago and I love it. SO MUCH Italian food is vegetarian already, so this book basically complies those things. I think it was this book that turned me into an obsessive risotto-maker.

SOME GOOD SITES

Not strictly vegetarian, but often her recipes are. Just one of the best cooking sites out there, period: http://chocolateandzucchini.com

Love Serious Eats, and they have a full vegetarian section.

Foodgawker is an addictive site that just appears to be pictures of food, but the links are great. Often vegetarian.

Smitten Kitchen is also not a vegetarian site, but a great general cooking one. Has a lot of vegetarian recipes.

Veggie Num Num. I’ve gotten some great recipes from here.

The Post Punk Kitchen. Isa and Terry’s site. Where the books come from. Loads of good recipes. 

I HOPE THIS HELPS.