Finding Umami

For much of my life, meat was a central part of every meal. I grew up eating a lot of beef and pork, including cold cuts for breakfast. And for much of my life I couldn't really imagine a meal without meat.

Let me rephrase that, I could imagine a meal without meat or a meat substitute. I have never minded tofu, and I learned to like beans a long time ago. But I could never have imagined a meal that didn't involved some sort of concentrated protein source or meaty flavor.

Not eating meat 6 days a week for 6 weeks changed that.

I'm not a vegetarian--I love bacon and sausage and marshmallows way too much. But while most Americans go meatless once a week, I probably only eat meat once a week. I eat meat substitutes maybe once a month. Here are some things I've learned:

1. Soy sauce! Mushrooms! Parmesan cheese! One of the things I've missed most is that really savory flavor. I've learned to add a dash of soy sauce, mushrooms or a bit of parmesan to meals to help bring that to plant-based dishes.

2. You probably get enough protein. (Yes, even if you're an athlete.)

3. Sometimes, you have to be a little bit more flexible. Generally, I'm a very stubborn person--I like things my way. Not eating much meat, I've found that I don't always get what I want for dinner. I went to a barbecue during graduation where more than half of the dishes served were meat dishes, and the remaining options were pretty uninspiring. This happens often.

4. Veggies are cheap. Even fresh ones. When I'm buying things at the grocery store, I find myself wondering whether spending $2 for a big bunch of kale is really a good deal, but jumping at only have to spend $3 for a small block of cheese. And the frozen ones are even cheaper--$1 for a pound of spinach. Sure $2/pound for green beans isn't a great price, but have you ever eaten a pound of green beans? That's a $2 meal right there.

5. It doesn't have to be fussy. Ok, maybe this follows from (3), but sometimes it's okay to have a salad and ice cream for dinner. Or buttered toast and baby carrots for lunch.

Do you eat meat? Do you eat meat substitutes? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at piquantprose [at] gmail [dot] com. 

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1 comment:

  1. Lately I have been using miso paste as a way to get some umami flavor into a dish. For Example adding a little to a vegetarian soup base, or using it as a marinade for veggies or tofu with a little bit of lemon zest and garlic.

    When I use meat "substitutes" I don't usually think of them as meat substitutes. If you try to cook tofu like a steak, it is bound to come out terrible, but if you treat it as it's own thing it can be really lovely.


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