....it's really not that big a deal.
OK, maybe it is kind of a big deal -- for me. Six months ago I decided to give Meatless Mondays a try. I outlined my reasons in my very first blog post. In part, I wrote "I'm not a vegetarian. I firmly believe a life devoid of (good) bacon isn't worth living. That having been said, I am embarking on what I hope will be a year-long journey of Meatless Mondays."
Why Meatless Mondays? The official movement is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. They offer evidence that cutting back on meat consumption by 15%, one day a week, will yield significant environmental and health benefits. This link provides more information. Additionally, here is the history of Meatless Monday which has been around a lot longer than you might think! A growing number of doctors, nutrition experts and celebrities have voiced their public support for the movement including Sir Paul McCartney who is a strong supporter of the affiliated Meat Free Monday movement in Great Britain.
Cynthia and I were never the "meat and potatoes" types anyway. There were always several nights each week that were either meat-free or, in a phrase I think we might have coined, "meat as a flavoring." Many of our dinners were were either a pasta or a big salad (I couldn't help picturing Elaine Benes when I wrote that -- Seinfeld fans will understand). These were almost always meatless, or used a very small amount of meat to flavor the base. Think adding salt pork to a slow cooking pot of tomato sauce.
Well, 26 Mondays later I'm still not a vegetarian, and with apologies to my vegetarian friends, I still feel the same way about bacon. However, I'm making a small but important revision to my statement. I am no longer hoping this will be a one year journey. I now believe that this is a permanent part of my life.
Having successfully eliminated meat (and for the record that includes seafood) from my diet one day a week, has more than anything else, opened my eyes to the vast array of vegetables, fruits and grains that are out there and just how delicious they can be. I simply want this discovery to continue because I am truly enjoying this. It doesn't hurt that I'm married to a wonderful woman who is an amazing cook and has come along for the Meatless Monday ride.
So, what have I learned in the past six months?
I've learned that you can make a very good home version of one of my favorite veggie meals -- the Chipotle vegetarian bowl -- at home.
I've learned that you can get a great meatless meal while out on business in Fairfax at the Villa Mozart.
I've learned that, if you hide it and spice it well enough, I will eat tofu. OK, I admit I liked it.
I've learned that you can take a classic pasta dish and reinvent it in a fun and interesting way.
I've learned that mac and cheese doesn't need to come out of box, be just for kids or have that unnatural orange color.
I've learned that I like okra even more that I thought I did -- yes, I already liked it.
I've learned that potato pancakes are a fun, easy and delicious comfort food on a Meatless Monday.
I've learned that Cynthia can turn slow cooked eggs and pistachios into a work of art.
I've learned that I can even be out of the country, in a 4-star restaurant, and get a wonderful meat free meal.
I learned that Shepherds Pie doesn't need meat to be savory and soul satisfying and that green lentils mimic beef really well.
I've learned that grilled cheese can be pretty darn exciting.
I've learned what forbidden black rice is, and why it pairs so well with sweet potatoes.
I've learned that farro is different than Pharaoh and that's it's really delicious.
I've learned what quinoa is, how to pronounce it, that it's not a grain but that it may be my favorite Meatless Monday meal yet.
More than anything, I've learned that expanding my horizons to include more vegetables, grains and fruits has been been both exciting and delicious.