Let me make something clear at the outset: I am not, nor do I aspire to become, a vegetarian. I’m aware the danger that the title of this article might make carnivorous readers skim on past, but as conflicting as this may sound, it’s the meat-eaters to whom I hope to speak most directly. I share with most American diners the enjoyment of eating meat–it’s flavors, aromas, texture and protein-rich satisfaction it brings to my appetite. I believe our bodies have been so engineered for this inclination.
So why would a proud steak-lover write about vegetables in a starring role? The reasons are simple but compelling.
First, there’s the health factors. Americans, on average, eat nearly twice the recommended daily amounts of animal protein (meat, poultry, and fish). Meat is not unhealthy (yes, even red meat) but it “all things in moderation” as they say. Meat ought to be less than 1/4th of the dinner plate, but over the past century it has grown to overtake our plates, accounting for nearly half the space and well over half the calories of an average meal.
Which brings up the second reason: the budget. After all, how did American cuisine shift into this meat-centric paradigm? It was, as I mentioned, a gradual process throughout the 2oth century–that century when American wealth grew at unprecedented levels and with it the luxuries of life. Meat, the most expensive of all protein forms, had been a rare luxury for most Americans at the turn of the 1900’s. But, as disposable income increased, the starring role on everyone’s plate became increasingly cast with an expensive character. Today, as more and more consumers are realizing the need to cut back the budget, it’s important to realize that you can save more money by simply changing the lineup.
But–and this is a big BUT–such a shift need not come at the sacrifice of flavor, nor any of the other more subtle pleasures that animal proteins afford. For centuries past, our cultural ancestors satiated their appetite for meat with lower quantities by skillfully incorporating its qualities into the vegetables on which their menu was based. Not only the sensory appeals like taste and smell, but also the more subtle demands that our bodies have for fat and energy can be accommodated all the while reducing the actual portions of meat and letting vegetables take center stage.
We have prepared a short series of articles, 4 in total, each with a simple recipe to try for yourself. If you would like to re-learn the human tradition of enjoying meat alongside your vegetables (not the other way around) I invite you to sign up to receive these tips, lessons, recipe ideas, and of course some special offers and coupons to get you started on the path to better health and a smaller grocery budget.