An argument for forgoing meat, with some recipes to boot

As you peruse the palate-pleasing possibilities in this week's Yum!, you may want to take some time to consider the benefits of a diet that eschews corpses on your plate. Distasteful as it may be to acknowledge, the fact is, each time you bite into a yummy burger or chomp down on a chicken wing, you are ingesting dead flesh that's already well on its way to decay.

There are good reasons to avoid meat in favor of a plant-based diet: You're likely to live a longer and healthier life; the planet won't be subjected to the tons of animal waste that currently make their way into rivers and streams; and you'll reap the spiritual rewards of knowing you aren't adding to the killing fields where annually the lives of billions of sentient creatures--all of whom are no less God's creatures than you or I--come to a horrific and unnecessary end.

Speaking of God, or at least some semblance thereof, I have an ongoing friendly argument with my aunt, an evangelical Christian, who insists humans were given dominion over the Earth's nonhuman inhabitants.

It does no good when I point to Genesis 1:29, "I give you every seed-bearing plant that is upon the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit: they shall be yours for food."

Admittedly, trying to make an argument for or against anything based on Bible verses is silly: You're sure to find cryptic passages on both sides of the debate. Besides, I'm still waiting for someone to square the plant and fruit dictum with animal sacrifice.

Since a plethora of arguments for and against vegetarianism can be found on the Internet, I'll refrain from the inclination to add more. (You can find a wealth of information from the American Dietetic Association.) Instead, I offer you some fine and easily prepared veggie recipes.

Aunt Grace's Classic Ceci

  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • fresh Italian parsley
  • garlic cloves
  • olive oil
  • red wine vinegar
Drain and rinse the beans. While you enjoy sipping a glass of good wine and reading your favorite alternative paper, let the beans sit in a colander until dry. Place beans in bowl with finely chopped parsley, as many cloves of chopped garlic as you like, an intelligent amount of olive oil and a splash of vinegar. Salt and pepper optional. This dish is better made in advance.

Though I've never tried it, my daughter says she took this recipe, added it to Trader Joe's Tuscan marinara sauce, and served it over pasta. She swears it's delicious.

Coragene's Kick-Ass Kale

(Yes, Virginia, it is possible to make a yummy kale dish.)

  • 1 bunch Lacinato kale
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • one-half onion chopped fine
  • 1 peeled and chopped tomato
  • olive oil
Wash kale. Dry slightly with towel. Holding entire bunch of kale in your hand, use a cleaver to shave shreds no more than a quarter-inch thick. (You'll end up with long, thin pieces.) Cook in a pot with oil and garlic for a few minutes. Add onion and tomato. Cover and cook forever (well, a really long time) over low heat. (Add a splash of water if it gets too dry.) Add salt and pepper to taste, if you like. This dish is almost as good cold as it is warm.

Trick to peeling tomatoes: Let them sit in very hot or boiling water a minute or two. Skin should be easily removable. Optional: Add another tomato or two, and once the dish is cooked, dump the whole thing over pasta. No, I haven't done this yet, but my hunch is it should be quite tasty.

Did Someone Say Cabbage?

  • 1 small head green cabbage
  • one-half large onion
  • olive oil
  • surprise ingredient
Feed outer cabbage leaves to neighborhood rabbits. Coarsely chop head; wash. Steam until crisp-tender. (Use a steamer for this step.) Heat olive oil in skillet; add finely chopped onion. Cook until onion well browned (this does not translate to burned). Add cabbage; cover and cook a few minutes, stirring occasionally. And now the surprise: Add Parmesan cheese (grated, please; that shaved stuff is a travesty), and stir some more. Enjoy. My husband, an avid cabbage hater, admitted he liked this dish.

By now, you've noticed that I'm not much for precise amounts or exact times. Alas, if you're that uptight about cooking, I suggest you order take-out Chinese. Besides, providing exact amounts squelches the creative process and rules out the possibility of happy accidents. But I'll share one of my Mediterranean mom's secrets: Use just enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. And never, ever, brown garlic. A quick swish in the oil, and you're ready for the next step.

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