Wrapping Up Meatless August

It’s September 1. Meatless August is over, done, finished, terminated. Here are my conclusions.

I could be a vegetarian. I probably won’t be a vegetarian. There are several reasons. As I thought about them over the last few days, here is where I find myself.

I didn’t feel significantly different going meatless than I did before. The only thing I really noticed was a decrease in night time indigestion. That tells me that I need to be more careful about when I eat meat and how much, not necessarily that I need to eliminate it.

Because I didn’t notice a big difference health-wise and because I don’t have ethical objections to eating meat, it comes down to a matter of what is more convenient. Eating vegetarian was too inconvenient. I had to think about every meal, especially when eating out. Eating became a chore.

Going vegetarian was a lot easier than eating a low-carb diet, which I have done. Being meatless for 30 days was much more tolerable than going carb-less. When you start looking at it, carbohydrates are everywhere. Potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, chocolate, potato chips. That was really a challenge and I often felt deprived on that diet. I can’t say I ever felt deprived by eliminating meat. I just didn’t see a commensurate benefit to giving up something I enjoy.

So the experiment is over. Tomorrow I’m having a hamburger,

Does the Word of Wisdom Require Vegetarianism?

Early on in this journey I promised that I would discuss the LDS Word of Wisdom in the context of vegetarianism.  Many people know that Latter-day Saints (Mormons) don’t drink coffee, tea or alcohol, or use tobacco. These prohibitions come from what is known as the Word of Wisdom, which can be found in Doctrine and Covenants Section 89.  What many people don’t know is that the Word of Wisdom contains a lot more than abstinence from coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco.

Verses 12 and 13 of Section 89 hint that vegetarianism is preferred by God, and can even be read to require abstinence from meat:

12. Yea, flesh also of beasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man, nevertheless they are to be used sparingly;

13.  And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter or or cold, or of famine.

Taking Verse 13 literally, one might conclude that the Lord is NOT pleased if meat is eaten frequently (not “sparingly”) or at times other than winter, cold or famine. How many of us, the reasoning goes, are subject to famine or really suffer from the cold? Therefore, it seems that the Word of Wisdom prohibits meat consumption except in these rare circumstances.

Such was the thesis used by a teacher in church once a few years ago. He is a former stake and mission president and has medical training. He is also a dedicated vegetarian. He used these verses and scientific research that shows that meat consumption is linked to nine of the top ten causes of death in the United States. These include heart disease, some cancers, high cholesterol and others (the other of the top 10 causes is accidental death, which can’t be blamed on meat). While he didn’t come right out and say it, his point was clear: You’re not keeping the Word of Wisdom if you eat meat.

I disagree. First, saying the Lord is “pleased” if you do something is not the same as a prohibition against the opposite. God knows how to give commandments, as in “Thou shalt not …..” It doesn’t even mean the Lord is displeased if we don’t do something. I’m pleased when Nancy makes my favorite dinner. That doesn’t mean I’m displeased with everything else she cooks.

Secondly, other verses in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 49, verses 18 and 19, seem to clear up the issue:

18. And whoso forbiddeth to abstain from meats, that man should not eat the same, is not ordained of God;

19. For, behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have an abundance.

It seems to me that while the Word of Wisdom counsels eating meat sparingly, a practice that medical science is now promoting, it does not require one to become a vegetarian. So all you carnivores, go ahead and indulge without fear of spiritual retribution.

By the way, if you’re interested in the historical context of the Word of Wisdom, you can find it here.

Grilled Eggplant Sandwich

Eggplant sandwich

One of the ways I’ve found vegetarian recipes is by searching for a food I like and putting “vegetarian” in front of it. That’s how I found what formed the basis of tonight’s grilled eggplant sandwiches.

I decided to see if there was a veggie substitute for a Cubano sandwich. A Cubano is basically a pulled pork sandwich topped with a slice of ham. But since there are so may variations of pulled pork, there are as many ways to make a Cubano, unlike a Reuben.

