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May 03, 2009

Cook the Vegetarians!

Cook the Vegetarians!

By Sarah

Are you plagued by vegetarians? Is it impossible to throw a dinner party without someone mentioning - ever so politely - that they don't eat meat/fish/chicken? Or, worse, eggs, milk, cheese? Do you want to slaughter them then and there and serve them up with a nice caper sauce as I do?

Welcome to the emerging field of vegetarian loathing and this is from someone who for one long year  Cro magnon pretended to be one. It wasn't a bad year. Until summer came and "throwing a seitan on the grill" revealed itself to be ridiculous. Since then, I've eaten meat and not looked back, except at Thanksgiving and Christmas and other major events when vegetarians and their evil cousins, the vegans, have come to dine.

Oh, also every single night since my son is a vegetarian, too, and has been for three years. Sometimes I feel like an Orthodox Jewish cook keeping two different kitchens. This is not some little kid whim, by the way. The kid will eat tofu and seitan and any other mush the co-op (our version of Whole Foods) serves. He refuses to eat any former living thing because he loves former living things. Honestly. Kids these days.

But the worst, really, are the family events. Let me describe the dietary concerns I had to keep in mind during one recent family gathering:

a) Three vegetarians

b) One vegan

c) One person who would be KILLED INSTANTLY by the whiff of dairyMad cow

d) One person who would be KILLED INSTANTLY by the whiff of shellfish

e) Me. Ready to kill them all

There's only one solution in the above situation - peanut noodles - for which I have included a recipe at the bottom. Unless you have someone with a peanut allergy in which you're screwed.

The thing is, I, like everyone else, knows vegetarians are right and an article in last week's New York Times about the dangers of red meat only proves it. Though, I had to laugh, since the article refers to people who eat hamburgers EVERY DAY! I mean, we eat a steak (tenderloin - it's worth the money  for the lack of cholesterol and buttery smooth texture) either on a Saturday or Sunday night. After that, it's chicken a couple of times a week, fish once and the rest vegetarian for You Know Who. So I'm not feeling too crazy bad about the steak.

Yes, vegetarianism is better for your health. (Unless you clog your arteries with cheese.) It's better for the environment since it's not dependent upon growing field after field of grain only to be eaten by cows (who fart and pollute the atmosphere with methane) who are then slaughtered for McDonald's hamburgers. It's kinder to the animals. (Have you ever seen a calf hanging by his mother? You'll never eat veal again.) And it, supposedly, reduces the hormones that makes humans mad. So we're nicer, too.

Vegetarians Though herein lies the problem. I remember one day standing at my office window overlooking State Street in Montpelier, vegetarian capital of the East Coast, with a colleague from work. We were pointing out the vegetarians and when I asked if he ever thought of swinging that way, he said he used to. Only, he realized that his personality was transforming into that of walking food. He liked to be a the top of the food chain, thank you very much, not the middle.

That's where we meat eaters have the advantage. We eat them before they eat us.

Good thing to know in a zombie war.

Sarah

COLD PEANUT NOODLES

1 box capellini

2 Tbs tamari soy sauce

2 Tbs sesame oil

1/2 cup crunchy all natural peanut butter no sugar added

1/4 cup tamari soy sauce

1/4 cup sesame oil

1 Tbs grated fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 Tbs sherry

1 Tbs rice wine vinegar

* 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 Tbs water from pasta pot

1 cucumber diced

2 scallions diced

DIRECTIONS:

Cook pasta as directed. Reserve 2 Tbs water from pasta Drain and run under cold water. Drain again. Toss with the 2 Tbs soy sauce and 2 Tbs sesame oil. Put aside.

Meanwhile, in Cuisinart combine the ingredients from peanut butter through water from past pot. Pulse until mixed but not too smooth. Add more water if necessary to get right consistency. Immediately before serving, toss with cold noodles and top with cucumber and scallions.

Good luck!

Sarah

(Who's now on Twitter at sarahstrohmeyer.)

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Comments

Don't mind me. I'm a chocolatarian, but I travel with my own, so you can still invite me for dinner.

I keep trying to sign in, but not sure it's working (keeps having me download or something). Anyway, just wanted to say I really enjoyed Sarah's post on vegetarians (of which I am one! LOL).

And really enjoyed Harley's entry the other day too! I think she's a hoot.

Cathy

Just an omnivore reporting in!

My first experience with vegan/vegetarian dinner guests was almost 15 years ago when my newly vegan cousin came to Thanksgiving dinner. They brought their own food to prepare, but didn't bother to tell us they were doing so. Which made for too many cooks in a kitchen, with only one oven and 4 stove burners, at the last minute. Oh, did I mention that this relative and her family were and are known for arriving at the last minute. It was no different that day. I was so pissed off at their chutzpah in the kitchen I never bothered to tell her that the spinach balls she loved so much and was gobbling down, had lots of eggs in them. A no-no according to her. She's moderated over the years and we only see her once every year or so when she and her husband come home from San Francisco for a visit.

