Friday, September 23, 2011

Oh, you're vegetarian?

In college, I studied abroad one semester in Australia. It was wonderful and exciting, but I had to laugh every time I told someone I was vegetarian. The response was unequivocally, "Oh, would you like chicken or fish, then?"

Despite being a country that loves its meat pies, I don't blame the Australians; this was over 10 years ago, and I've gotten that kind of response in many places. It's pretty rare to hear that today, but I'm wondering if it's being replaced by something else...

"Oh, you're vegetarian? Would you like cheese or cheese?"

Enter a new phase of meatasaurus misunderstanding: the Dairy Age. While I'm pretty sure most people these days understand that vegetarianism, in fact, does not include chicken or fish, I'm becoming a little frustrated that the go-to vegetarian dish always seems to be something dairy-focused; pasta smothered in cheese or creamy sauce=dinner or cheese sandwich=lunch. (Ok, it's not that bad here in SF, but we've been traveling a bit recently, and I'm sad to say these are still the primary veg options in many places). This is partly why I recently tried a vegan diet. Ironically, by adopting what is commonly believed to be a highly restrictive diet, I found my options opened up in new ways. By saying no to cheese, eggs, and yogurt, I opened my eyes to new snacks and meals, to more fresh vegetables and fruits, and totally innovative recipes.

I can't say I know I want to go vegan forever, but I can say this: what's wrong with more vegan dishes, more vegetables for the vegetarians (heck, for everyone)? Without thinking about it, I end up eating vegan maybe 70% of my meals when I cook for myself. I think we could all benefit from taking some recipe ideas from vegans.

Here are some vegans posts I've found that dispell some Meatasaurus Myths:
  • The protein myth - Dreena Burton has compiled an excellent resource of vegan protein sources, sure to put to death the age-old question of where vegans get their protein. And it's not just soy-based foods: fruit, legumes, nuts, grains, and veggies all contain more than enough protein for healthy living. See her comprehensive post, including plenty of informative graphs and statistics, here. Also, there's a nice write-up of Animal vs. Plant protein in this post towards the bottom of the page.
  • The 'say no to everything' myth- (story at the bottom of the post)
  • The myth of no options- check out all these mouth-watering photos! (*Update: I've actually found my options have OPENED as a vegan compared to when I was a vegetarian, since I'm more inventive, track down new ingredients, and make myself more exciting dishes).
  • And some of my thoughts on the whole vegan thing... here
I've actually found that vegan recipes (yes, meaning ones without ANY animal products) are the most creative and interesting ones I've ever tried. And by "interesting" I don't mean "tastes bad"! For the past month, even though "technically" my "vegan month" is over, I've only made vegan baked goods, just because I think it's more exciting (and they taste just as good!). When new and different is also tasty and healthy, why not?

So that's my random, anti-cheese rant. My husband would die. For the time being, I do still like dairy (in moderation)... but I don't want to be forced into having cheese/eggs/dairy be part of every meal when I go out, when there are so many amazing (plant-based only!) other choices out there! I'd just like the non-veggers out there to realize how awesome vegan foods can be, and hey- to live a little and try more of 'em.

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