To start off my week of vegan recipes I’ve dredged up a blog post I wrote on another blog when I gave up vegetarianism last year. I feel differently now than I did when I wrote it, having concluded in it that my body may have tired of the taste of meat. I can appreciate meat more now, though the same cravings have yet to be satisfied in the way they were in high school. I like to reread this post because it reminds me of what the restrictive vegetarian diet had me feeling like after four years and the surprising lack of cravings I had for meat once I could eat it. Confis de canard, however, is still one of the most delicious things. (Scroll past the recipe to read).
Warm Quinoa Carrot and Avocado Salad
This salad has become my comfort food. It’s warm and snuggly and full of lamb’s lettuce, which is a common thing here unlike in Canada, which is super soft and buttery. I eat this on the regular. I’ve even managed to edge my so-completely-not-vegan friend into liking it. In fact, it might be a gateway salad.
Serves 2 as a main dinner dish
1 cup dry quinoa
1 big bag of lamb’s lettuce or your green du jour
3 medium/large carrots, peeled
1 ripe large avocado
salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook up some quinoa (1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water. Throw both in a pot, once boiling turn down to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes or until not crunchy [the overarching goal of grains], adding more water while simmering if not quite cooked).
2. Throw some lamb’s lettuce into two big bowls (my current green fave, though whatever you’ve got will probably work).
3. Scoop 4 or 5 heaping spoonfuls of hot quinoa onto your lamb’s lettuce (do it now so it warms up the lettuce or do it right before eating if you’re not into slightly cooked greens).
4. Shred up three carrots with a fine grater and put on top of your quinoa (I use a grater that people normally reserve for parmesan and it’s pretty great except that it’s broken but normally it would be wonderful and a godsend for your fingers).
5. Cut avocado in half, cube or cut however you like and throw it on top, half on each salad.
6. Douse gingerly with olive oil and vigorously (seriously, don’t be shy) with lemon juice.
8. Feel great.
The Edible Woman
originally posted June 3, 2011
Things for me have changed quite a bit since we’ve arrived. If you know me, which I’m sure you do since you’re reading my blog, you know that I’ve been a vegetarian for almost four years. I ate fish on and off during that time but felt strongly about my beliefs that if I don’t want to get eaten then why is it fair for me to eat that cow/pig/chicken/(fish?)–they probably didn’t want to get eaten just as much. Only a few days after we arrived in France, however, I decided to eat meat in an effort to experience french culture unfiltered (they love their meat) and to not be a picky eater given that we’re staying in people’s homes and eating at their table. Anyone with a special dietary need knows how burdensome you feel when the cook has to change their dinner plans or make you something else, and eating sides is really no fun.
I have to admit I was kind of hoping I would “need” to give up my vegetarian ways, at least for the summer. Again, if you know me, you also know that I love meat. Some of my close friends sometimes joke about how in high school when I gave up vegetarianism after my second attempt that lasted four months, I came to school the very next day with a sandwich an inch thick with deli meat. So throughout my four years of meatless existence I craved bacon, burgers and chicken strips like a pregnant lady. I would have died for a barbecued sausage on a cornbread bun. Once I had made the decision to eat meat again, looking forward to all of these tastes, that I swore I could remember so clearly even after four years, got me very, very excited. What I found surprised me.
I think the first thing I ate was something with chicken and maybe ham thrown in as an additional feature, not the centre of attention. It was good, but the meat was unnecessary. The first real encounter that would test the true omnivore in any former veggie was the chasse dinner–the hunt dinner–we were attending only a couple days after I turned. This, in true French style, consisted of seven steps: 1. aperitif: before dinner drink (Sembouès soup, a swamp water-like concoction of alcohol made by the mayor), peanuts and chips; 2. fish soup with mussels served, of course, with fresh bread; 3. real crab served on mashed avocado with a small shredded lettuce salad and cream sauce; 4. venison stew, made with venison hunted possibly that very day by the people hosting the dinner; 5. venison steak served with roasted potatoes and veggies; 6. some sort of open-faced apricot and apple pastry dessert; 7. coffee and un digestif: an after dinner drink of armongac, which is a cognac equivalent particular to this region. All of which was served paired with red or white wines and fresh bread over the course of maybe 2 1/2 hours. Aside from the meatiness of this meal there was the challenge of eating it all, because as I’m sure you can imagine, that was a whole lot of food!
What I really tried to observe was my reaction to the venison, the only true alien to my system as I’d been eating fish (though not crab or mussels) for the last year. For many, including my dinner companions, venison seems to be something of a delicacy, a special treat to be appreciated and never turned down. Especially this venison, so fresh and tender. What I found though was that it tasted like tuna–and I know my tuna. I could have totally done without it, completely satisfied with the soup, the avocado (let alone the crab topping) and the bread. But perhaps my meat palette had just lost its good sense.
Since this experience, and it’s been about three weeks, I’ve eaten meat just about every day. And I’ve been waiting for some sort of eureka meal that could live up to how good I remembered meat being. Last night was probably as good as it gets and it came out of a can. We had confis de canard (duck confis), a specialty of this south-west region of France, that cost about 5 euros at the grocery store. It was one of the richest things I’ve ever eaten (the tin had been filled with fat), it was absolutely delicious and I considered whether it was reasonable to mail a can of it to my mom for her birthday back in Canada. It was so good, as good as it gets. But even now my palette and my four-year habit have me asking, even as I take that delicious morcel of duck or treasured slice of perfectly fried bacon into my mouth, what’s the big deal? I keep reflecting on the book, The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood that I just read, which is not about a woman that gets eaten, but who loses her taste for and ability to eat food–meat, then eggs, then even vegetables and fruit–and I can’t help but identify with her. No matter how decisively I accept that duck into my mouth, relishing its taste slowly and observantly, my body has rejected it. It doesn’t want it. And it just might be onto something.