I found several vegetarian iterations for a Cubano. The one that looked best to me called for portabella mushrooms. But they were $6/lb at the store, a little pricey. So I called an audible in the produce section and decided on eggplant, with sliced mushrooms as garnish. They were delicious. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

One eggplant, peeled and sliced about 1/2″ thick

Two cloves garlic, finely chopped

One red onion, sliced thin

One green pepper and one red pepper, cut into strips

8 oz. sliced mushrooms, coarsely chopped

Large dill pickles sliced lengthwise into thin strips (optional)

Four Tbs. butter, divided

Thick bread such as sourdough, ciabatta, French or other

2 Tbs. sour cream

2 Tbs. stone ground mustard

Saute the eggplant in part of the butter. When cooked but still firm, remove from heat and put on a plate. Add more butter to the pan and the garlic, onions, mushrooms and peppers. Cook until crisp tender. Mix the sour cream and mustard together. Spread on one slice of bread. Place the eggplant in a single layer on the bread. Put slices of Swiss cheese on top of eggplant. When the other vegetables are done, divide them onto the bread slices. Top with a slice of dill pickle.  Put the other slice of bread on top.

Add remaining butter to the grill. Put the sandwiches on the grill and put a heavy skillet, weighted pan or something else to press the sandwiches against the grill. You can use a spatula, moving from sandwich to sandwich. Cook until one side of the sandwich is browned, 3-5 minutes. Remove sandwiches and re-butter the pan. Carefully turn the sandwiches over and repeat until the other side is done. Remove and serve immediately.

Pressing the sandwiches is optional but it forces the ingredients together and the juice out of the pickle so the flavor infuses the sandwich. I wouldn’t skip that step. Also, though the pickles are optional, they add flavor and to me this sandwich without the pickle would be a like a Reuben without sauerkraut.

I highly recommend this recipe. As I look back on it, I think the eggplant was an improvement over the portabella mushrooms.

Junk Food

I’m happy to report that after Wednesday’s slight hiccup I’m back on the meatless wagon. The sandwich was good, but it would have been just as good without the meat. I’m discovering that — it’s the condiments that most often make food taste good and you can use ketchup, mustard, mayo, horseradish, salt, pepper and all the other things on a vegetable sandwich.

To follow up a bit on yesterday’s post about the meat industry, the prevalence of meat makes going meatless less convenient. This was reinforced today when I went for my monthly (or thereabouts) serving of true, bottom of the pond, junk food. About once a month I stop at 7-11 and get something off their grill, usually the buffalo chicken rollers. They have absolutely no value, social, nutritional or redeeming. But they’re good once in a while. I couldn’t do that today, but I needed my junk food fix. Fortunately the good folks at the Sev have cream cheese and jalapeno taquitos.

You can still eat junk food without eating meat.

A Bit of a Stumble

It finally happened. I had a sandwich with meat yesterday. I know you’ve all been waiting to see if I could make it the full 31 days and it turns out, I can’t.

I was attending a lunch meeting of an advisory board that I sit on. They had pre-made sandwiches,  chips, cookies and soda. Three of the basic food groups, potato chips, cookies and soda were there  but I didn’t think I could make a meal out of just those. It was a choice between going hungry at lunch or eating a sandwich. I’ve said before that going hungry is not an option. And I wasn’t willing to take my sandwich apart as we sat around a table and discussed business. So I ate it. Sue me!

It did make me think of how ubiquitous meat is in our society. All of our meals revolve around cooked flesh of some sort or another. Think of the meat industry, from the producers to the processors to the packagers to the transporters to the sellers. It’s a huge industry. I said I wasn’t undertaking Meatless August as a way of protesting eating meat or the effect meat consumption has on the environment, but I do think that to be an ethical consumer of meat, you have to acknowledge where it comes from and the process that takes place to get that juicy steak on your plate. Meat doesn’t occur naturally on Styrofoam trays wrapped in cellophane. I’m afraid too many people who are more than a generation removed from our agricultural society that predominated until the last 50 years don’t understand that.

So I stumbled yesterday but today I’m back on track, looking forward to a garden vegetable patty and corn on the cob for dinner tonight.


Black bean burgers

One of the meats I like best is a juicy hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onion — all the fixings. Tonight I wanted a burger, so I made one: a chipotle black bean burger. I added fresh lettuce, onion, tomato, a little mayonnaise and I drizzled some Italian herb red wine vinegar over everything rather than use ketchup and mustard. Some baked French fries, also with a little vinegar and a couple slices of tomato and it was the equal of any beef burger I’ve eaten.

