Let us suppose you have decided to eat less meat. Your reasons for doing so may be economic, ethical, altruistic, nutritional or even irrational, but let us ignore those. The arguments for eating less meat are myriad, but what I want to address here is (almost) pragmatic: How do you do it?
Small helpings: Make meat a treat.
I am not talking about eating no meat; but cutting back, which may be harder than quitting. Cutting back on meat is not an isolated process; it usually has consequences for others.
The keys are to keep at least some of your decisions personal so they affect no one else and, when they do affect others, minimize the pain and don’t preach. On the other hand, don’t apologize; by serving your friends or family less meat; you are doing them no harm, and may be doing good.
Although there will undoubtedly be times you will have cravings, they will never give you the shakes. So, here are some suggestions to ease your path to eating less meat.
# Forget the protein thing: Someone will ask, “How are you going to get enough protein?” The answer is: “By being omnivorous.” Plants have protein, too; in fact, per calorie, many plants have more protein than meat (for example, a cheeseburger contains 14.57g of protein in 286 calories, or about .05g of protein per calorie; a serving of spinach has 2.97g of protein in 23 calories, or 0.12g per calorie; and lentils have 0.07g per calorie). By eating a variety, you can get all the essential amino acids.
# Buy less meat: Change the amount of meat in a regular serving, and both your cooking style and the way the plate looks will change. Most traditional styles of cooking use meat as a condiment or a treat. This is true in American frontier cooking, where salt pork and bacon were used to season beans; in Italy, where a small piece of meat is served as a secondo (rarely more than a few ounces, even in restaurants); and around the world, where bits of meat are added to stir-fries and salads, as well as bean, rice and noodle dishes. In all of these cases, meat is seen as a treasure, not as something to be gobbled up as if it were air.
# Get it out of the centre of the plate: Build the meal around what you used to consider side dishes—vegetables, grains, beans, salads. Nearly every culture has dishes in which meat is used to season rice or another grain — dirty rice, fried rice, pilaf, biryani, arroz con pollo. And stir-fries and pasta dishes are only too obvious.
# Buy more vegetables, and learn new ways to cook them: If you are a good cook, you can make a meal out of pretty much anything. If you open your refrigerator and see vegetables, that is what you are going to cook. Augment the vegetables with pantry items: pasta, rice, beans, cheese, eggs, canned fish, bacon, or a small amount of meat.
# Look at restaurant menus differently : If you are cutting back on meat then go to restaurants that don’t feature meat-heavy dishes, such as most Asian restaurants. Traditional Italian is safe, too.
Thai Beef Salad
225g steak, leftover or raw
6 cups mixed salad greens, torn
1 cup torn fresh herb leaves (mint, cilantro, Thai basil)
¼ cup minced red onion
1 medium cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and diced
1 small fresh hot red chilli, such as Thai, minced
Juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla, available at Asian markets) or soy sauce
½ tsp sugar
If you are starting with raw meat, start a gas or charcoal grill or heat a broiler; rack should be about 4 inches from the heat source. Grill or broil beef for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness, until medium rare, turning once or twice; set it aside to cool.
Toss greens with herbs, onion and cucumber. In a bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients with 1 tbsp water. Use half of this mixture to toss with greens. Remove greens on to a platter.
Slice beef thinly, reserving its juice; combine juice with the remaining dressing. Lay slices of beef over salad, drizzle the remaining dressing over all, and serve.
©2008/The New York Times
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