Managing meat-free

For the last couple of years I’ve been on a weekly diet that includes two days being completely meat free. In theory it’s Mondays and Thursdays, and most weeks it works out that way, but occasionally it gets shifted around by circumstance. I’m happy to go meat-free, but the challenge always is to find sufficient vegetarian food to keep it interesting. I’d go meat free 7 days a week if I could, but when it comes to food I’m not into austerity. Food is too important an element of life, and given I’ve got a certain span of years I don’t see the value in denying myself the pleasure of it.

I think that’s a sensible attitude, but like everything it’s wise to maintain a balance. I love my meat, though increasingly it troubles me. I am getting older also and good health becomes more of a focus than when I blithely took it for granted. And so I’ve decided to extend my meat free days to three a week.

I’m a systematic character. There are certainly maverick aspects to my personality, but at heart I believe in process and system. It’s the basis of my profession, and though I run an untidy household it applies domestically as well. And so when I set about a venture like this I look to plan it.

There are 7 days a week, and basically 7 dinners I have to consider. Two of them I’ve already set aside for meat free meals – I made an eggplant curry the other day for example, and am planning to cook a Moroccan pumpkin and couscous tagine this weekend. Now I’m adding another meat free day and rather than going the same way will make it different, for variety’s sake. That third day will either be eggs or pasta with a meat free sauce. I know pasta is bad to excess, but I love it, and there are plenty of non-meat options which remain pretty tasty.

Of the remaining four evenings three will be the standard homed cooked, meat based meal, give or take – I could eat out, or visit friends. The other day is my naughty day, generally Friday or Saturday, when I’ll eat and drink what generally I’ll refrain from – pizza, chocolate, beer, and so on. This Friday I’m out for a few drinks locally before going to a new hamburger bar in Hampton with a friend. (At the moment I’ve set other healthy constraints – no bread on weekdays, no sweets on weekdays, no drinking unless socially.)

All of this means I’ll literally be planning my meals in advance. I do that anyway, more or less. I’m not one of those people who have a general grocery shop, even when I could afford it. I know what I’m cooking and I buy towards that. When it comes to meat free food that becomes more essential as while I have hundreds of meat dishes at my fingertips, I have to search out vegetarian dishes. I can’t just make it up or do it from memory.

I enjoy that though. One of the joys of a good meal is the anticipation of it. That’s why I – and millions of others – have bought cooking magazines and recipe books.

In the winter that means I’ll spend some time figuring out my menu over the next fortnight and put together the shopping list to facilitate. It means – in the winter – that over the weekend I’ll cook up the two main dishes that will serve me over the next fortnight (every week – there is overlap for variety’s sake) – one a meat dish, a casserole or curry or something, and likewise the vegie dish. In between I’ll fix up meals on a daily basis as needs be – tonight I’m making pasta with leftover eggplant, capsicum and bocconcini (last night was a chicken curry frozen from a few weeks back). In the summer it’s different only that I have lighter meals prepared fresh – as a rule I eat Asian in the warm months, and European in the cold months.

Food – just writing about it like this pleases me.


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