Vegetarian Holiday Meal Alternatives
Thanksgiving's over, the dishes are clean, Black Friday shopping is complete and Weird Uncle Jim is on his way back to Florida. Now you've got three weeks to prepare your Winter holiday dinner. Why not pardon the pig and cook a vegetarian meal? It's better for you and the environment, and even Uncle Jim will enjoy it.
I'll never forget the first time I saw my mother preparing the turkey one Thanksgiving morning when I was a child. Until I saw her with her hand in the carcass, I hadn't directly made the connection between the feathered, wattle-necked creatures we drew next to pilgrims and Indians at school and the breast meat on my plate. While my realization made that year's Thanksgiving dinner more difficult for me, it wasn't until many years later that I made the decision to go completely vegetarian. It's a personal choice—one that I understand is still met with resistance and skepticism from some—so while I advocate vegetarianism, I don't force it upon others (the door is this way, if you'd like to leave).
Reducing or eliminating meat from your diet benefits you and the environment. Studies have repeatedly shown that consuming just a few ounces of red meat a day increases one's risk of colon cancer (that's just one hamburger). A recent UCSD School of Medicine study has shown consuming red meat can spur tumor growth, generally. Consuming red meat also increases cholesterol, so reducing or eliminating it from your diet significantly cuts your risk of heart attack (2). In addition to personal benefits, going vegetarian can also help save the planet; farm animals emit 21% of the CO2 attributed to human activity, and nitrates from factory meat farming manure lagoons have contaminated about 13% of Midwest drinking wells. Reducing meat consumption could even help to reduce global conflict over dwindling fresh water resources and to feed starving populations; producing a pound of meat requires 100 times the water to produce a pound of wheat, and Americans could feed 60 million starving people a year if they reduced their meat intake by just 10% (2).
Cook a Meatless Meal at Home
If you've never cooked a vegetarian meal, don't worry, it's not difficult and there's plenty of help. Start with Boston Vegetarian Society's How to Go Vegetarian or Vegan guide, which includes links to informative vegetarian starter kits, nutrition information and other resources. If you're cooking for Christmas, check out Vegetarian Society's Recipes from Christmas Past for traditional and new recipes and Veg Kitchen's Christmas recipes. Veg Kitchen also has great traditional vegetarian Chanukah recipes. If you celebrate Kwanza, check out Vegetarians in Paradise's recipe ideas. For the rest of us vegetarians check out some Festivus recipes.
Vegetarian Dining Out
Metropolitan areas tend to have lots of vegetarian dining options, and Boston is certainly no exception. Boston Vegetarian Society has compiled a great, up to date list of vegetarian restaurants in and around Boston. I personally recommend Veggie Planet at Harvard Square, with its fabulous menu of vegetarian pizzas and a demonstrable social conscience, and Original Buddha's Delight in Chinatown, which serves Asian cuisine made with meat alternatives that would fool Uncle Jim.
Local Vegetarian Events
Be sure to check out Boston Vegetarian Society's events calendar. RSVP for a meal at a local restaurant and get involved with Boston's vegetarian community. We're nice people and we don't bite.