In Lieu of: Grammy's Irish Stew.
I'm coming up on my ten-year Vegetarian anniversary. Wow...ten years!
It's been a good decade. The food ride has been pretty incredible. I could sit here all night, compiling a list of all the foods I've tried and added to my diet since I stopped eating meat.
I decided to go veggie not because I didn't like meat; no, I actually love chicken, and in particular, turkey. Battered and fried shrimp...fantastic.
I barely ate anything with pork or beef, and I'd think 'oh, how cute pigs and cows are'.
One day, I found myself wondering why, in my mind, it was ok not to eat the cute animals, but perfectly acceptable (to me) to consume the less-attractive chickens and turkeys?
I gave it a lot of thought. And I finally decided it was not, in fact, 'ok'.
I didn't eat much meat anyway, so I figured, 'why not go for it?'. And I did.
I went, if you'll excuse the phrasing, cold turkey. It wasn't a resolution, but rather a a clear-cut start date. 1 January? Not only easy to remember, but a good indicator for how long I was doing it.
So, in less than a month I'll be coming up on my ten-year mark...yet I still have family and friends who'll say 'oh, you're still on that vegetarian kick?'.
There have been times when going veggie was hard. My hometown isn't exactly veggie-friendly.
I mean, this is an area where school districts schedule off days for the first days of doe and buck season!
Not a single 'restaurant' (and oh...do I use that term loosely) carried a veggie entree on their menu.
I once celebrated my birthday dinner by ordering the side salad, a baked potato, and cheese sticks!
But despite any obstacles I may have faced (like being the only vegetarian I was aware of in the county!), it's been a good ten years.
I don't miss meat. Sure, I eat a lot of faux meat products, but that has more to do with being raised in a very meat-and-potatoes-and-side-vegetable atmosphere than anything else.
And remember: I didn't quit meat because I didn't like it. I stopped eating it for moral and ethical reasons.
I still like the idea of a turkey, avocado and bacon sandwich; but these days, I use Lightlife veggie turkey and Morningstar Farms bacon.
I adore fried chicken, except now I make mine using Veat.
There are just a few things I miss: turkey dinner (I lucked out, as Matt doesn't really care for turkey; we almost never make it for Thanksgiving so I'm not tortured!), shrimp (while hard to find around here, there is a fabulous fake shrimp make by an Asian company...looks and tastes like the real deal, but totally meat-free), and the last one?
Grammy's Irish Stew.
Oh...Grammy's Irish Stew.
Boy, do I miss that!
I could count on her making her beef stew about once a week. This warm, gravy-like broth, with chunks of beef, potatoes and carrots flavoring it up.
I mean, it was comfort in a bowl, people.
A few years ago, Grammy gave me the recipe: I knew I'd never eat it again, but maybe I could enjoy the aroma while making it for someone else?
Unfortunately, Matt doesn't like stews with thickened broths. Crap.
I thought that was it. No Irish stew for me.
But then, I found those Morningstar Farms Steak Strips Meal Starters (they really have to come up with a better...and shorter...name). They worked so well in other dishes, I thought it might just make a tolerable fake stew!
So, I gave it a shot.
I sauteed diced onions, carrots, and celery in butter and olive oil. I later added chunks of potato and chopped Steak Strips. Poured in a bunch of vegetable broth, and for the 'beefy' flavor, Kitchens of India's Black Gram Lentils Curry (Dal Bukhara). While it doesn't exactly taste like meat, it does have this hearty, made-from-beef-ness to it.
So, I dumped a pouch of that in. Brought it to a boil, added some cornstarch to thicken it up, and?
Ok. It's not my Grammy's Irish Stew. Nothing will ever be as good.
But for something made from vegetable broth and mushed up black lentils, it's pretty darn good!
Next time I make this (and there will be a next time), I'm using less water and cornstarch, and adding more vegetables. I'll also be waiting till the very end to add the fake beef; it doesn't have the structural integrity to really hold up to a rapid boil.
But, excellent flavor, and all warm and hearty and comforting; just what I wanted.
Grammy's Irish Stew will always be my standard, but for this (almost) ten-year vegetarian, the fake stuff will do just fine.
And don't forget to mark your calendar for this month's Blog Party, Vegas, Baby!. We're all about giving in and indulging this time around, so start planning those entries!
Food and Drink, Stew, Vegetarian, Fake Food, Irish