I married a man who loves meat. He has lived in the Midwest his whole life and was raised eating beef and pork at nearly every meal. For as long as I’ve known JD, this has felt, to me, like a central tenet of his identity. The man loves every kind of meat, and he loves whiskey and wearing sport coats. He is over six feet tall and barrel-chested. Are you getting a visual? (That’s correct, he’s very good-looking.)
But I’m getting off track. JD consumes a lot of meat and always has. So you can imagine my surprise when, last weekend, we went to a pub for dinner and he ordered a black bean burger to go with his beer.
I raised an eyebrow at him in surprise, and he goes, “I’ve decided to eat less meat.” All casual like that! WHAT?
I was completely stunned by this and demanded that he tell me every detail of how he came to this decision.
It’s actually quite simple and practical: JD is pursuing a career in health care and doesn’t want to be a hypocrite, he says. He quit smoking about eight years ago and therefore has no problem with telling patients to give it up. Now, he wants to eat less meat so that if he has to tell a patient to cool it on the steak, he won’t feel too weird about it.
As shocked as I was by this turn of events, I was also really excited. I eat meat regularly, but I grew up with a mostly vegetarian mom, and was eating tofu and tempeh and other meat “substitutes” way before it was cool. A meatless meal isn’t as perplexing to me as it seems to be for some people. So you throw all that in together with my general anxiety about the meat industry and animal cruelty and the environment, and…yeah, I’m more than happy to eat less of it. (I could write a whole separate post about eating vegetarian/vegan, which I don’t think ought to be more fraught than “eat what you want, it literally affects me zero percent,” but let’s save that for later.)
We’re not cutting meat out entirely, to be clear–but JD’s aim is to have it for no more than one meal a day. Me, I’m not sure if I can cut down that much, but it will be fun to experiment.
Here are a few vegetarian dishes that I like to make when I’m not eating meat. I’m not really a recipe person (also I don’t mind cooking with premade mixes), so this is gonna be super casual:
Tofu stir-fry with rice noodles
Fry up some tofu cubes until they’re golden and crispy with as much red pepper flakes and garlic as you can stand. Toss in whatever veggies you want (I’m partial to broccoli, mushrooms, onions, and water chestnuts for this). Boil up some rice noodles in the meantime, and toss them into the frying pan when they’re done. Season the whole pan as much as you like. Scramble an egg in there! Go crazy! Boom, delicious dinner.
Red beans and rice
This doesn’t really count because I literally make the stuff that comes from a Zatarain’s box, but what do you want from me? It’s delicious and makes about 30 pounds of food for almost no money! Everyone wins! (Hey, I am not soaking beans for 3 hours or whatever just for a simple dinner.)
This is what I order every time I have Indian food. It’s SO GOOD–basically smoothied spinach with chunks of cheese, over rice and/or naan. JD and I are not skilled enough as chefs to make paneer from scratch, and also we are very white, so let’s not. We bought a premade bag of palak paneer that you basically boil in a bag. I have no doubt it’s going to be great.
What do you want on YOUR pizza? BOOM, put it on there! Are your tastes completely different from the tastes of your dining partner? Great, go halvsies and split the toppings down the middle! When I’m just doing veggies, I’m partial to spinach, onions, and mushrooms, and I like to go heavy on the garlic.
My mom made this for me all the time when I was growing up: vegetable rotini served with olive oil, parmesan cheese, sunflower seeds, and (sometimes) chunks of tofu. I still make it when I need to feel warm and safe and nurtured.
What are your favorite vegetarian dishes? What should JD and I experiment with next?