Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Right Ingredients

I'm still in pajamas, still in bed, savoring a new book. I'm so excited about it, I can hardly stand taking the time to write about it--my first love. But excitement over an event, an object, an idea, is always followed by writing. It's the way I process the excitement, the way I make it last.

For most of my life, I've been a healthy eater. My first real job was scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins where I indulged in too many scoops of Pralines and Cream, but my second and fourth jobs were working in health food stores. I've even had month long spreads of full fledged veganism.

I've also had those moments of trench living: the overindulgence during holidays, the month of eating everyday in Parisian boulangeries, the moments of frustration when I turn to food. I've also had to lose what seemed like massive extra pounds of weight after a pregnancy. And every few years, there's those 10 extra pounds I have to declare war on. Look at that! I even lied--the last time I went to battle it was 20 pounds!

A few months ago, without any conscious planning, or implicit decisions, I was suddenly revolted by meat. As I tried to ponder what brought me to that point, I could see a few different influences.

1. My daughter was spending hours in her anatomy lab. I'll spare the details for any meat eaters, but the similarities and her own revulsion stuck in my brain.

2. A recent conversation I was a small part of between two vegan friends. I remember just one statement that stuck: "It just doesn't make sense to eat meat."

3. My students. Several of the enlightened youth of this generation are committed to not eating meat because of their human-ness. They are sharp, creative, and healthy. I am inspired by their principles.

4. A friend invited three of her friends to lunch; I was lucky enough to be a part. The lunch was based on the Moroccan recipes of her family. The flavors were so sumptuous, I can still taste the texture and the spices. The whole meal was meatless and I remember how satisfying it was.

5. Years ago, I learned that my favorite meal, veal piccata, required the inhumane treatment of baby calves. I could no longer in good conscious order veal. If I was concerned with one kind of meat production, shouldn't I be concerned for all?

And the results? I'm feeling great. I don't have to use a toothpick after every meal. I feel like I'm saving the planet.

Recently, I gathered with friends and family at a small boutique hotel/restaurant in Beverly Hills with a revered chef. The menu was small plates and we shared a variety of salads, vegetables and a piece of meat everyone raved about, including someone's comment, "It's the best steak I've ever had." I had a half second feeling of being left behind when everyone went to Disneyland, but it passed as quickly as the tornado that blew me out of meat-eating Kansas--and I want to stay in Oz.

So...today's book that has me so excited is a cookbook! I never get excited about cookbooks. I try not to cook; I've been an avoider, in part because all these years I've been using ingredients that have subconsciously and consciously repulsed me.**

I've been using recipes from Angela Liddon's blog for years now; they are time tested and every recipe has been delicious. In case you have trouble cooking,  you too may be using the wrong ingredients.

Afterthought: I belong to a family of meat eaters, so I was a little nervous when I hosted Easter dinner and the menu was vegetable curry. Everyone seemed to immensely enjoy the meal--the only complaint was the spicy seasoning was a bit much for a two year old. 

**While growing up, Mom cooked meat, usually beef, every night. Dish duty included scraping the beef fat into the outside garbage can. Oh the memories of standing over that can in the dark (having put it off as long as I could), and gagging over the fat. As an adult when I cooked with chicken, I was always disgusted and cleaned and bleached the cutting board. I wondered what was wrong with eating a product that afterwards I had to bleach the surface that it touched. Currently, I am free from chicken bacteria!