Thursday, 11 March 2010

Healthy, Wealthy, and Kind

I love being a vegetarian. I love the word, I love the food, and I love the ethos. I think there are many reasons to become vegetarian, including the benefit to your health, your wallet, or the environment. However, I would like to say at the start that the real reason I am a vegetarian is the animals. I love them and I think that eating them is about as necessary and as morally defensible as frying up your neighbour. When confronted with someone who doesn't want to kill animals for a snack, some meat-eaters react with thinly-veiled anger and resentment. As a result, vegetarians often avoid discussion the ethical considerations of a plant-based diet. I would like to think that I can speak my mind about my true reasons for not eating meat without slapping meat-eaters in the face with my choice.

But as I said, there are many other great reasons for marrying a carrot. The first of these reasons is health. Over the course of this blog, I hope to dispell the ridiculous and outdated health myths about vegetarianism still running rampant in our collective minds.

People don't like it when you nag them about their bad eating habits. I know this, because I nag people about their bad eating habits all the time. And they usually aren't very pleased with me. And you know what? I don't really care. Because if I don't lecture them, I have to hear them constantly complain about being fat, having no energy, and getting ill every other week. Do you think maybe, just maybe, a possible solution could be that you haven't eaten a vegetable in two weeks, you just downed a pound of chips and an entire fried fish for lunch? Is it possible?

So much energy in the media gets devoted to trying to convince us that being slim and healthy is really difficult and really complicated. We are bombarded with conflicting messages about carbs, protein, and fat. Magazine articles try to highlight certain super-duper fruits and vegetables that we need to eat obsessively for a fast-track approach to nutrition. I believe in a varied and seasonally-based whole food diet. Such a diet is simple, delicious, and wonderfully healthy. Once you are well-informed about eating a whole foods diet, you will never have to obsess over getting single nutrients again.

If there is anything I know that I am good at, it's saving money. Sometimes this ability of mine can be a problem; for instance, I think I might be physically incapable of throwing out old clothes, no matter how many holes they have in indiscreet places. Yet 5-6 nights of the week, I provide my boyfriend and I with a different, delicious, healthy meal for mere pocket change. You know that Sainsbury's ad with Jamie Oliver instructing some slack-jawed yokel how to produce enough spaghetti to feed four people, for (shock!) under £5? I laugh in the face of that ad. Anyone, no matter how bad in the kitchen, or clueless in the grocery store, can make a meal for several people for £5. I'm here to show you that there is culinary life under five pounds, that need not even involve spaghetti! Or Jamie Oliver. Who, bless his plump-faced little soul, probably hasn't had to feed anyone for under five pounds for 15 years.

Having been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for 11 years, I have recently been thinking about becoming vegan. In fact, having learned some truly horrible things about the egg and dairy industries, I feel that I have no real choice. But I love cheese! And I love sour cream! And I love to travel, and for me half the point of travel is trying local food. And by half, I mean 90%. Local food is rarely vegan. Therefore, during the course of this blog I will be recording my challenges and discoveries about transitioning to veganism.


Every week I hope to publish a vegetarian recipe. This first week I'm giving you the first vegetarian thing I ever learned to make! A delicious, cheap, and easy hummus recipe.

Delicious and Easy Hummus
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2-3 gloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 generous tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
scant 1/4 tahini*

Blend chickpeas in the food processor. Add garlic, water, lemon juice, ground cumin, and salt, and blend. Blend in or stir in tahini. Serve with grilled pita bread, raw veggies, plain rice cakes, as a sandwich spread, or whatever you like! This recipe will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

*For those of you concerned about the cost of tahini, the recipe is still good without it, but the tahini really makes it delicious! Middle Eastern grocery stores often carry cheaper brands of tahini than standard supermarkets.

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