Two years ago my niece turned vegetarian along with her then fiance/now husband. Fortunately they eat fish, eggs and dairy so cooking for them was not hard. And again since they live in St. Louis we only cook for them a couple of times a year. For the past nine months neither have been vegetarian as she's pregnant and the doctor told her she had to eat meat or risk the baby's health. Don't know if they plan on returning to vegetarianism as yet.

Ah, yes. The We'll Bring Our Own contigent. They mean well but in the end it's just a bigger pain in the ass.

Okay, off to church to ask God to forgive me for my weekly list of sins. Hope he's a meat eater.

My husband and I were vegetarians for about ten years. It's the better choice, of course. It was bacon that did for us. Angel Joe is cooking some now, as I type.

The young can be very annoying with their beliefs. It's their job, I know, but why don't they cook their own damn meals?

ahh yes! Bacon should be in it's own food group! yum!
My daughter went thru a vegetarian stage. I told her she could cook her own food.I was cooking for a family, not running a restaurant! It only lasted a week.
After spending a small fortune on gluten-free ingredients for what the dr 'thought' might be my friends' problems, dr. decided that wasn't it! grrrr
I will do completely organic for my nephew when he's in town, as chemicals trigger his migranes, but I can use all the stuff when he's gone.
Anyone that wants to give me a list of what they won't eat, I tell them to bring what they want, to REHEAT at my house, if they don't want to do that, "Oh, so sorry, we'll miss you!"

Back from church and just chowed down on eggs and sausage. Like 1,563 calories. This is why Harley (vegetarian) is thin and I (uber-omnivore) am not.

What about the option of NOT cooking for people with stringent food needs? Friends we really like who are vegans come to our area for a visit once in a while. Last time I was up for planning a vegan meal and so I had them over. This time I had a lot of other stuff going on so I said let's go to a restaurant. The waitress had to deal with all the requests to know exactly what was in the spaghetti sauce and so forth and I could relax and enjoy their company.

I teach my kids, when you go to somebody's house, you eat what they serve and say thank you.

I was cook at Hedgebrook Writer's Retreat. Six cottages. A whiteboard on the refrigerator divided into six sections for dietary requests. Many times there were six opposing diets listed, but that was my job and I loved.

Now that I am eating gluten free, I often reflect on the irony of my having been a pastry chef for so long.

Hollygee, blessings on you for your flexible approach to providing nourishment. I arrive with my own food restrictions: no bananas, potatoes, avocadoes (I really miss those three), kiwi, or chestnuts, and don't touch the food with latex gloves, please. I put a list of "safe" restaurants on my web site for others with latex allergies, and I'm grateful that they are there for me.
It's complicated adjusting for all our variations.
We once had a new friend say, as he cam in the door for dinner, "Did I remember to tell you I'm a vegetarian?" My expression must have answered for me, so he added, "It's ok. I'll be happy with bread and butter." Fortunately, we had good vegetables as a side dish to the curry, and good bread from the co-op, so he did not starve.
I love and respect the agree-to-disagree vegetarians, and I hate to be "guilted." Someone once tried to ruin my enjoyment of venison by talking about the deer's soft brown eyes -- didn't work. (Though I've not yet found any hunters in Missouri with a surplus to share as I did in Minnesota). Another acquaintance told me I shouldn't eat meat unless I would be willing to kill it myself. That gave me pause, but guess what, I'm not willing to harvest my own wheat either . . .
May we all find food for our bodies and for our souls.

I'm trying to cook more veggie stuff for the family, and all told, its going pretty well. Thank heaven. I would be VERY surprised if any of them ever went totally veggie, but I figure if I can just get them to enjoy lentils, beans, and veggie burgers, I'll call it a success.

Meanwhile, here's my all-time favorite radical vegetarian song: Carrot Juice Constitutes Murder, by the Arrogant Worms.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmK0bZl4ILM
The video is just a fan production, and the weird intro is not part of the song, but if you can skip forward to the 50 second mark, you'll get to hear the song. Totally hilarious, and too too true.

I'm of the school that says when someone invites you over for a meal, you eat it. Period. Okay, okay, I understand about food allergies (peanut, gluten, shellfish, berries, etc.), but ...........


For the record, I'm not so crazy about eggs, but eat them if that's what someone has prepared.

Since I have been stuck with grain allergies for the last 15 years (including rice!) I say screw self-limiting my food choices. If I can eat it without having to call an ambulance, then I will.
Steak for lunch today! with white chocolate raspberry ice cream for dessert.

