Budget Vegetarian

Since moving back to America, I’ve started a new life as a Budget Vegetarian. Don’t worry, my dear readers. I’m not going to get all preachy on you. You know that’s not how I roll. I just want to share my dietary experiment with you. I know! Let’s do this Q & A style. Won’t that be fun?

What is a Budget Vegetarian?

Definition:

A dietary plan that limits meat consumption for the purposes of lowering personal expenses. Budget vegetarians do not purchase meat, but won’t refuse it if offered for free. For example, if your friend cooks you dinner with meat in it, you can eat it and that’s totally cool.

I googled this and it doesn’t pop up in the first search screen, so I’m going to declare it a new fad.

Why become a Budget Vegetarian?

It’s a lifestyle choice that you might consider after, say, researching the price of rental housing in Silicon Valley and then looking at your paycheck.

What famous people are doing this?

Me and my brother, who coined the term.  In this blog I am publicly inviting all of my Hollywood friends to also become Budget Vegetarians. Watch this space!

How much money will I save? How healthy will I get?

I cut my food budget by about 30%. I feel pretty healthy, I guess. You should ask your doctor about that stuff. That’s a sort of vague question anyway. Next time maybe think about refining it a little.

Will I lose 53 pounds? 

Dude, look. This is just a blog about my life. How can I tell how much, if any, weight you will lose? I don’t even know you. For all I know, you’re 54 pounds and losing all that weight would kill you! You should talk to like, a dietitian or something.

Will I be cool if I become a Budget Vegetarian?

No. But you may save some money and eat more vegetables.

I’m sold. How do I start? 

I signed up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme. I love CSAs. I’m lazy and I don’t like shopping, and these lovely people pick all the vegetables and fruit and deliver it in a bag for me. Because they do all that work, I feel guilty for not eating the vegetables, so guilt is an added incentive.

Alternatively, you can just buy a bag of potatoes and a can of beans at the store and you’re good to go.

 

Are you considering the upward trending lifestyle that is Budget Vegetarianism? Welcome. You’re part of a growing fad that has already nominally changed the lives  of at least 2 people. 

Budget Vegetarians Unite!

 

 

 

 

 

Inconvenient Citrus

I signed up for a weekly veg and fruit box from this local CSA called Freshness Farms.  Let me be clear, the produce is beautiful and delicious – I have no complaints.

Isn't it lovely?

Isn’t it lovely?

The thing is, well…I’m overwhelmed by the citrus.  Where I grew up on the east coast in the mountains, I could only dream of so much citrus.  In California, I can go to the back yard and pick a lemon off a tree – any time I want, any day of the year.  This blows my mind.

The fruit box comes heaving with citrus fruit – bags and bags!  Not just safe fruit, like oranges, but tiny things I had to Google – kumquats.  You eat them whole, apparently.  The peel and everything!

Citrus is taking over the fridge.  I can’t eat it fast enough.

“Look,” I tell my family, “I’m instituting a Citrus Quota.  Two pieces, everyone, every day.”

I expand my culinary horizons, throwing citrus into every meal – orange salad, a lemon in every cuppa tea, blood orange sangria, kumquats in stir fry.  Sal whips up a dish with black rice and candied orange peels.  We’re trying.

Blood orange sangria

Blood orange sangria

At last count we have:

– 4 oranges

– 20 mini oranges (maybe clementines?)

– 2 grapefruits

– 57 kumquats

– 2 lemons

– 1 mystery Monster Citrus

The citrus is winning!

I pull the Monster Citrus out of the bag.  Sal says it’s a lemon.  I scoff – no lemon could aspire to be so large!  I declare it a grapefruit, and tackle it for breakfast one morning.

I cut the thing open and take a bite.

“Oh my God.”

“What?” Sal calls from the dining room.

“It’s a lemon!”

“Do I get any ‘I’m right’ points for that?”

It takes a gallon sized plastic bag to store it.  I stand a moment at the fridge, staring at it with awe mingled with trepidation.

Monster Lemon must be cut with a bread knife

Monster Lemon must be cut with a bread knife

Dear Lord, California.  What citrus mysteries to behold!

Monster Lemon showed some antisocial tendencies. He was quarantined in the fridge after this incident.

