why would a vegetarian eat fish, chicken, or dare I say, pork?


I’ve now been a vegetarian for over half my life, and over those many years I’ve read, thought, and discussed a lot about food, health and healing, cooking and eating well. During those years I was diagnosed as having a low-thyroid condition; I tried to address that through natural means of diet modification, and while that was supportive, I finally relented and accepted my allopathic doctor’s prescription for Synthroid. Concurrently I accepted my Acupuncturist’s advice to eat organic kelp, scallops, salmon, and white fish, trying for once or twice weekly, and to take Selenium supplements daily to support my thyroid. Thus I overcame my aversion to eating flesh by selecting fish whenever I was eating out on business meals; I can honestly say that for about 15 years I’ve enjoyed eating salmon.

Meanwhile I’ve forever been interested in other cultures, people and places, and now I’m at a stage in my life where I have more discretionary time and money, so I’m able to travel some. For over two years I’ve also enjoyed a loving partnership with a man who wants to travel with me, a man who enjoys tasty healthy food, and good spirits– by that I mean both good and happy people, also good wine, beer and liquor. When we traveled together to Ireland and Scotland a year ago, knowing we’d be staying as house guests part of that time, I decided it would be wise to add chicken breast to my diet too, to help me have more options when eating with others abroad. I’d enjoyed salmon and chicken in my mother’s home, and I recalled the flavors happily. My mind was willing, my gut easily survived. Culinary bonus points scored with discovery of draft Guinness beer!

I’ve been thinking about these things as I prepared to go on a wonderful vacation– we’ve just returned from Paris, Florence, and rural Tuscany. Ah, you say, French food! Oui! Oui! How fun that KLM/Delta aired the movie “Julie and Julia” (a comedy by Nora Ephron staring Meryl Streep as Julia Childs) on our flight to Paris! That was perfect, as my partner is a huge movie fan, and I, of course, love to cook.

Indeed we enjoyed the food in Paris– especially wonderful savory crepes, and quiche. Ah but yes, Quiche Lorraine has bacon in it. Oh, the restaurant menus– artichokes were in season, abundant, beautiful, and so delicious! Ah, pea soup! And oh, my, not just beef ragout in those lovely red individual serving sized enameled cast iron casseroles, but duck and rabbit as speciality menu items… The local markets were stellar, well stocked with beautiful produce. The artichokes, haricot verts, and so many types of beautiful greens! The bread, the cheese, oui, oui! And of course, the wonderful wines.

The food scene in Italy felt entirely different. There too the wonderful cheeses, wine, bread, and the olives! Best of all gelato! And my partner introduced me to Sambuca. Yum! I found the restaurant menus there were much more accessible to me as a vegetarian, even though I almost never eat pasta (having long ago given up gluten noodles.) I had lovely choices of fish, all beautifully prepared in delicious butter. The question for me on this trip though was pork. Did I want to eat pig meat after more than thirty years?? Thinly sliced prosciutto, on bruschetta with marinated artichoke hearts, thinly sliced pecorino romano, and a drizzle of olive oil, so perfectly Italian. I decided yes, when in Florence do as the Florentines do, and I was delighted.

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Antipasti of thick sliced cold salsiccia, with a cold Bierra? Hmmm, that Salsiccia just looked to be a bit much for me to stomach; the bierra was delicious. For breakfast in before a full day out adventuring in rural Tuscany, my partner made his awesome over-hard eggs that I have come to enjoy (I was vegan for many years), with fried tomato and yes, a little salsiccia sausage link cooked perfectly. Yum! And no gastric distress. Moderation is the key.

Now home again, I went to our County Master Gardener’s “Incredible Edibles” organic vegetable and herb start sale event last weekend, and I’m making progress turning and weeding my raised beds after a horrendously wet Spring. I’m thinking about eating with the changing seasons, and as the name of my blog reminds me, as a Conscious Vegetarian. Thinking about that now, I acknowledge that means for me also cooking salmon or chicken breast on occasion.

Last night I was really hungry, and knew I needed a generous serving of protein. I enjoyed braising 3 oz of salmon with garlic, dill, and lemon, then making a lovely salmon salad with mixed greens, radicchio, topped with black olives, sheep feta, walnuts, thin slices of red onion, and orange slices, dressed with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yes, it was a perfect meal for me, a conscious vegetarian.

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fava beans with artichokes, bulgur, lemon and basil


It’s January again, and the gym is rocking full as so many earnestly begin their New Year resolutions to lose weight and live more healthfully. Days are shorter and work seems harder after leisurely time off over Christmas. So friends ask me more often at this time of year, “How do you eat a good fast lunch at work?” and “How do you get a good dinner on the table fast after work and the kid’s team practices?”, as well as the standard  “How do you manage to get enough protein not eating meat?” My answers are simple– cook ahead larger batches of simple whole foods with their own natural bright flavors. Keep basic staples in your cupboards and fridge. Include legumes, seeds and nuts in your diet daily. Try new ingredients, in new combos. Eat mostly local foods, in season, but allow yourself to enjoy too the occasional ingredient that may be from afar- or a season afar- if that makes your recipe pop. Enjoy!

After many days of winter root based soups, and potatoes or yams with dark greens combos, now that the sun is out and it’s clear and cold, I wanted something savory and bright…so decided to go to the Mediterranean for a sunny and heart healthy fava bean salad…

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ingredients:

  • 16 oz frozen fava beans
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 jar artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 3/4 cup bulgur
  • black pepper
  • olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • feta cheese

instructions:
Place bulgur in large casserole dish with lid. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil, then stir into bulgur, cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Drain off any residual water, fluff with fork. Place frozen fava beans into saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil then turn down heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until beans feel soft and you can readily peel away the inner skin. Drain, rinse in cold water, then enjoy popping each bean out of its inner skin. Place a couple tablespoons olive oil into a large skillet, then saute the chopped onion until it starts to become translucent. Add garlic, chopped celery and peppers, also peeled fava beans and artichokes (first drain the artichokes, then rinse and drain again); stir all together as the peppers cook just enough to turn bright and begin to soften. Remove from heat. Add finely chopped fresh basil, bulgur, and juice of 1/2 squeezed lemon. Stir all together well, add black pepper to taste, also dress with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve warm or room temp for lunch at work, topped with feta cheese. Stores well in refrigerator in a casserole dish with airtight lid for several days.