I'm with Harley I am a chocolatarian, or maybe an ice-cream-itarian!

Can I just say how annoying it is that they now add cookie bits or various dough things to ice cream so I can't try as many flavours!
Sarah I am going to try your peanut noodle recipe but will have to use bean thread noodles or you know, go to the hospital.

It gives me stress to go visit my mom because it gives her stress to try to feed me so I do bring my own quinoa cereal etc. Can't have the old broad getting stressed out.

For some reason the grain allergy has made it so I have extremely low cholesterol and low blood pressure. I eat 10-12 eggs a week and as much red meat as I want. Sorry planet for all the farting cows who die on my behalf.

"Sorry, planet, for all the farting cows who die on my behalf."
Gaylin, that line is golden! Let's make it part of the radical omnivore manifesto . . .

Ahh, Sesame-Peanut Noodles, one of my fave dishes. Like so many vegetarian/vegan dishes, it's even better with some strips of grilled chicken or a few garlicky shrimp on top. Plus, you can thin out any extra sauce with a little more water and/or rice vinegar to make the world's tastiest salad dressing.

I tried the vegan thing for three weeks, at the end of which I felt exhausted and frail and craved animal protein so much I couldn't think about anyting else. When I caved and ate a bite of chicken I could feel my body wake up and start cheering on a cellular level. "This must be what a heroin junkie feels," I thought, "when she gets a fix."

My husband was vegan for almost twenty years, finally got tired of feeling scrawny and weak all the time, now eats seafood and (organic) poultry and looks and feels much healthier. Cheers to folks who thrive on any kind of V-diet, but it's not the best choice for every metabolism, even if it is better for the environment.

My sister tried the Vegan thing for her whole family when the kids were little, until the day she saw her 4 year old eat 6 deviled eggs at Grannies house . . .

We have changed our eating habits to include more vegetables and fruit, and more whole grains, and more water and less soda and sugar. And we've started eating our largest meal in the middle of the day and a smaller one in the evening. And we've changed our meat eating to red meat only once a week, and chicken, lean pork and fish the rest of the time.

But I can't see us ever giving up meat completely. I do try to eat more organic and free range, so the animals don't suffer while they're alive, which I guess is small consolation to them. But bacon alone would taunt me all my living days if I tried to give it up completely.

I forgot to add that my step-daughter has been a vegetarian for some months now, and when she came to our house for a few days, we tried to make something available that she could eat when we made meals. In her own words, however, she said she wasn't "going nuts with it", and had a couple of chicken wings. She also went out and bought some portobella (sp?) mushrooms which she prepared herself, which was fine for all involved.

Sarah, I now swear by your peanut noodles. (You gave me the recipe last summer.) I haven't run into an occasion that they haven't been a hit. Thank you!

Back from Malice. Our Elaine looks GORGEOUS!

Put me in the chocolatarian column, as well. For five years after jaw surgery I couldn't taste sugar or salt, but I could taste dark chocolate. It literally kept me alive. How can you get excited about food if you can't taste any of it?

Before I met my husband I was a vegetarian, but not strict. My weight had crept up, so I cut out white flour, sugar, and red meat out of my diet, and only drank 1% milk. Lost 20 pounds, too, along with daily jogging. (If only I could do that now!) I did eat fish and chicken, and always ate eggs. But once we got married he expected to continue his typical meat and two veggies and a salad diet, plus a drink before dinner. (Naturally, his weight has stayed pretty stable. Isn't that always the way?) But we just talked about reducing the meat in our diet more, now that we're older and I'm not cooking for anyone but the two of us.

Vegans, or anyone who talks of not eating "anything with a face", conveniently avoid knowledge of practical farming practices, which kill lots of other critters: mice, voles, rabbits, foxes, and hordes of insects, snakes, and birds. Even wheat and corn and beans are responsible for killing things with "faces", if you really think about it. Honestly, one does need to use common sense about the whole thing.

I was a vegetarian for many years. I *never* put my values on others, or expected them to make an exception for me at dinner parties. Some hosts made veggie meals when I was the only guest, which was a lovely thing to do. But again, it was my responsibility, my choice, so I didn't expect others to "cook around me," so to speak. Nowadays, I find myself eating about 1/3 of my meals vegan, 1/3 veggie, 1/3 w/meat. It's not all the planned, just my natural pattern.

For those who bash vegetarians saying everything we eat is dead, or had feelings, the logic for many vegetarians is if it had a central nervous system, it can feel, and they won't eat it.

I never got the weird righteousness of vegetarians & vegans - it's a huge turn off to others, & really, why doe how one eats have to be thrown in the face of others? Too rude!

Honest to Crust, this can be worse than politics at the dinner table. At least we don't cook and slice and present and flambe the opposing values at election time.

