Sunday, February 6, 2011

What's a "flexitarian"?

I'm sort of opposed to all these cutesy new labels for occasionally eschewing meat. "Flexitarian" is the latest. I'm not sure why people feel the need to label the fact that they are occasionally willing to forgo meat in a meal. That's hardly a revolution.

But I'm also pragmatic.

I accept that very few people will actually become vegetarians, or vegans, for life. Some people are deeply convicted when it comes to animals, the environment and health. Others care, but not enough to live without a bacon-cheeseburger from time to time. I get that.

So if there's anything I like about the ovo-lacto, flexi-, pesci- add-ons to the root "tarian," it's that it might be giving people space to do what nutritionists have been imploring Americans to do with steadily increasing urgency: Put down the steak knife and eat a goddamn vegetable, would ya?!

I was sort of interested, then, to receive my February issue of Bon Appetit this week and see an even larger selection than normal of vegetarian dishes and a story on the Meatless Monday / flexitarian phenomenon. As I write, I'm enjoying a delicious bowl of Broccoli Soup with Leeks and Thyme from the magazine. I'm simultaneously slow cooking a giant pot of black beans, the base for Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash, also in the February issue. Both are super high in fiber, low in calories, and loaded with colorful vegetables that boast all sorts of antioxidants and nutrients not found in pre-processed, packaged convenience foods.

It's great to see at least some foodies embrace the potential of vegetarian cooking (that's how I'm choosing to interpret the Bon Appetit thing). Going vegetarian greatly expanded my culinary universe and made me a much, much better cook. (I was a pretty boring eater of chicken breasts and Lipton rice packets prior to ditching meat 13 years ago.) The chili recipe I'm preparing has bulgur in it, which is not something you'd find in the average chili con carne, and may seem slightly sacrilegious, but it's smelling like heaven at the moment and seriously ups the nutritional ante.

My advice? Try one day meat-free. I absolutely, positively, 100 percent money-back guarantee you will survive. Be brave. Experiment. And if you've got an question, you know where to find me.