I really struggle to understand why we have become such lovers of extreme measures, in all aspects of life including the way we eat. It’s either going vegan or living on processed, ready meals. And there are those who do both, since the food industry have quickly jumped on the vegan bandwagon and flood the market with meat substitutes so processed, they make a Big Mac look natural.
I get it, cows kill the planet and so on but there are better ways of helping to save it than choosing aquafaba over egg whites. For instance, cutting down on waste by eating the whole animal rather than select, choice cuts can potentially cut meat emissions by 14%. And obviously if we all also reduce our meat consumption, gradually and gently, we’ll do better in the long run than if we turn militant vegans for a month.
There is a medium between the two extremes, vegans and red meat addicts. There is an age-long way to eat less animal products and stay healthy. It’s called ‘vegetarianism’ and it seems to have fallen by the wayside on our journey to plant-based steaks and sausages.
We can be moderate instead of trying to do a full Greta. If you eat eggs and dairy, and most of the (albeit probably old-school) vegetarians I know do, you’re more likely to have a good, healthy diet without having to resort to those uber-processed soy products that contribute a lot to food industry emissions.
Eating cheese, eggs, milk and milk products means your intake of protein and calcium is secure, unlike if you only eat plants. And if you allow yourself occasional, sustainable and responsibly fished or farmed fish and seafood, your diet should become well-balanced and comprehensive without much effort.
It’s not only pasta, though it remains the joy of the vegetarian diet since you can eat it fearlessly when there’s no hefty meat sauce on it. Mushroom ragu instead of beef, tomato and aubergine bake instead of classic lasagne, silky red pepper sauce instead of carbonara – there are more options for veggie pasta than for the meaty kind.
And there’s more if you allow cream and cheese to enter your menu. Camembert en croute is not only filling and delicious – it’s a very impressive dish easily made. Likewise pancakes, Dutch style dressed with savoury toppings like spinach and blue cheese. Potatoes become a standalone main course when made into a gratin with cabbage – and cheese. And need I mention mac and cheese?
Pulses extend your lifespan, so have a spicy cheesy lentil bake tomorrow. And maybe lentils with mushrooms a few days later?
You can stay seasonal, eating lots of (filling, nutritious) root vegetables in winter. Again, if you add cheese, you’ll turn them into a feast, like the autumn vegetable tian or beetroot gratin.
And rice, which like pasta you can enjoy more in veggie dishes if you’re calorie counting. From risottos to crispy tomato rice via Persian recipes, it’s easier to cook excellent rice dishes if you can add some butter, yoghurt or Parmesan.
Cake, finally. I know there are lots of vegan cake recipes but honestly, I’ve yet to try a dessert where smashed banana and vinegar win over eggs, and coconut oil makes it tastier than butter. Less of the real thing instead of ersatz is always my mantra. Plus, vegan cream doesn’t clot. And how could you possibly give up cream teas?