Monster Lemon exhibited some antisocial tendencies. He was quarantined in the fridge after this incident.

How do I love thee, Purple Sprouting Broccoli?

Let me count the ways.

1. Your fragile beauty inspires haiku 

broccoli sprouts

shy purple trees –

spring breathes.

broc4

2. You look great in stir fry

broc5

What’s in it:  leeks, peas, Jerusalem artichokes, spicy red pepper, chard, bit of carrot, and purple sprouting broccoli. Soup with pumpkin, ginger & rice noodles (gluten free, bought on a whim from Persepolis in Peckham).

What to do:  stir fry the veg with fresh minced ginger + garlic in sesame oil, touch of chilli oil, add soy sauce, some veg broth, noodles.  Simmer until done.

3.  You jazz up my pasta

broc2What’s in it:  mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, and purple sprouting broccoli.  Cooked in a white sauce with risoni (again, bought on a whim from Persepolis).

What to do:  Cook the risoni in veg broth to strengthen the flavor.  Thin the white sauce with the pasta water if you like.

4. Beef bourguignon loves you too

broc1What’s in it:  beef (like braised steak) in wine sauce with mushrooms and shallots, bundle of herbs (like marjoram and rosemary), whole garlic cloves.  Purple sprouting broccoli cooked separately with slivered almonds and added as an afterthought.

What to do:  Cook the beef bourguignon tenderly and slowly.  Serve with broccoli to add a touch of color.

buckwheat promises

You know that overwhelming urge, the one that comes suddenly on a Sunday afternoon around 4:00, for a buckwheat sandwich and some crepes?

And then comes that crushing disappointment with the knowledge that no place houses both these beautiful dreams under one roof.  And finally, the familiar ache that turns into quiet sobs as you pick at your beans and toast.

DRY YOUR TEARS, CAMBERWELL!!  A MIRACLE HAS COME TO CHURCH STREET!!

malokoTucked under unassuming blue awnings is a tiny little paradise – a new café called Maloko, on the corner of Camberwell Church Street and Camberwell Grove lane.  The décor is simple but unique –   the floor bursts with colour, green drums for tables, coffee bags for a ceiling.  It’s light and airy and filled with happy vibes.

The owner’s usually there to greet you, a young guy bursting with smiles and good wishes.  His joy in opening the new business, and hope for its success, is palpable and catching.

Not many choices on the menu (yet!) but what glorious few they are!  crepes

Crepes, crepes, beautiful crepes – crepes filled with chocolate, lemon, Grand Marnier,  with unicorns and sunshine.

And yes, buckwheat sandwiches filled with cheese, spinach, yams – vegetarian stuff.  The coffee is quite good (this coming from a coffee snob) – I had a macchiato and was well pleased.

The prices are typical Camberwell – cheap!  And Maloko has great hours – everyday from about 8am to 10pm-ish – though I’m sure this will adjust with time, I’m hoping it doesn’t.

Because that buckwheat urge can strike at any time.

buckwheat

feminist bread recipe

Feminist Bread

(adapted from a zucchini bread recipe given to me by my ‘second mom’, who is a feminist.)

Ingredients:

– 2 eggs

– 3/4 cup sugar

– 1/3 cup oil

– 1 cup grated mixture of apple and carrot

– some grated ginger

– 1 tsp vanilla

– 1 3/4 cup flour (I mix wheat and plain)

– 1/2 tsp each: baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, mixed spice

– some nuts or mixed seeds

Mix everything together.  Bake in a greased pan for 45 mins to an hour at 350 degrees F (176 C).

Delicious and liberating!

apple carrot bread

this weekend i had parsnips for breakfast

this weekend i had parsnips for breakfast

I’m part of a veg bag scheme (called Local Greens), which runs like this: you sign up with a group and pay a weekly fee, then pick up your dirty vegetables in a white plastic bag at the local pub or wherever, then spend the rest of the week trying to fit vegetables into your life. It’s a grab bag – you can’t decide what goes in there and this makes you do weird things. Like eat parsnips for breakfast.

Includes: parsnips, red pepper, potatoes, garlic, and leeks, chopped and tossed in basil oil, a little salt & pepper. Cook in skillet until tasty-looking.

It’s not the weirdest culinary thing I’ve done, but it’s up there.