So how do vegetarians put a meal together?
It’s really not difficult at all. You may have to play around a little, until you find combinations of tastes and textures that appeal to you, or until you feel confident that you know how much food or how many dishes to prepare to feed your family or guests. But don’t overextend yourself: most vegetarian food is remarkably satisfying. If you fix two or three dishes, just as you would for a meat-based meal, you’ll be fine. No one ever left the table hungry after eating lasagna, for instance, whether it was layered with ground beef or a flavourful spinach purée.
For the most part, your vegetarian meals will consist of either an entrée and side dish, or a combination of soup and salad, or two or three “side dishes” served together. The entrées will probably be based on a bean or a grain or meat substitute such as tofu; soups and side dishes may contain beans or grains, but will usually focus on vegetables. Often you will want to serve a simple grain such as rice or bulgur wheat, or pasta, alongside or under a spicier item.
Start with an appreciation for fresh food. Read through this article and make yourself familiar with one or two new ingredients at a time. Incorporate these ingredients into your routine. Once you’ve learned how to use them simply, try a more complicated recipe. Then branch out to another new conquest (Today, tofu. Tomorrow, the world…)! You’ll soon have a repertoire of standards for every day, as well as some ideas for special occasions.
Not quite ready? Take a look at the menu suggestions that experts prescribe. Remember that these menus, like the recipes themselves, are certainly not carved in stone. Feel free to play around – substitute one vegetable for another, serve a salad instead of a vegetable. Important things to keep in mind are taste, texture, and colour. How will this meal look on the plate? Choose recipes to provide a balance of textures and a variety of colours, and recipes whose seasonings complement each other. This will not only add colour and fragrance to the food but also help create interest for the person who is about to consume it.
It is essential to find recipes and menu combinations that appeal to you, that are within your capabilities as a cook, and that will work with your routine. Otherwise changing your diet is something that will remain a good intention. You will have to be flexible, a little adventurous, and persistent, at least when you are starting out as a vegetarian. As with any other important life change, there will be days when you just don’t want to be bothered, or when you crave the comfort of the familiar. But your desire to eat well will keep you on track, and meals like the ones suggested below will be your reward.
There might be occasions where you have to decide for yourself regarding what the menu will be. But it is left to your imagination as you know what will suit you the best. Often the overlooked part of a vegetarian diet is the protein and other vitamins and minerals that are required for the body. People who have been adapted to the vegetarian diet from their birth might be ‘okay’ with it. But for the people who have recently migrated from vegetarian to non vegetarian food, or say, they have turned Vegan, might face a challenge in balancing their diet with all the necessary food components. If latter is the case, they need to consult a dietecian or learn from traditional vegetarian foods. In this age of fast internet, cars and modern lifestyle it is easy to dismiss old traditions, but the fact is they have evolved over a long time and often is time tested way of going about the matter concerned. It is good if we can take the good things from the traditional ways of nutrition and weigh them with the new scientific methods and incorporate into our lives.
What about those occasions when you’ll have both “omnivores” and vegetarians as dinner guests? You’ll have to judge your audience, as well as your own feelings, in deciding whether to serve an entirely vegetarian meal. You can always prepare a special entrée for the vegetarian(s) present, making enough for all your guests to sample. More and more people these days have stopped eating meat, must monitor their cholesterol, or suffer from food allergies. So it shows consideration of your guests to ask, when you issue an invitation, if there is anything you should avoid when planning the meal. Similarly, if you’re the one invited to dinner and mention up front that you have special needs. Why not offer to bring a dish, one that you know you can eat? Goodwill goes a long way to soothing the waters about food choices.