As anyone who has been reading here for a while knows, I’m no vegetarian (I tried in college, but I missed sausage, and lamb, and bacon, and cheeseburgers). But I have to admit that with rising food prices, and global warming, and my increasing unwillingness to eat meat that wasn’t raised by someone I know (which means I’m paying a lot more for meat) — well, I’m eating less meat. Mark Bittman wrote a rather inspirational post about this earlier this summer that got me thinking — it’s really easy to just slip into that meat-veg-starch dinner formula. And it’ really sort of boring.
I got my first lesson in meat-as-accent when I lived in Taiwan for a few months in my twenties. My best friend from college went and married a lovely Chinese guy (who has become a big star). One day we were in the Hypermart and Constance bought a small package of greens and Chinese ham. It was a revelation. Sauteed garlic chives with slivers of salty Chinese ham (think American country ham — dense, salty, fabulous). A little soy and sesame oil over rice — it was wonderful. Wonderful like nothing I’d ever eaten in America wonderful. Wonderful like a whole new world opened up — greens as the main part of the dish? with a little ham to accent? on rice? Not something I’d ever experienced before and one of those bellweather dishes by which you gauge all others.
So last night, in honor of my new rice cooker (the old one mysteriously crapped out — it was a cheapo, but I was sad) I cooked up a batch of one of those yummy Lundberg rice blends (this one had brown, mahogany, wild, and some other rices mixed together). Then I sauteed up the last of last year’s pancetta (there’s a new one curing in the fridge), added some carrots, an onion, some peppers from my garden, and a zucchini that my beloved Milk Lady brought me today. When it was all done, I crumbled in some of the Milk Lady’s herbed feta (which is really more like a mozzarella) and ate it over the rice. It was delicious. It was easy — a real work night supper after a week when I’ve been way behind and fried — and most important, it was delicious.
I know, I know — standard hippie fare — veggies, brown rice, cheese — pancetta wasn’t in the original veggie-hippie recipe — but the thing is, no matter how many memories we might have of bad hippie fare, there’s something to be said for the sweet-salty mix of veggies and bacon, and I’m becoming more and more dedicated to the idea of meat as a condiment. As an element of dinner, not the main attraction.
It’s not that I’m cutting out meat — after all, I have half a pig in my freezer, along with a fair amount of antelope and lamb — but I do think that cutting back a few nights a week can only be good for us all. For our arteries, and our wallets, and our planet.