It’s time for my Cottage Cooking Club wrap-up of five tasty vegetarian dishes. Every month I join other bloggers to feature recipes from award-winning food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg cookbook. Realizing there isn’t much about beef, pork, poultry and seafood that I don’t relish, you may wonder Why Vegetarian? Why now?
As I’ve admitted, I was tossed into this vegetarian mumbo-jumbo by shame. Years ago, my dear vegetarian friend, Susan, brought her own meals to Hirsch dinner parties. I couldn’t be bothered. (Yes, I have groveled and apologized about that for 25 years.) Eventually I offered an elegant green salad and crusty bread to my veggie guests. Gradually I began to realize that this dietary option is not mumbo nor jumbo. It’s a legitimate choice.
Four years ago, my 9-year-old granddaughter announced she was a Vegetarian. Although I suggested to her Mother it was just a phase, how the hell was my darling sweet Emma going to get enough iron, zinc, Vitamin B-12 and calcium to grow and flourish. Where’s the protein? Would her friends think this strange? Would Melissa, her mother, have to make two different menus for their dinners now? Couldn’t her Mom and Dad just say, “No?” ( I don’t say these concerns were legitimate, I am just admitting having them.)
Fast forward four years. Emma is still a healthy young woman, about to enter high school, and, yes, a Vegetarian. (Grandmothers can be wrong.) Before her family’s recent visit, I called Emma and asked to interview her about her vegetarian lifestyle. I’d never had a serious discussion with anyone about this rather important lifestyle choice. She agreed. We set a date, stipulating no Mom, no Sister, listening in. (They’d already asked.) Briefly, this is the very enlightening result.
Grandma: Emma, I’ve heard various rumors but will you tell me why you chose to be a vegetarian?
Emma: You remember we went to Hawaii when I was 9, right?” she asked. (I nodded affirmatively.) “Our family went spearfishing. Dad caught a fish. When the boat people pulled it in, it wasn’t dead. They just whacked and whacked it on the head to kill it.” (Emma demonstrates the whacking technique.)
Grandma: What did you do?
Emma: Clara (7) and I started screaming and crying. Mom took us down into the cabin until the trip was over. Then, later that night we went to a Luau where they were roasting a pig. It just went round and round on the spit all night. I got sick.
That’s the night Emma made her announcement.
Grandma: What did your Mom say?
Emma: She said okay. But right from the beginning she made three rules: [Readers, I know. I know. Pot. Kettle. Black.)
1) We went to the library, checked out books about food, proteins, vegetarian stuff. I had to read them and any books she gave me on the subject.
2) I was responsible for taking vitamins every morning, especially B vitamins;
3) When I am around other kids who are eating hamburgers, stuff like that, I can’t say, “Gross!” or “Ooh.” I must be polite.
Grandma: Do you ever do that?
Emma: Of course not, Grandma, 90% of the kids at my school are vegetarian. (eye roll and sigh)
The kicker here is this. Our girls go to a Seven Day Adventist private school. One of the Adventist beliefs and practices is a vegetarian lifestyle. Since they have attended this school since preschool, this was a comfortable choice for Emma.
In California they also live near Loma Linda populated by a high concentration of Seventh-day Adventist. It is one of five places in the world identified as Blue Zone Areas. These are the 5 sites where people are particularly healthy and live the longest. The other four Blue Zones Areas are Karia, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan; and Sardinia, Italy.
Grandma: I know you make your school lunch. What’s in it?
Emma: Vegetables and Fruit, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Nuts, Tofu, Salads, Protein Bars, Leftovers, Salads and Yogurt for dessert. I love yogurt.
Grandma: Do you ever get hungry?
Emma: No, Grandma. (another eye roll and sign)
Grandma: Tell me your favorite foods.
Emma: Pad Thai, Veggie Burgers, Tofu with various seasonings, Apples, Raspberries, Mushrooms and Caesar Salad.
Grandma: Do you think you’ll always lead a Vegetarian lifestyle?
Emma: Yep, Grandma, I do.
There are many things I always want to do with my granddaughters but never in a million years did I think I would be exchanging vegetarian recipes and ideas with one of them. Every day of Life, a learning experience!
We are not allowed to print any of Hugh’s recipes but if you would like to learn how to make any of these delicious recipes, e-mail me. I’ll send them.