Though it might be fun . . . once.

Youngest granddaughter is going through this now; to be fair, she's interested in shifting the agriculture balance, so cows, pigs and methane are something she has studied.

It would go better if she didn't sulk when confronted with omnivorous cousins and elders. But that's what 12-year-old chilluns do.

She's having a hard time learning (Harley not withstanding) that you don't just eat everything that isn't meat fowl or fish, and call that a balanced diet. She doesn't get the idea of proteins and vitamins . . . so we found her a copy of Martha Rose Shulman, and we hear she's starting to cook for her family.

Karen, I like your practical approach. Locusts have faces, too!! (another slogan?)

If I'm correctly remembering/understanding the "rules" of etiquette (as explained by Miss Manners):

A polite guest doesn't try to dictate the host's menu or expect special treatment. Invitations can, of course, be regretfully declined. (A host may, of course, offer to accomodate a guest's special dietary requirements.)

A polite guest will take a very small portion of any disliked food (provided it won't actually kill them to have it on their plate), say nothing, and mush it around a bit without eating any if they can't bear to have it in their mouth or are convinced they'll gag if they try to swallow it.

A polite host will ignore the fact that their polite guest has taken a tiny portion and is mushing it around without eating it.

This polite mush/ignore complicity between guest and host allows both of them to enjoy each other's company without food being an issue. Plus it saves the host from finding bits of food hidden in their good linen napkins or on the carpet under the table.

Of course, a very wise host provides a dog who is allowed to hide under the dining table. :-)

It's a good thing I don't host dinner parties. If someone asked for a special menu they'd get the reply, "I love you but I'm not running a restaurant here. If you don't want what we're having for dinner, eat beforehand or don't come." I don't have the time or energy to deal with 'special requests' of vegan persuasion.

My best friend has turned vegan. Before that, she would eat chicken and fish, although no red meat. Now she won't eat an egg or drink a glass of milk.

Her response when I express some dismay over what to serve when she visits: "I don't have to eat anything." Ridiculous. We have managed to serve spaghetti to her (my husband makes his own sauce) and after she serves herself, we put the meat in the sauce.

Personally, I wonder what the issue is with eggs. We buy eggs at the local farmers market. They are from happy chickens. Chickens that roam free and probably sing Kumbaya under the moonlit sky every night. And they produce incredible eggs.

Also, milk? Organic milk is easy to come by these days. And if you don't milk the cow, it will explode.

Avis, I loved the quote, "Of course, a very wise host provides a dog who is allowed to hide under the dining table. :-)"!

I've always believed that you should eat what you are served at someone's house, unless you are allergic (or at least push it around your plate).

Now that I find myself in the allergy category, I can appreciate people with other allergy issues so much more. My friends and family know about it, and usually pick foods so there is SOMETHING I can eat, so it's not an issue. If it's a pot luck, I always bring something I can eat, and everyone else will like. This way I don't have to mention my allergy at all.

If it's somewhere else and I'm not sure of the food, then I ask before, bring my own, or eat before I go. I don't ask the host to change the menu.

I don't want others to cater to my allergy, so I find it really wrong if someone is making a food 'choice' and has the gall to dictate to a host.

As a vegetarian, I'll have you know that if it came down to starving to death or eating my neighbor, I'd totally choose my neighbor--the fat one who doesn't move much, because she'd be more tender and tasty.

Also as a vegetarian, I tell people before parties that I'd be happy to bring food so they don't need to make something special or so they don't make too much stuff expecting me to eat it, which I won't.

Unless I'm starving and they've barbecued my fat neighbor. Mmm....

I feel for a hostess who panics when trying to develop a meal for a vegetarian. I did, before I became one. However, when we eat at someone's house, we expect to eat the side dishes, not force everyone else to eat peanut noodles. (Although that sounds delish...I copied the recipe. Thanks!) Sometimes all we've had at a dinner is a roll because that's all there was. We understand.

"Avis, I loved the quote, "Of course, a very wise host provides a dog who is allowed to hide under the dining table. :-)"!"

Thanks! That was me channeling Miss Manners.

I was a really poorly-informed pseudo-vegetarian for several years, but eventually repented when I realized that my largely quesadilla-and-brocolli diet was giving me major nutritional deficit instead of saving the planet.
Now, I still want to save the planet, so limit the amount of grain-eating critters I consume, but that's not hard because I've discovered the joys of hundreds of veggies, beans, grains, and the blessings of small portions of fish or animal proteins among the bounty.
I do feel badly, though, when I have to break the news to a patient that their diet (perhaps unfortunately limited as mine once was) is not good for them . . . .

Plants are living things, too. I once read an article in Organic Gardening magazine about how broccoli plants stress-out after having their heads cut!! Too much!

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