Black bean burgers come in a number of different varieties. There are the chipotle ones like I made tonight. Garden veggie burgers. Italian herb burgers. Almost anything you could want. They can be used as fillers in stews and soups. I like to cook one and top it with a couple of fried eggs, over easy. You can crumble them and use them as the base of burritos or tacos, too. You can also make them yourself, as Melinda has done. But you’ll have to ask her for the recipe.

Black bean burgers, baby! It’s da bomb.

Sunday Dinner

Bean enchiladas with Mexican rice and fresh guacamole

Today I went to an old standby, bean enchiladas. Super easy to make and everyone likes them . I made fresh guacamole and bean dip for the chips and Mexican rice for the side. The rice would have been good but for a user error. You are supposed to brown the uncooked rice in hot oil first. I kind of blackened a few (ok, a lot) of the grains. I like to think it gave it an earthy taste. Everyone was polite and took a serving, but the rest went in the garbage. Too bad because the recipe looked great.

Almost starting Week 3!

Three Cheese Tortellini

The fact that I haven’t posted anything for a few days doesn’t mean I fell off the wagon. There’s just been little to report. Leah, Melinda, Courtney and I are still holding strong to Meatless August, a little over 1/3 of the way through the month. I haven’t had any meat cravings, though yesterday morning was a challenge. Nancy has been such a good sport about eating whatever veggie meals I make that I decided to cook some bacon for her breakfast. Those crispy slices, gleaming with fat, giving off the delectable odor of meat was almost too much. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that I would have had to report my failure here, I probably would have caved in.

Three cheese tortellini  

Three cheese tortellini is my new go-to favorite. I’ve tried it with broccoli tops, squash, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and spinach (thrown in at the end just to wilt it). Saute the veggies in olive oil until they are crisp-soft then spoon them over the tortellini. Drizzle a little more olive oil over everything just to give it some moisture and sprinkle on grated Parmesan cheese. Good stuff!

Get Creative

I’m discovering that Meatless August is requiring a bit of creativity. I too often think of veggies as just something to take up part of the plate, next to the meat, which is the real dish. So vegetables don’t have to be pretty or particularly tasty or even cooked any differently than they usually are; they just have to be there. But when vegetables become the main dish, you have to start thinking of different ways to prepare them.

My daughter, Melinda, demonstrated that last night with her sweet potato enchiladas. Who would think to put sweet potatoes in enchiladas? Beans, sure. But sweet potatoes? That’s coloring outside the lines. She sent this picture. They look delicious and her report was “they’re pretty great!”

Sweet potato enchiladas
Melinda Chambers

Meeting Friends for Dinner

Grilled vegetable sandwich

Another area that causes vegetarians angst is where to go when dining with friends or family who eat meat. That happened last night as I met our son, Brad, and his family for his birthday dinner. He had said his family wanted to try Buffalo Wild Wings and I was OK with that, for reasons I’ll explain below. But we ended up at Sabores restaurant in Logan, another great place. Brad had chicken curry, Melanie had some kind of sandwich that she said was too hot (spicy) and the kids split a club sandwich. I chose a vegetarian option, grilled vegetables with pesto on ciabatta bread, with French fries. Which again raises the point that eating vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean eating healthy.  French fries and fry sauce are definitely not on the good list.

I said I would have been OK with Buffalo Wild Wings and I would have. I was actually hoping they’d go there because it sounded really good. This brings me to a point I want to make about any diet, whether it’s low carb, gluten free, vegetarian or whatever. The rest of the world doesn’t have to accommodate you. Don’t play the “oh I can’t go there — they don’t have [whatever it is you need for your diet]” card.  It’s not endearing to your friends. It makes them constantly adjust to you. Either live with whatever limited choices you have where they want to go or politely decline. Just realize if you politely decline too many times you might come off their list of invitees. But that was your choice, just as the diet or meal plan or lifestyle or whatever you want to call it was your choice. So, if we had gone to Buffalo Wild Wings, I would either have gone hungry or eaten chicken (and those who know me know that going hungry is not an option). Simple as that.