75% vegetarian: meat is just a side dish

After reading my post yesterday about, among other things, the offal challenge on Top Chef, someone emailed me expressing surprise that I was not a vegetarian. I have been asked before by readers of this blog whether I was a vegetarian. I'm not, but let me qualify that.

I am not a vegetarian simply because I do enjoy some forms of meat. However, I find that the older I get the less I seem to crave meat. When I was in my teens and 20s I felt deprived when some form of meat or fish wasn't the centerpiece of a meal, but nowadays I think that more than half the meals I eat don't have either of those. Overall I think I am about 75% vegetarian (well, lacto-ovo vegetarian) in my eating.

Most of the time, meat for me is no longer the center of the meal, it's just the side dish, the flavoring.

Walliserplatte or Walliserteller (A typical Swiss country lunch)

The meat I do like is things like the plate pictured above, which is called a Walliserplatte or Walliserteller. You have a plate of this type in many European countries - it's an assortment of hams, sausages and other cold cuts, artfully arranged, often served with something sour like pickles or cornichons, and of course some good, crusty bread and wine. This particular plate, which has all kinds of traditional Swiss cured meats, is simple and delicious. Although the meats cover the whole plate, the slices are so paper-thin there's probably only about 100-150 grams (4-5 ounces) in total. I also love good sausages (Switzerland has great sausages), or a great, well aged steak (mm...for that I try to wait until I'm in New York, and if I'm feeling brave enough, splurge on steaks from Lobel's).

The unfortunate thing is that most of the meat that is affordable on a daily basis seems to have various consequences. One of those, at least for me, is cost. Except for chicken and ground beef, meat here in Switzerland is very expensive. But cost is actually the least of my concerns. Meat, in general, is higher in calories and not-good fat than vegetable proteins. And you know - most run of the mill meat just doesn't taste that good to me. Meat is dull in color when cooked and just not so exciting. I could (and have here) write pages and pages about the delights of fresh vegetables and fruit, but what can you say about a pork chop? Not much really.

I used to this this non-meat centric kind of eating came from my cultural heritage - most traditional Japanese food is not meat-centered. (Things like sukiyaki, shabu-shabu and gyuudon (beef bowl) only came into existence after the Meiji Restoration in the 19th Century.) But I see people around me eating like this more and more too. I think it's the modern way to eat.

It just dawned on me that it's odd to be talking about this a week before the biggest meat-centric meal of the year in the U.S. I wonder when we will stop having a Big Meat Dish as the centerpiece of a feast?

See also: Time-tested vegan proteins

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