“You’re a vegetarian?” they always ask me. “No,” I respond, “I’m a fake-a-tarian.” I do my best to avoid red meat, as well as poultry (but I eat eggs, dairy, fish and other seafood sometimes), because of two main reasons:
- My family has a history of heart attacks, strokes, and type II diabetes. This includes parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
- The way farming works in the U.S., for the most part, is to give massive quantities of grain to animals (instead of people), for a 1/10 return (or less) on the caloric investment. (This topic can be volatile, so please understand that I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do.)
I had a physical a couple years ago (back when I had health insurance…) and was advised that my cholestoral was a bit high and that I should take steps to lower it. Fortunately, I was working at the People’s Food Co-op part-time and had access to lots of vegetarian options. Recently, while volunteering at the Project Healthy Schools project, I got my cholestrol tested again. It had improved by a lot, which I attribute to my diet (since I don’t exercise as much as I’d like).
The other reason is more social. Factory farms produce cheap beef, pork, and poultry because of the way that the farms are run (like effecient machines) and how the animals are fed (cheap grains, mostly corn, that has been subsidized by the U.S. government). My biggest concern with this is not that the animals are being treated inhumanely (though that is a concern), it is that the farmers that produce this corn could be producing corn for humans to eat instead. Unfortunately, fresh produce often costs more than products made with corn byproducts because of the government subsidies on the corn.
It has been very easy for me to eat vegetarian and still get enough protein. I eat a lot of beans, eggs, cheese, and soy products. There are zillions of vegetarian recipes on the internet, so it’s never been difficult to try anything new. I’ll share two recipes with you, one for dry beans (below) and the other for a Peruvian soup that was featured (scroll to the bottom of the page to see the recipe) on the SPH web version of the Findings magazine. I usually make a pound of beans at a time and freeze most in small containers, leaving one for the fridge. As I use up the ones in the fridge, I put one from the freezer there to thaw. That way, I always have some ready to use!
Black beans that won’t give you gas!
- 1 lb dry black beans
- 2 pieces kombu (a Japanese seaweed, found at most healthfood stores)
- 5 cloves garlic, diced
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon oregano flakes/leaves (not powder)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 tablespoon ground pepper
- 1/2 medium onion, any type, chopped
- Rinse and sort the beans
- Soak for 6-8 hours (overnight or while you’re at work for example)
- Rinse and add fresh water to the beans, bring to a boil. Boil for 15-30 min
- Add all the other ingredients
- Reduce heat to a simmer for 1.5-2 hours. Add water as needed.
- Let the beans cool a bit and transfer to containers for the fridge and freezer!
You can use them many ways – with rice, in a salad, on nachos, in tacos, in quesidillas, in soup, with sauteéd spinach, etc.