The Experimental Vegetarian

6 May

You will remember that before Christmas I started making some changes to my lifestyle, including diet.

Over the last few months the diet has evolved into a vegetarian one, with the exception of a little fish and chicken.

Part of this was for health reasons.  I found that red meat was sitting in my stomach like lead after eating it, so I thought, maybe I was eating a little too much of it.  I ate more chicken and fish instead, but in the last couple of months, even those have been pared back in favour of vegetables.  Lots of vegetables.

I enjoy cooking and what I have discovered with my foray into vegetarian cooking is that there is a lot more scope and a lot more possibilities with vegetables than with meat.  I am combining veges into complimentary mixes and really enjoying creating delicious, savoury dishes.  There are more curries coming out of my kitchen than out of a Mumbai market.

Vegetables give me more scope, because there is an almost endless variety.  With meat you have chicken, fish, lamb, beef, and pork easily available.  There are at least ten times more vegetables available at the supermarket, without the more exotic fare that is available at the specialist greengrocer.

I am also expanding my personal taste horizons.  Cooking purely with vegetables has lead me to experiment with veg I hadn’t tried before.  So far celeriac, Thai eggplant, golden beets, pak choy, oyster mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, and cipollini onions have been added to my list of delicious comestibles.  And I still have so many new vegetables to try.

It helps that we have a supermarket chain, Coles, that has a fantastic fruit and vegetable department.  Their veges are fresher and of better quality than many other supermarkets.  Of especial interest is the fact that they now carry what are known as heirloom vegetables.  Veges in their oldest known form before breeders got their hands on them.  They now carry carrots in various hues, rainbow chard, and golden beets.  Before I would have had to go to the specialist greengrocer to get my hands on these goodies.

A little Asian supermarket near me is also providing me with new and interesting vegetables to try.  Any vegetarian living in my area is truly blessed with the amount of good quality produce available.

I was also lucky that my foray into vegetarianism coincided with the ABC showing “River Cottage Veg Every Day”.  For weeks I have been watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall cook tasty looking dishes every Saturday afternoon.  I will freely admit that the series, and the accompanying book, have been a massive source of inspiration for me.

I find that I now tend to describe myself as a vegetarian.  I mostly cook vegetarian dishes.  The only meat that I cook is the chicken that goes into my winter Chicken and Three Vegetable soup.  I try to only buy organic or free range chicken if I can.  If I am going to cook and eat any meat at all, I want it to be as ethical a choice as I can possibly make.

Fish I don’t cook much.  I have more of a tendency to eat that when I am out, especially if where I am eating has bugger all vegetarian dishes on the menu.  For all vegetarian eating has become more mainstream, cafes and restaurants are slow to catch on.  One or two miserable vegetarian dishes on the menu, and they are mostly boring and unappetizing.  

I won’t ever go vegan.  I like my milk and yoghurt too much for that.  As it stands I am happy and content eating my vegetable based meals.

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