The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network, 24 January 2014.
While I don’t consider myself a “foodie,” I do geek out hard to food — new foods, food history, alternative cuisines, cooking shows, cookbooks, and the like. I’ve been known to spend the better part of any given weekend either in the kitchen or online watching cooking videos. This interest in cooking goes many years back when, as a trade off for getting to watch cartoons and monster movies on Saturday, we had to “put up with” art and cooking shows on Sundays. Though I really didn’t mind that at all because I loved watching cooking shows. I loved how someone, in a mere 30 minutes, could take raw food stuffs and turn them into something divine. Honestly, part of the draw might have been that my mom wasn’t a stellar cook (don’t worry, she’d be the first to tell you that), and that our regular meals weren’t quite as special as those I saw on the cooking shows. Even so, I readily absorbed how to make any number of meals from my mother, from the perfect hamburgers and potato salad to her much beloved sausage and peppers.
So why “ruin” it all by going vegetarian? Good question. It wasn’t planned, I can tell you that. But it was a swift choice, spurred by a senior-year school paper I did on animal testing, and one that I think came as something as a shock to my parents. It took them several years to get used to the fact that I wouldn’t be partaking in cook-outs and holiday meals in quite the same way as everyone else. And it was a tough choice to stick with. Outside of pasta and egg and cheese sandwiches, vegetarian options in the grocery stores then were scant. It took me plenty of time to get used to the texture of tofu and figure out how to cook it just right. The early days of pre-made veggie burgers were pretty horrible, as the offerings tasted more like garlicky sawdust than edible energy source. On the plus side, my intake of vegetables and fruit ramped up, and my latent, creative inner chef bloomed as I tried to figure out how to not eat pizza seven days a week. Going out to restaurants was also a challenge; and if I wasn’t headed to an Italian or Mexican restaurant, my choices were usually limited to boring salads. But while it royally sucked at times, my health and well-being actually improved over the first couple years, so that was a nice side effect.
And speaking of things that weren’t planned, me becoming attached to a carnivore was completely unforeseeable. But I knew things were probably going to work out when, on our first date, he didn’t totally recoil at the thought of being with someone who’d never consume another piece of bacon in her life. As we began spending more time together, combining our lives in the kitchen was probably one of the largest obstacles we had to overcome. It had been several years at that point time since I bought and cooked meat, but it wasn’t like I had complete forgotten my former life. I knew how it all worked, and he didn’t die the first time I made him a hamburger. I’ve since made him turkey dinners, shepard’s pie, bacon and eggs, beef burgundy, pan-seared tilapia…and yep…he’s still alive. And we’ve even integrated regular vegetarian meals into our dinner routine.
Over the years, I’ve had make plenty of adjustments in my kitchen. I’ll admit to having “meat-only” and “veggie-only” pots, pans, and utensils. I’ve learned to time out regular and vegetarian entrees so that they’re done at the same time. I’ve worked in a plethora of side dishes and desserts that we both can enjoy. I don’t mind making stuff that I can’t eat as long as the person on the other side of the table enjoys it. And therein lies the most important part of this whole veggie/non-veggie relationship:
With just about every meat meal I make, old or new, I’m constantly asking my husband (or whatever person/crowd I’m cooking for) how it tastes. Is it cooked right? Spiced well enough? Does it need more of this or that? I’ve retained enough from my meatatarian past, cooking shows, and cookbooks to know what seasonings go best with beef, chicken, and fish, but not being able to taste what I’m cooking is a challenge. My husband, friends, and family know this, and they’ve been exceedingly gracious during the times when I’ve gotten it wrong (I mean, like, really wrong; also, I’ll never, ever understand scallops), as well as exceedingly gracious (and sometimes surprised) when I get it really right.
I’d never want to totally forget how to cook meat. It’s not something I necessarily like dealing with (especially ground beef…it’s just so yucky), but as I said at the beginning of this rambly post, I really like cooking and learning how to cook new things, meat or otherwise. Nobody’s dead yet from my food, and that’s a trend I’d like to continue.