The deeper my yoga practice becomes, the more I understand the importance of a vegetarian diet—though when I say “understand,” I don’t meant intellectually or philosophically.
I thought long and hard and for many years on an intellectual level about this particular issue, and still I ate meat. I mean I’m starting to understand the question on a physical-emotional level, but even then, “understand” seems too strong a word.
Frankly, the rightness or wrongness of eating meat is an issue I may never understand. There are just so many ways to look at it—physical, cultural and spiritual arguments in both the pro and con departments that I find fairly convincing.
All I know is that when I eat meat these days—even if it’s only a clam—I feel kind of sad afterwards. And since pretty much the only thing that trumps my palate in terms of my own animal satisfactions are my emotions, meat keeps growing less and less appealing to me.
Not to mention the fact—so obvious, really, once I started paying attention to it—that a meatless diet, one with many more vegetables and less dairy and super-yummy tamasic indulgences, like sweets and breads and so forth, makes my practice so much more satisfying, light, and floaty (I mean “floaty” in a purely metaphorical way—float I do not. Not yet, anyway).
The hardest thing, for me, in my migration away from meat and toward a more vegetarian diet are all the social issues. Traditions. People. Parties. Holidays. Family. And perhaps most of all, memories of those things.
There are certain dishes I have a very hard time thinking about giving up because of the whole family-memory mix.
Roast chicken is one (my father’s specialty when I was growing up). Spaghetti and meatballs (my grandmother’s recipe) is another. And my husband’s oxtail soup may be the most difficult.
Wow, does my husband make great oxtail soup. Gorgeous, heady, tangy, rich. Also—I don’t know how to say it—ethereal? Or sexy?
Certainly, if food can be sexy, this stuff is sexy. But now his oxtail soup also makes me sad. Bummer.
Sad really cuts back on the enjoyment factor, so the other day my husband made a vegetarian (actually vegan) version of the same soup. Truthfully, there’s only a faint resemblance. I mean, oxtails are oxtails, and beans are beans, and never the twain shall meet.
Though this soup is by no means sexy or ethereal, it does have a delicate heady quality, thanks to a very healthy splash of white wine. Here’s the recipe (highly fungible… 3 leeks, two carrots, more or less beans—doesn’t matter…).
(2, large, chopped in ½ inch lengths, just the white & whitish-green parts)
(about ½ lb dried white, we used canellini, dried & soaked overnight)
Jalapeno Pepper (1)
(1 can, peeled, whole, to be chopped by hand)
(a lot—a cup at least)
(Delicata, 1 small)
Thyme (Bay would be good, too)
Parsley (for garnish)
My husband gets fancy (he used to cook professionally): straining the seeds out of the canned tomatoes.
Coat the bottom of a heavy stockpot with olive oil, smash a couple of heads of garlic with the back of your knife and toss them into the pot.
Chop the carrot into small (¼ inch) chunks, and the jalapeno into even smaller chunks. Toss both of the carrot and jalapeno into the pot.
Toss in the ½ inch lengths of leeks (which you’ve previously soaked in water to remove any sand). Sauté until the vegetables start to “sweat” and look a little transparent at the edges.
Add the canned tomatoes, roughly chopped, as well as the beans, the capers, a bundle of thyme or other tasty herbs (to be removed later), and a decent splash (at least ½ cup) of wine.
Cook until the beans are half-done. Add the chopped squash. Add a lot more wine (another ½ cup or so) for that mysterious flavor. Keep simmering away until everything is tender.
Season with salt and pepper toward the end (salt inhibits the cooking of the beans if you add it too early). Garnish with roughly chopped parsley. Serve with a chunk of good bread. Looks like this:
Kim Adrian is a writer, reader, mother, teacher, and yogini. Samples of her award-winning essays and short stories can be read on her author site. She recently started a yoga blog called Learning to Float.
Editor: Lara C.
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