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A growing theme in public discourse is the poor nutrition of Western families, who have come to rely increasingly upon "fast" and processed foods, convenient to their hurried lives. Thanks to informative books, such as Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All American Meal, more and more people are coming to recognize the broad nutritional implications of America's eating habits. "Fast" foods and other supermarket convenience processed foods have fundamentally changed the way American families eat, but since America's eating habits are fast being exported to the farthest reaches of the globe, our bad habits increasingly have implications for a global humanity, from world health concerns, to the shape of a global youth culture, to the global economy and the often devastating way the plethora of industries, serving the vast food production empire, do business with the developing world.
As a response to the heightened negative publicity about fast and processed food habits, many concerned consumers are opting to join a food-smart revolution, rejecting the current fast and processed food culture. Others have been forced by ill health toward diets that are "heart smart" and cancer-fighting. An important and growing aspect of this revolution is the vegetarian movement. More and more restaurants are offering vegetarian fare, as an alternative to high-meat, low-nutrition diets. However, changing eating habits at home can be a very challenging prospect; it means learning new shopping, storing, and cooking habits, as well as confronting deeply ingrained tastes for fat and meat and distastes for broccoli and beets. The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook is a helpful addition to the enlightened family's nutrition library. It confronts directly the problem of selling vegetarian fare to hungry men and picky children, by offering a broad array of simple-to-prepare dishes that are hearty and tasty, without being unduly "weird," as many meat-lovers complain.
Kim O'Donnel opens the book with some helpful hints for selling the new fare to old appetites and tastes. Then an extensive glossary of terms welcomes the novice vegetarian chef into the new world of cooking. Another innovative feature is the book's organization into seasonal "menus" that favor not only seasonal produce, but the changing tastes that come with changing times of year and temperatures.
But does the book live up to its promise to satisfy meat lovers? As a vegetarian who eats almost exclusively "weird foods," I was hardly the one to judge. So I decided upon an experiment, during a impending visit by my Canadian sister and brother-in-law. I would try out the recipes in this very approachable new book on my brother-in-law, a "man's man" who publicizes his refusal to taste any prepared vegetarian foods (my nieces had tried to slip by him various grocery store vegetarian fare--tofu chicken and bean hamburgers--but his reaction had been forbidding of further experimentation!). I chose mostly from the winter recipes, as Raymond was already feeling cheated by our unusually bitter North Carolina weather. Shepherd's pie with chard-lentil dressing, polenta squares with puttanesca sauce and broccoli raab, roasted beans, greens, and squash rings, and potpie with cheddar crust name but a few from my meat-lover's vegetarian line-up. What were the results of the experiment? At the end of the five-day visit, my sister congratulated her husband on his open-mindedness about the food. He surprised us all by responding: "With food like we have eaten this past week, I could be vegetarian every day!" Another confirmed meat lover won over from the dark side, thanks to this very inviting book!
© 2011 Wendy C. Hamblet
Wendy C. Hamblet, Associate Professor, North Carolina A&T State University.