Before heading out this September to promote my new book—Perfect One-Dish Dinners, All You Need for Casual Get-Togethers—I’ve been working on another that I’ve just sold to Rodale Press for the following fall. Irish twins, yes, but what’s an author to do with fifteen idle months?
After turning in One-Dish Dinners last June, I headed off on vacation. I ate and drank and made merry that week, but it was an unexpectedly creative and productive time too. Maggy and Sharon were there, and that’s when Three Many Cooks was conceived (cool!). But the seeds for a new book were also planted: Meatless Mondays.
For years I’d been meaning to find a way to eat less meat, better meat, but of course you don’t change your life overnight. It takes time and space to figure things out.
I had no idea when we left for vacation that David and I would return home two-day-a-week vegetarians. But one night, over a long, leisurely dinner, we rehashed what we all knew all too well. It’s not healthy to eat all that red meat. And worse, the way much of it is produced is both ethically shocking and biologically frightening.
I wasn’t ready to go full-time vegetarian. I love Easter lamb, Christmas prime rib, Fourth-of-July ribs, and Memorial Day burgers too much to foreswear flesh. But it was becoming clear: I didn’t need to eat as much meat, and especially not the kind of meat being produced today. If I could eat less meat, I could afford to buy better meat.
With the zeal of day-old dieter, I made the shift to meatless with relative ease, simply trading eggplant for sausage on pizza and white beans and cauliflower for Bolognese. But three meals a day, in all kinds of situations—at home, at parties, in restaurants—eventually it gets tough. To be vegetarian for the long haul I had to integrate the new way into my old life. It wasn’t good enough just to substitute vegetables for meat. Like weight maintenance, if it’s for real and forever, I had to make a life-style adjustment.
Two things happened. I started developing a set of techniques and formulas a la How to Cook Without a Book, so I could easily cook without recipes on meatless days. Second, I started developing meatless dishes that were as fun and enticing as entrees con carne. For me they had to be so good I’d be just as likely to make them on days when I didn’t “have to.” Supper Spuds (check out my recipe) is an example of the kind of dish I’m talking about.
Last night David and I decided we’d split a steak for dinner. I found a pair in the freezer—stuck together. Time was, I would have thoughtlessly thawed them both, knowing we could easily eat them over the next few days. But I did the math. Between nights out and meatless days, we wouldn’t be eating the second for a long while. I got a big knife and pried them apart. We ate one, and the other is still tucked away in the freezer.
I’m slowly, naturally living into last summer’s big decision. I’m doing the work, and it’s working.