unfamiliar territory

In college, I wasn’t one for experimentation. I didn’t have the obligatory sophomore lesbian one-night stand. I had little interest in drugs. It always struck me that it wasn’t experimentation for curiosity’s sake but more for the shock value of doing it. It wasn’t about learning something from the experience, but about impressing your friends the next day. I was more interested in books and boys.

Some things never change.

But some things do. The older I get, the more confident I become, the more risks I’m willing to take. Things I’m more comfortable exploring. So it’s not entirely unexpected that I find myself down a certain dark road. A toe dipped in an unfamiliar pond. Suddenly and without warning, I’m cooking vegetarian food.

I know. It’s a shock. I’m sure it’s almost as hard for you to read as it is for me to admit. I’ve been alternately mocking and pitying vegetarians for years. I have a subscription to Meatpaper magazine. But driven by economy and curiosity, I wanted to see if I could satisfyingly subsist on veggies and legumes alone. If I could stave off the need to have meat at every meal.

And it’s going ok. I’ve been working on a lentil curry recipe that’s taking off. French techniques and Indian flavors. I start by softening onions, fennel and carrots in a little oil. Then add some simple yellow curry and cayenne. In goes some rainbow chard or kale, a fair amount of vegetable broth, then the lentils and chickpeas to simmer for about 10 minutes.

It’s good. Really good. It’s got a surprising depth of flavor considering the relatively flavorless individual parts. Then topped with a tangy dollop of yogurt (also new to me, it’s been on my “creepy foods” list for awhile), and it becomes a very satisfying and tasty bowl of food.

But don’t worry, I’m not converting. I don’t think I could make it through life without the crisp skin of a perfectly roasted chicken or fathom a perfect brunch complete without a strip or two of bacon or endure a long, cold winter with at least one day devoted to a long-simmering pot roast on the stove. But it’s nice to know there’s damn good food to be had that doesn’t require a trip to the butcher’s counter.

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