Yuck … vegetarian!


People who know me a little bit, know that I really love to cook, and perhaps even more to eat. Since childhood, I was already stirring in a pan of soup. Almost every night we ate a piece of meat at home, or there was minced meat or bacon in the dish. Five years ago, I moved into my room in Eindhoven; living with twelve other students and young adults. Since then, a lot has changed in my consumption of meat and how much I cook with it.

When I moved into my current dorm five years ago, a lot of meat was still eaten. Some pans of pasta easily held a kilo of minced meat. A lot has changed in our house in recent years; many roommates prefer to eat less meat, but no one is really outspoken vegetarian. As a cooking enthusiast, you have to adjust to that; otherwise no one will want to join you for dinner!

And actually I could see the point; meat, and fish as well, are incredibly harmful to the environment. A kilo of beef costs thousands of liters of water and produces kilos of CO₂ emissions. We simply don't have that space anymore to emit that much. In addition, of course, you have the animal welfare aspect. By buying locally at the butcher's, or by caring about the 'three stars better life' label, you can have some influence (I hope).

As a result, I now cook a lot less meat and fish and eat a lot less of it myself. Is that difficult? On the contrary; you can do so much with a celeriac, a zucchini, or with a pumpkin. Mushrooms are also great and very filling. Now I should mention here that you have to get a little creative. My golden tip: fresh packets (in Dutch: verspakketten)! These often contain only vegetables and offer a great learning experience on how to make a tasty dish without meat.

What about meat substitutes? I'm not such a fan of those. Do you really need to replace meat, or can you expand your cooking skills with vegetables and other products? I have to admit; they often taste very good and can definitely mimic the original product. Unfortunately, they are usually expensive, and often consist mainly of soy and lots of (synthetic) flavoring and coloring agents. Just give me a plain bell pepper then!

You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the word vegetarian in this entire piece. Ok, only once in the first paragraph. But when I cook without meat, I deliberately never mention the term. I notice that some people have negative connotations with it. If I don't even mention that there is no meat in the dish, people often don't realize it, or sometimes only find out after finishing the meal. "That was delicious, and there was no meat in it!"

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