On Moving Toward Vegetarianism: Flexitarians


Photo credit: Kelly Rossiter

We titled this series On Moving Toward Vegetarianism because it is aimed at people who are thinking about vegetarianism, but aren't quite there yet. I know that there are many of you out there who are long-term committed vegetarians, but I also know that there are vegetarians out there who eat meat in secret. And then there are those of you who openly identify yourselves as flexitarian.A composite of "flexible" and "vegetarian", it is defined as a vegetarian who very occasionally eats meat, poultry or fish. Those of you who are vegetarians for ethical reasons aren't going to embrace this approach. But people who are interested in becoming vegetarian for health reasons may see this as a way to decrease meat intake, while working towards a more vegetarian based diet.

Not everyone has the same level of commitment, or the willpower to consistently remain on an all vegetarian diet. Dietitians and nutritionists have long known that many people drift in and out of a vegetarianism for a variety of reasons. Being a flexitarian allows you to eat the occasional bit of meat without feeling a sense of lapsing. As with weight loss diets, if you make a conscious decision to eat something normally forbidden to you, accept it and get back to your regular diet.

If you do choose to add some meat to your diet occasionally, avoid buying it in a grocery store. Go to a butcher and ask about the source of the meat. Be sure it is organically raised without antibiotics and hormones. Make it a side dish, rather than the main event. If you are eating fish, be sure to choose something that is not on the endangered list.

No doubt committed vegetarian readers will be outraged by this post, but the fact is, people still eat meat. Many of you leapt to the defense of mock meat last week because you still wanted the taste of meat without eating animals. Well, it seems that there are some people who would rather eat the actual meat from time to time, rather than eating the chemical equivalent. Everyone makes their own choices, so rather than maligning people and for what they eat, we should be encouraging them to continue to eat a largely vegetarian diet.


Photo credit: Kelly Rossiter

I was surprised to find that I had no barley in my cupboard when I went to make this soup, but we are in the middle of a blizzard and so I substituted cooked rice instead

Barley Mushroom Soup

2/3 cup pearl barley
6 cups of water or vegetable stock
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup shredded kale or other dark leafy green
1/2 cup diced peeled carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp soy sauce
freshly ground pepper

1. In a 4 -5 quart Dutch oven or other heavy pot, combine the barley with the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, paritially covered, until the barley is tender, 35 to 45 minutes.

2. While the barley cooks, heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onion, kale, carrots, celery and salt and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent browning, for 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

3. When the barley is plump and tender, stir in the vegetables. Add the dill and soy sauce and simmer for 3 minutes. Season the soup generously with black pepper and serve.

From The Flexitarian Table by Peter Berley

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