A day to ditch the meat

Lighten up with plant-based cui­sine

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS -

When our daugh­ter Rose was 17, she took a gap year after fin­ish­ing high school to do some vol­un­teer­ing work. She came to us with nu­mer­ous sug­ges­tions and ideas, all seem­ingly de­signed for rich kids whose par­ents wanted them off their hands. One pro­gramme in Costa Rica was charg­ing $40,000 a year per teen to take part as a vol­un­teer.

Fi­nally, Rose found a small girl’s or­phan­age in Jaipur where she could help out. The princely sum of NZ$2 a day was re­quired to cover her food, noth­ing more. I was wor­ried that on $2 a day she’d be com­ing home skinny. But no, she said there was enough food and it was good, re­ally good, in fact. The girls, who called her Didi (an af­fec­tion­ate name for “Aun­tie”), were al­ways on the look­out for her and ev­ery time a re­ally hot chilli dish was served they would say: “Oh Didi, you must not be eat­ing this, it’s VERY, VERY hot and you will be get­ting the runs.”

I vis­ited her near the end of her stay and found her hap­pily en­sconced in the or­phan­age kitchen, learn­ing first-hand the in­cred­i­ble re­source­ful­ness of this mod­est In­dian kitchen. It may have been cheap, but it sure was de­li­cious and, as ev­ery­one was Hindu, all of it was veg­e­tar­ian.

In­dian cooks are masters of con­jur­ing in­cred­i­ble flavours and tex­tures out of the hum­blest of veg­eta­bles, grains and pulses. The re­sults, even in the poor­est of kitchens, are noth­ing short of spec­tac­u­lar.

As the pol­i­tics and ethics of eat­ing be­come more com­plex and is­sues around clean wa­ter, cli­mate change, food waste, in­dus­trial farm­ing and an­i­mal wel­fare gain global at­ten­tion, the trend to­wards plant­based eat­ing grows. To­day’s con­sumers are get­ting more con­scious — not just of their health but of the planet’s. Mil­len­ni­als, in par­tic­u­lar, are mind­ful of the prod­ucts they put in and on their bod­ies and of the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact they have.

If you are new to the idea of cook­ing veg­e­tar­ian meals, it’s a good idea to start by think­ing of favourite meals you make where you could eas­ily leave out the meat and sub­sti­tute veg­eta­bles or pulses. For ex­am­ple, make tacos with beans in­stead of mince; laksa with ku­mara, pump­kin and green beans in­stead of chicken or prawns. Whip up your favourite stir-fry with­out meat and add some firm tofu or a hand­ful of roasted cashews in­stead. And of course you can make all kinds of veg­e­tar­ian pasta dishes, risot­tos and piz­zas. With World Veg­e­tar­ian Day on Mon­day kick­ing off World Veg­e­tar­ian Month, there’s no bet­ter time to start.

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