Sunday, March 26, 2006

Blacksheep Vegan Blacklisted

I don’t think I knew what the word vegetarian meant until my second college. My family ate meat. Preferably red, sometimes still a bit bloody. And chicken, but only when necessary. Mainly beef and pork. In slabs, cutlets or ground up. At every meal. I don’t recall a lot of fish, other than frozen fish sticks, heated in the oven and served with tater tots, or something similarly healthy, before my parents left us with a babysitter and went out. I guess since this happened a few times a week for a few years, we did in fact eat quite a bit of fish.

Back then, there was a particular family in the neighborhood. The parents were friends of my parents. Their oldest son was in college when we lived there. He was rumored to not eat meat - ever. This was sort of discussed in hushed tones, as if he had some sort of disease. Incurable, apparently. One time, while visiting their house, this son was there. He didn’t join us for burgers and dogs at the BBQ. Instead, he ate some cottage cheese piled in a melon half. This was discussed, in hushed tones as well, for weeks. Along with his long hair and general appearance. It was just too odd for our isolated little community back then. If he had started ranting in Russian about taking over the world, maybe pounding his shoe on the table for effect, no one would have been the least surprised (the cold war was in full swing, and the 60s hadn’t made it to our town yet).

Over the course of the various incarnations of my life, once due to an extreme shortage of cash during one semester at college, I have lived a sort of vegetarian lifestyle a few times, for some months, or even years, at a time.

Of course, when I read Walden for the first time, Thoreau’s comments on vegetarianism, among other things, really struck home.

This caused significant stress between my family and myself for a long time. The meat-eating religion just couldn’t accept a convert to another sect. Not to mention cohabitating with a known vegetarian (who wouldn’t even sit at a table where meat was being consumed). Fraternizing directly with the enemy! I was blacklisted big time.

Oddly enough, everyone has become a bit vegetarian over the last years. Mainly due to health concerns about high blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s funny sometimes how the battle lines of a previous decade can change so radically. Almost like the wall coming down in Berlin.

So we go vegetarian a few times a week on average. Not really from any particular belief or concern. In my case, because I like the different tastes and textures that you can only get when meat is absent.

We have the great advantage of having a number of cultures well represented here in the area – Persian, Thai, Korean, Indian, Mexican, to name just a few. Each of these cultures seems to have some interesting meatless dishes just waiting to be tried. And because of the local demand from the population, there are a number of markets that supply the exact ingredients for these dishes. So it’s really just a matter of researching the options.

Indian cuisine has tons of fantastic options, or sometimes it’s a risotto, or a salad or stew. Recently I have discovered a number of Indian food blogs. And all the things I’ve made from those recipes have gone over very well here.

So tonight its ‘Aloo Chole’, a chickpea-based Masala with potatoes and tomatoes. Rather than repeat the recipes, here are two links to the two sites these recipes came from: , and . I served this on steamed rice, with a mango chutney on the side.

Mango Chutney

2 mangoes, slightly under-ripe
½ cup brown sugar
2/3 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoons coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 Serrano chili, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1.5 teaspoon ginger paste
1 tsp graham masala powder
1/2 teaspoon cloves
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoon garlic paste
1 onion (finely chopped )

Peel the mango with knife (good result with potato peeler).
Evenly sprinkle the sugar over mango and leave for sometime in cool place (for better result leave 12 hours)
Heat the pan. Roast the cumin, coriander and cardamom. Add everything else and bring to simmer for about 2-3 hours on low heat, stirring from time to time, until the mango becomes translucent and the liquid has almost evaporated, leaving behind a thick syrup.
Remove from heat.

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Anonymous Indira said...

Your coldwar analogy is really interesting to read.

I'm glad you had success with the recipe and thanks for the link.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:38 PM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

indira, thanks for the comment! I've tried a few things from your site - all have been great!

11:45 PM  

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