Watch Oprah’s show about thinking about what you eat and where it comes from here: http://myown.oprah.com/search/index.html?q=vegan%20week
Although I was glad that Oprah did this show, and I appreciated Michael Pollan’s contributions, I was not happy with the way vegan eating was represented. The whole aura of the show was “doing without” and making substitutions. It looked and felt like everyone was on a strict diet. They seemed to view it this way, as well.
Our society is most familiar with a meat/starch/vegetable format for meals. Instead of looking at other meal formats, the vegan representative took one of Oprah’s producers on a grocery run which included only highly processed meat and dairy substitutes, and instructed the producer to cook what she normally would using these processed substitutes. If you are going to examine what you eat and where it comes from, you can’t simply raise your head enough to make substitutions and then stop there. There are meat substitutes that I enjoy and cook with – in moderation. You can’t, however, take the meat/starch/vegetable eating habits of our society and simply throw in a meat substitute and make a vegan. The reason everyone on the show was floundering is because of the way our society views meals and food. What can you make instead of your chicken dinner with peas and mashed potatoes? Interchange the chicken with a chicken-like soy product and use soy milk and butter-substitute in the mashed potatoes? Ugh. Please. You simply can’t live off of processed substitutes any more than you can live off any other processed food.
Ours is an animal-based eating format. To continue eating in this format without animal products is strict and diet-ish. No wonder everyone felt deprived. If you see the need to be cognizant of what you are putting in your body and where it comes from, you need to take the extra step and look at other eating formats the world over. You need to educate yourself and experiment with a variety of nutrient sources. Meat and dairy are two, out of hundreds, of nutrient sources on this earth. Consider that there are over 65 types of leafy greens, over 29 types of legumes, 15 types of sea vegetables, and over 50 types of root tubers – I’m not even getting into seeds and grains – each teeming with nutrients. To eliminate meat from your diet, you need to take a look at other meal formats.
My favorite eating format is Indian, which includes a wealth of whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. Although some Indian cuisine features animal products, the Indian eating format is not animal-centric. To illustrate, in most cities in India, a restaurant will advertise that it is “non-vegetarian” – if it doesn’t specify, then it is assumed to be vegetarian, which is the norm.
I spent my high school years in Tanzania, which has a large Indian population. I was often at friends’ houses, watching their mothers make whole grain chapatis and moong dhal. Dhal is a sort of thick soup made of lentils, beans, or peas. There are as many recipes for dhal as there are households. Mung beans are highly prized in Ayurvedic cooking and are often used to make khichari, a nourishing dish for those who are ill.
When I make moong dhal, I eat it with quinoa, which is a high-protein grain. Each grain is smaller than a grain of rice, and round instead of oblong. Its taste is mild, like rice, but slightly nuttier. I cook mine in the rice cooker, using one cup quinoa to one cup water. Use the quinoa link above for cooking instructions on the stove top and quinoa recipes.
Moong Dhal Recipe
1 cup mung beans, rinsed well
2 garlic cloves or 1 tsp garlic powder (or more, to taste)
1 tsp red chile flakes
2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
If using garlic cloves, peel, smash, and dice the garlic, and saute in olive oil or coconut oil briefly over medium high heat. Add the chile flakes and turmeric, and heat for half a minute or so. If using garlic powder, add all spices at once to the oil and heat briefly. Add your mung beans, stir a bit, and then add 3 cups of water. When the water boils, lower heat to medium and let simmer 15 to 20 minutes, adding in your salt about half way through. You may need to add more water throughout the cooking time, so keep an eye on it, stirring occasionally. The beans should be quite soft when done, having absorbed all of the cooking liquid. I prefer mine this way, mostly whole, but partially smashed due to the stirring. Others like to place the beans in a processor, so that the dhal has a smooth consistency similar to split pea soup. Taste your dhal, then adjust seasonings as necessary.
Photo Credits: Photo by Dan at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=587