Confessions of a Vegetarian: I ate vegetables for dinner (and I got full!)

Extra, extra, read all about it–you can get full off vegetables! The following conversation can never again take place with blissful ignorance:

You: I’m hungry.
Parent, guardian, or friend-who-thinks-he-or-she-knows-everything-there-is-to-know-about-health (is that me?): Eat a fruit or vegetable.
You: That won’t fill me up!

After a prolonged trip (thank the subway and bus for coordinating a delay in services), I arrive home and happily and politely greet my family before asking the inevitable: “What’s for dinner?”

My sister snickers as my mother tells me, “You’re looking at it.”

For a split second, the hungry side of my brain blurts, “Nooo, all I see are salads!” before the healthy part of my brain musteres a confident, “I only had one serving of fruits and vegetables today.”

(Spssst. I admit I proclaimed rather loudly, “At least I’ll be hungry enough to eat nachos tonight! Last night’s dinner was so filling that I couldn’t.” Somehow it’s always about the nachos, isn’t it?)

I proceeded to dig into my meal, 95% of which was composed of vegetables! And I was uneasy about 10% of those vegetables, but thanks to a) a determination to eat healthy, b) a willingness to try and c) hunger, nothing tasted bad!

Tip: Mashed potatoes are the almighty ally. Mixing questionable vegetables into your mashed potatoes masks their flavour!

Here’s what I ate, if you’re interested in sharing the experience of a truly healthy meal or, at least, attempting to prove or disprove that you can, indeed, get full off vegetables.

1. The tomato and cucumber salad recipe acts as a base for this hearty salad, but try adding other vegetables as well, such as mushroom, avocado, eggplant and pitted olives.

2. Boil sweet potato, peel and slice into round entities. Add olive and salt, and top with roasted red pepper. (I’m not a huge fan of red pepper–but I couldn’t even taste it!)

3. Boil regular potatoes, peel and mash. Add milk for moisture and (optional) salt for flavour. Chop and fry onions to mix; it’s my favourite way to eat mashed potatoes!

4. The 5% of the meal that was not made of vegetables consisted of sliced cheese (hello, dairy) and hummus (a dash of protein, anyone?)

Believe it or not, c’est délicieux!

Confessions of a Vegetarian: What, you don’t eat no fish?!

Two years after I had become vegetarian, my relatives were still digesting the news. I attended a 50th wedding anniversary, during which us “kids” alternated between delicious plates of Italian food and video games in the basement. The traditional Italian food includes, but is not limited to, a many-course meal of cold cuts, cheeses, olives and bread; pasta with fresh homemade tomato sauce and sprinkled with parmesan cheese; meat; fruit; and dessert biscotti with coffee or tea.

While I was happily enjoying the sensation of cheese melting in my mouth, I experienced a strange feeling, which correctly came from the scrutiny of several gazes. I glanced over to the “adult” table and noticed several of my relatives were eyeing me carefully and whispering. The word “vegetarian” may have been uttered in an awe-struck tone. “Your aunts and uncles are still in shock about your vegetarianism,” my dad whispered over my shoulder. I remembered the first time I had shared the news with my grandparents, my very own “What, you don’t eat no meat?” experience. A chuckle escaped my lips.

“Let’s play some more MarioKart!” someone shouted, so we dashed down into the basement.

Later we were called up for more food (gotta love the Italian relatives!!). I was now enjoying a plate of pasta smothered in an impeccable tomato sauce made perfect by the addition of zesty parmesan cheese and chili peppers. In the midst of my ascension to heaven, I again felt those gazes creep over me, and, looking over to the adult table, I noticed that my relatives were still in awe of my decision. Over two hours later, they were still discussing the no-meat diet!

What, you don’t eat no fish?!

A year after I’d told my grandparents I don’t eat meat anymore, my zia came over to visit us. By now, my grandparents had absorbed and accepted the fact that I don’t eat meat.

Zia:
So have some fish.

She proudly brandishes a plate of fish.

Marisa:
Sorry, I don’t eat any animals…

Zia is bewildered.

Zia:

What?

Looks to my father for common sense.

Marisa:

I don’t eat meat, or any animals.

Understanding dawns in her eyes.

