by Valerie Richards
The following dialogue often takes place between a vegetarian and a nonvegetarian who would like to change eating habits that would eliminate animal products for health reasons, moral compunction, or the American passion for weight loss:
Nonvegetarian: "How do you keep from being hungry all the time, since you don't eat food that sticks to your ribs?"
Vegetarian: "My problem is not lack of food or food of choice. In fact, I have more varieties to choose from than ever. Besides, a proper vegetarian diet, if imaginatively conceived, is tastier than the usual concoctions that depend so much upon flavoring heaped on basically tasteless meat, fish, or chicken."
By now, most people know that the ideal diet, in terms of lowering cholesterol levels, eliminating artery-clogged fats, avoiding cancer-causing toxins, and containing foods rich in valuable nutrients, is a well-balanced vegetarian regimen. What they don't know is the richness and variety that a meat-less diet affords.
Also, without realizing it, many people do feast upon elements of vegetarian meals that constitute the basis of that diet. Spaghetti, for example, enhanced in nutrients when whole wheat pasta is used, can accommodate vitamin-mineral packed vegetables and tomato sauce to form a delightful entree. Baked potatoes, covered with a choice of toppings like tomato sauce; condensed soup sauce, such as mushroom, vegetable, or celery; or salad dressings, can be nutritious and satisfying. Health food stores feature a variety of frozen foods that can be economical, appetizing, and healthful, such as baked lentil loaf (a delightful substitute for meat loaf), lasagna filled with tofu (instead of cheese), vegetable burgers (instead of hamburger), and countless prepared meals that do not depend upon animals products.
In recent years, book publishers have provided the recipe seeker with an abundance of compilations that bring vegetarian dining to the level of epicureanism. Consider the following volumes from which only a sample recipe has been gleaned:
Italian Vegetarian Cooking By Paola Gavin, Price: $18.95 Published by M. Evans & Co.
Italians in Italy attribute their high level of healthfulness to a traditional diet high in vegetables and pasta. In the North of Italy, butter or a mixture of butter and olive oil and eggs are often used. In the South of Italy, a not-so-prosperous part of the country, pasta usually contains no eggs and olive oil is used exclusively. Because meat is a luxury in southern Italy, vegetarian cooking dominates the diet. The book features a Garden of Eden for gourmets of vegetarian persuasion. The following is a sample:
Wash sweet pepper and cut lengthwise into halves. Remove seeds and ribs. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and cook onion, basil and parsley for three minutes. Stir in the rice and cook for one minute. Add two cups of broth, cover, and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until 3/4 cooked.
Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, the pine nuts, and cheese; salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, and dribble it over the remaining olive oil. Arrange peppers side by side in a well-oiled shallow baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce, mixed with the remaining 1/2 cup of broth around the sweet peppers. Bake in a preheated 350 [degrees] F. oven for 50 minutes or until the tops are golden and the rice is cooked. Serves 4 to 6.