I encountered a new word last week; one to add to the growing list of ‘tarians’ already out there. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet the flexitarian…
Flexitarian is the name being given to a new group of health conscious people who still eat meat, but are happy to cut back their meat consumption by replacing some of their meals with a vegetarian option. I read about this new breed on the block recently, in an article I found on the Kansas City Star website.
If people are consuming less meat, I think it’s great news;
on an ethical level, and also a health level. Certainly, if these people are consuming higher quantities of nutrient-packed vegetarian foods in their diet, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, grains and non-animal sources of protein, they’re taking steps towards a healthier way of living.
Undoubtedly, for some, this could also be a step towards eventual vegetarianism; however, am I the only one who finds it exasperating that the best way to get meat eaters interested in vegetarian food seems to involve enticing them with imitation meat products?
As many vegetarians know, meat substitutes have their place; some enjoy eating them more than others, but, in reality, there are so many more exciting vegetarian foods to experiment with when choosing this diet. So, I’d like to argue that recreating traditional meat-based dishes with meat-like imitation products isn’t necessary.
A vegetarian diet can provide a person with so much in terms of food variety; different textures, different tastes, a whole spectrum of vibrantly colored foods power-packed with energy-giving nutrients. And yet, it seems that the only way we can come up with ideas to get people interested in our diet, is by trying to tempt them with insipid-looking products that don’t contain meat, but have a meat-like appearance and taste. Vegetarian spaghetti bolognese or chili con carne anyone?
I suppose it could be counter-argued that anything that prompts people to eat less saturated animal fat is a good thing, and I agree that’s true, I also understand that people enjoy and can miss the taste and texture of meat. But it seems like a wasted opportunity to me when vegetarianism is promoted in such a dull way.
Okay, so I’m playing devil’s advocate to a certain extent here, I’m a big believer in each to his own, and I’m not on a mission to convert meat-eaters to a vegetarian diet. However, I’ll confess, it’s always good to hear that people are opting to eat less meat, whichever way they choose to do so.
Eating one vegan or vegetarian meal per week is, for example, a great start.
When I have non-vegetarian friends over for a meal, they know in advance that I won’t be serving meat, obviously they’re happy with that or they wouldn’t show up! I try to create a menu for the evening that awakens their taste buds to the endless possibilities a vegetarian diet has to offer. I never offer a meat-like substitute as a dish as – for me – that’s missing the whole point of vegetarianism. I chose this lifestyle for health reasons and I’m passionate about proving that healthy food is also tasty food.
So, instead of serving up traditional meat dishes, with a vegetable protein substitute replacing the meat, I tend to offer familiar tastes from around the world with a vegetarian twist. Garlic-stuffed slow-roasted tomatoes make an excellent Mediterranean inspired starter, and a Moroccan chickpea tagine or a satay-style peanut butter stir-fry make delicious choices for a main course for non-vegetarians.