Zia:
Oh! Yes.
But fish aren’t animals.

Of course, we all burst out laughing and explanations were again delivered, in Italian. Two years and several hilarious family stories later, we’ve finally hammered out the news that I’m a vegetarian.

“Fish are friends, not food” or at least, they are animals!

I’ve recently gotten a few reactions from friends telling me they don’t think fish are intelligent or aware enough to be deemed as having “feelings.” Just a reminder that fish, which are by no means one of my favourite animals on the planet, are some of the most diverse, colourful and beautiful ones we could ever see.

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Confessions of a Vegetarian: What, you don’t eat no meat?! (The Italian version.)

I’ve been a vegetarian for almost exactly four years now (happy anniversary!), and people still stare at me, slack-jawed, when I turn down a plate of meat.

From carnivore to herbivore

When I first suggested I become vegetarian, I was peppered (a vegetable! yeah…) with protests. I was following my heart, but those who care about me were concerned with the logistics: “How will you get your protein? Is that healthy? But you eat TWO salami and cappicollo sandwiches for lunch! What will you eat? Did I mention protein?”

I understood my family and friends’ concerns; I have a strong interest in nutrition and healthy eating, as you can tell (see name of this blog). I was studying nutrition in school and I had learned a surprising fact: some people adopt a vegetarian lifestyle for the very purpose of being healthy.

Huh?

Turns out a proper vegetarian diet tends to have more vegetables and a controlled, appropriate amount of protein. In fact, most carnivores (including myself when I was one) eat too much meat and exceed their necessary daily protein intake, while failing to meet their daily fruit and vegetable needs. Interesting. (But did I have a proper vegetarian diet? See Confessions of a Vegetarian: I don’t love vegetables.)

I reassured my loved ones countless times that I was very closely monitoring my eating habits. Every year I visit my doctor and my iron and vitamin intakes have been very healthy. Hip hip hurray!

What, you don’t eat no meat?!

Comforting my family was one thing, but try my wonderful Italian relatives. I still eat chicken soup when we visit (chicken broth, but no chicken for me); it’s my way of slowly breaking it to them (and it’s not like my nonna’s chicken soup is absolutely amazing…). The first time I visited as a vegetarian went something like this:

Nonna:
You don’t eat meat?

Flashback to My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Marisa:
No…

Fixes a polite smile, as if to say, “Please don’t have a heart attack over your Italian granddaughter’s decision to never again consume unlimited helpings of cappicollo, salami, prosciutto, and various other Italian meats.”

Grandmother/aunt/all Italian relatives appear concerned, sending frantic glances to my father.

Nonna:
No cappiccollo? No salami?

Nonna’s eyes light up. She grabs an unimaginably large hunk of cow thigh, er, prosciutto, and waves it across my face.

Nonna:
Prosciutto! You can have prosciutto.

Marisa sends a panicked look to her father, the smile still screwed to her face but starting to slip.

And then my father proceeds to hastily yet politely remind my nonna that prosciutto comes from a cow, which is an animal, which I don’t eat.

Some vegetarians may find it quite annoying to have to constantly remind others of their dietary lifestyle, and defend themselves, but I surprisingly don’t mind. In fact, I find it makes a great story!

Continue reading to What, you don’t eat no fish?!

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Confessions of a Vegetarian: I have an obsession

Last night, I dreamt that the food court near my house had been redesigned and my first fear was this: Did they take away the Taco Bell?

A dream

I was walking through the mall when the familiar sights faded into one shocking image: three tiny food counters, and one huge green restaurant. Where is the Taco Bell?! I wondered frantically. I scanned the parameters, my heart beating. There was a KFC; that wasn’t there before, and Taco Bell is their partner. Could it be?

And yes! The signature Taco Bell purple was splashed across KFC’s counterface. Relief washed over me like a pack of Taco Bell hot sauce (I love those).

I waded through the green restaurant in search of Taco Bell. Finally, I spotted a woman preparing tacos and I approached her. “I love Taco Bell,” I told her. “I’ve been coming here for years—”

She cut me off: “We don’t have any job posi—”

“I don’t want a job,” I told her quickly, “I already have one. I wanted to tell you not to go out of business.” The woman’s face lightened up. “This is the only Taco Bell near my house and I need you to stay here. They took away the other Taco Bell where I used to go. Don’t go out of business!”

