My day began with dusting, culling, and organizing my many cookbooks. I learned a lot about myself. Let me explain that as part of the “been there, done that” generation, hubby and I have finally gotten it through our thick heads that we really need to be eating a better diet. Four out of four of our parents had cardiac issues, and those are beginning to manifest in us after six or so decades of making food choices that have not been optimal (Imagine!).
I ordered the cookbook the cardiologist recommended, the How Not to Die Cookbook. I’m serious – that’s the name of it. It’s beautiful, with enticing recipes and great color glossy photos. That made me wonder about everything else I’ve collected (and almost never used) over the years.
The household’s cookbooks are all gathered up and live together on a couple of shelves around the corner from the kitchen. My mom has always been a wonderful cook, loving the job. She has been a great inspiration. She’s also a bit of a collector…. and a bit of an enabler…. so yes, I have lots of cookbooks.
For reasons of health first, with concerns about the earth and animal cruelty following closely behind, we are headed in the direction of a vegetarian diet. We are in the transitioning phase, with less and less meat — both in quantity and in frequency, soon to reach none at all. Poultry comes next, though I doubt we’ll give it up altogether. We’ve already cut way back on dairy, and continue to make whatever changes seem to support our new goals and our new desire for health.
You may have heard a fairly new term tossed around: Plant-based Diet. Now, I first took that to mean a diet based in eating plants. After all, a tomato-based soup has more ingredients than tomatoes. A color scheme based in earth tones can still have an accent in turquoise. It sounded good to me to have a diet centered around plants, and I thought it would be like being a vegetarian, dressed up in a 21st-century label. I’ve learned that it’s more strict than that. It’s pretty much eating plants and nothing else. I’m not quite sure how it differs from the old familiar term “vegan” wherein folks eat no animal products at all. Certainly no meat, but also no eggs, no dairy, not even gelatin or honey. Maybe the Plant-based folks eat honey. I just don’t know.
Vegetarian (eating no meat) would be an improvement from where we’ve been. However, consumption of dairy products is another source for animal fats, which seem to be at the root of coronary artery disease. And really, if you’ve ever seen how cheese is made, you may feel there’s a black mark on the animal cruelty ledger too.
This morning as I was dusting and sorting, I rediscovered the first vegetarian cookbooks I bought forty-some years ago. I am embarrassed at how little use they’ve had. I found the old 1970’s standards like Recipes for a Small Planet and The Book of Tofu, Laurel’s Kitchen and The Vegetarian Epicure. I have some mainstream cookbooks’ attempts to go with the vegetarian flow, such as Betty Crocker’s Meatless Main Dishes, but those are only meatless if chicken and fish are plants.
In any case, it became quite clear to me that I’ve been flirting with this better diet for many, many years. I remain uncertain of the full list of factors which caused me not to pursue it seriously. Old habits? Family pressures? Expediency? Other overshadowing obligations? I’m sure all of them had some influence at various times, but I shake my head that this has been simmering in the background for all that time.
The good news is that I’m really quite prepared to become a great and even dedicated vegetarian cook. Maybe even vegan eventually…. or flexitarian… or plant-based. And anyway, what’s in a name?
(c) 2018, J. Cools