Sunday, June 19, 2016

Veering towards vegetables

Several things have combined lately to give me a push towards vegetables. I have no intention of becoming vegetarian - I really like well-cooked meat.
          Although I've always been a townie, I was brought up on the great Kiwi tradition that no matter what form it took, animal protein was the star of the evening meal, and quite often of breakfast and lunch as well.  Harvey grew up on a sheep farm where they often did have meat for breakfast, dinner (meaning lunch) and tea (both in his home and mine, it was never called dinner). He used to tell the story of a visiting correspondence school teacher who announced that she was a vegetarian, completely disconcerting and baffling his mother, who had no idea what to give her for lunch.
          The wonderful Gallery of Regrettable Food captures the iconic status of meat in the 1950s perfectly in the caption to this remarkably unappetising photo, from the Better Homes and Gardens Meat Cookbook.

When decorating your meal, make sure to arrange the onions in the shape of Peter Lorre's face. It's steak a la Ugarte! Garnish with small, inedible onions.
WARNING! The carrots here are not to be eaten. Your manly meat-a-rifficness will diminish if you eat the carrots. Vegetables are for commies.
For years I haven't eaten nearly as much meat as my parents did. But lately I seem to keep reading and hearing perfectly sensible, non-vegetarian people urging me to eat less of it, for a whole host of good reasons. Various kinds of damage are done by large-scale meat production, especially based on grain, and these will get exponentially worse as the newly prosperous want to eat  more of it. While eating red meat is the easiest (and tastiest) way to get iron and essential B vitamins, we don't need to eat much of it to get enough. Then there's the constantly repeated injunction to eat more vegetables, for our health's sake. Michael Pollen nailed it: "Eat food. Not too much. Mainly Plants."
          And of course there's the cost of buying it.  If we routinely ate less meat, it should be possible to ensure that it's sustainably and humanely and yes, affordably produced - and we would appreciate it more.
          For some months now I've had my son living here. The years he spent in China have inclined him to enjoy veges much more than he used to. Both of us have to be a bit more careful not to over-eat, because we just don't need large amounts of food now.  A few years ago, suddenly noticing the inevitable results of a good deal of comfort eating (and drinking) after Harvey died, I managed to lose a considerable amount of weight (which hasn't come back). It dawned on me then that for the most part (and provided they aren't slathered in butter and/or sugar), fruits and veges are generally low-calorie - so you can eat a lot of them without fretting.
           Anyway, all of this has made me think about how to shift the way I think about dinner, veering away from the meat and towards the veges, so they become, at the very least, the co-stars. But it's not easy to make this change. There's the problem, too, of keeping a good range of veges on hand for your clever creations without half of them going off.
            I'd love to hear from other people who've tackled this problem and successfully managed to cut down their meat consumption without giving it up altogether, while still producing delicious dinners that bear no resemblance whatsoever to the surreal horror of the vegetables featuring on the Gallery of Regrettable Food. Here's the fearsome Jello Creation.

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