So…has anyone else dreamt about food in this insane manner?

Note: The beginning of the dream has been exaggerated for your enjoyment. However, the Taco Bell obsession is as true as it seems…

A common knowledge

It’s common knowledge that I have loved Taco Bell for the past 7 years. Sure, I ate it before then, but I didn’t become addicted to it until 7 years ago. Ever since, I need Taco Bell, crave Taco Bell, and eat Taco Bell at any opportunity.

It’s not like I go out of my way to find it, but if I know it’s in the area, I plan my schedule so that I can end up with that burrito or taco supreme in my hands by the end of the day. As you can tell by the recipes on this blog, I have a thing for Mexican food (or our version of it). Yummy!

As a vegetarian, I find it difficult to procure a “good” fast food meal while on the road. When my family goes on a trip, I hope there’s a Taco Bell in the area. If not, say hello to veggie burger, and say good-bye to a salad (I’m not a rabbit–I need more food than that!).

Do you have a favourite vegetarian-friendly fast food joint?

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Confessions of a Vegetarian: I missed the past couple blogs for a party! (and I didn’t finish my vegetables)

What happened to the daily updating that was going on?

That’s what you may be asking, and I ask myself the same thing. Things have gotten very busy this week with school and my writing. Last night I attended a “fun-raiser” for On the Danforth magazine. It was so much fun!

On a vegetarian topic, I would like to thank my friends for mothering me to eat my vegetables. I ordered a veggie fajita and the stuffing encompassed cooked carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, and red and green peppers.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t eat vegetables in my fajitas unless they’re red or green peppers (see my taco recipe). Haven’t they heard of beans I am proud to say I ate my vegetables! Not all of them, but I did snack on some broccoli and carrots. Thank you, dear supportive friends who read my blog and reminded me of my beanian way of life.

PS. You’d be happy to know I took the initiative to eat an orange today; that’s the first time I ate an orange without someone proposing it first. I love the idea of oranges, but not oranges themselves. They’re growing on me! (Not literally, thank goodness.)

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Confessions of a Vegetarian: I Love Animals, but I Don’t Love Vegetables!

I have a confession to make. I’m a vegetarian, but I don’t love vegetables. I’m what my boyfriend lovingly calls a “beanian.” While most vegetarians eat veggies, I eat beans: refried in tacos, Romano with rice, kidney beans in chili, chick peas with pasta. Where are my vegetables?

Until a month ago, my vegetable intake was limited: lettuce in salads, frozen veggies for a quick stir-fry and the occasional baked potato.

But what about spinach? And I’m not talking about the spinach found inside a frozen Spanakopita. Broccoli? Okay, so I’d eat a leaf or two when it showed up at the dinner table, but that was it.

Fast forward to Christmas 2009. I received a vegetarian cookbook for Christmas from a friend. And not just any vegetarian cookbook: a vegetable lover’s cookbook. It’s titled Vegetable Heaven by Mollie Katzen. This was given to me, the girl who basically skipped the roasted vegetables course at a wedding last summer.

As I flipped through the cookbook, something woke up inside of me. The food lover in me loved this book. I found myself taking notes on the most appealing recipes, planning to cook a new meal every week, and for a New Year’s potluck, I opted to make Vietnamese salad rolls for the first time. This was the beginning of my foray into a varied vegetable diet.

And guess what—it’s working. For the past month, I’ve chosen meals based on what food groups I was lacking. If I find out I’m having pasta and tomato sauce for dinner, I’m sure to have a veggie burger with vegetables for lunch (to get in that protein and vegetables).

When I was little, I used to pick the olives out of the rapini my mother prepared (I loooove olives). Now, I’ve not only been eating rapini, but I’ve acquired a taste for it. Rapini went from being “bearable” to “neutral” to actually crossing the line into tasting good! I also eat asparagus for the first time, and I’m working on eggplant.

So join me as I continue my adventure into healthy vegetarian eating over the course of the next year. I’m picking up good lifelong habits, and you can too.

Your contributions are appreciated!

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Find out how my relatives reacted to the news (funny stories):