My first month of offering Meatless Mondays in my kitchen is over, and I’ve received all my survey forms back. I can officially proclaim it was received with great success. From my point of view, I admit there is a learning curve. Classes/dinners required substantial prep on my part – particularly in coordinating which components of dinner I wanted prepared ahead of time, and which I wanted to demonstrate live.
Add to that my list of specific teaching points and responding to questions on the fly while staying on time with my agenda of serving dinner at 7:30 (everyone arrived at 7) – well – let me say that everyone was most gracious.
I want to share with you the relevant themes of weeks 3 and 4, as I did last month for weeks 1 and 2.
Week 3: I asked the question, “What is a meal?” and offered the concept of what I call the egalitarian plate. If you had to describe what is a meal – one that satisfies as dinner – how would you answer this question? It generates conversation:
Many of us have childhood associations with what should constitute a “square” meal – meat, potato, vegetable, salad. Perhaps some sort of rice and bread or dinner rolls was present at these meals. As a society, our expectations of what a meal should be have undergone a shift, in large part because we eat out more often and have the Food Network to influence our expectations. Many adults have come to expect and desire a wider range of foods, including ethnic cuisines, and more upscale, elaborately presented dishes. Food has become, more than ever, a form of entertainment. To expect that your home-cooked food can and should taste as diverse as your three favorite restaurants combined is simply an unfair expectation.
Another problem we face at home is the lack of time to prepare meals. This predicament is epidemic, and it touches everyone across the board: working couples, single parents, busy singles, stay-at-home moms or dads who spend their time driving their children from activity to activity. Because we have little time, we easily succumb to the ocean of choices that awaits us in the freezer section or at the prepared food counter, or at drive-throughs.
The more removed we are from preparing natural whole foods, the less awareness we have as to how long real food takes to prepare – and OUGHT to. This can set up all the wrong expectations around food prep. If we expect all food to take no more than it takes to microwave a frozen dinner, or be no more labor intensive than opening a bag of frozen peas, we’re sabotaged from the start. (This doesn’t mean a good meal can’t be made in 30 minutes or less – as the theme of week 1 explores the 30 minute meal.)
The Egalitarian plate: A simple concept that no one food dominates the meal. It’s a meal that consists of 3 or 4 selections offered as equal components. This is a shift from our learned dominance on the meat, fish or chicken as the mainstay of the plate, and invites the legumes, grains and fresh vegetables to be equally in the limelight.
When I asked everyone on week 3, if for the first week’s dinner, I had given them: a baked yam, freshly cooked chick peas, steamed broccoli and carrots, and sautéed kale with shitake mushrooms – would they have been disappointed, their answer was yes. But not by week 3!
Menu week 3:
- Toasted quinoa salad
- Chick peas, plain & simple
- Red and yellow beets, goat feta & walnuts over Boston lettuce
Week 4: Saturday night – the elegant meal. Here I included my sticky rice stew to show how one could use an animal food as a condiment or small ingredient within a stew or casserole. Just increase the vegetables in any recipe you have, and it is totally satisfying. I used under 16 ounces of salmon for 10 people.
Menu week 4:
- Vegetarian French “3-Onion” Soup with toasted baguette & melted Gruyere
- Sticky Rice Stew with wild salmon
- Green Salad
- Toasted coconut dipped orange slices
- Dark chocolate squares
I thought you might be interested in theirs:
- Everyone loved being cooked for and eating together in community.
- No one wanted the format changed: To enjoy a vegetarian meal prepared for you, be exposed to new foods, learn in a hands-on friendly kitchen, and walk away with the recipes and relevant information.
- Several people want more workshops on preparing seasonal vegetables (actually doing the washing, cutting, and cooking themselves).
- Everyone was interested in seasonal Meatless Monday classes.
- Participants reported feeling less intimidated around vegetables and more creative, spontaneous and easeful when cooking.
- They were most surprised and delighted by the flavor and satisfaction of pure simple foods such as The Perfect Baked Yam, fresh plain pressure-cooked chick peas, and fresh beets with goat feta.
- I looked forward to Monday nights more and more. The joy of opening up my kitchen and offering food for thought as well as for dinner was totally enjoyable and helpful to others.
- We would be a happier, healthier society if we all pooled our talents and resources more socially, rather than remain isolated and competitive.
- Whole foods and fresh produce are beautiful gifts of the earth. Participants benefited from my enthusiasm and appreciation for them, as one might learn to see a painting in an art appreciation class.
- I look forward to offering Meatless Monday classes for all seasons as well as additional workshops.
- After doing the math, these dinners cost on average, only $5 a person. All ingredients were predominantly organically grown and purchased at Whole Foods (my CSA hasn’t started yet this year). The vegetable juice in week 1 was my gift, not calculated into the cost. Asparagus was expensive as it really isn’t in season yet, but I wanted to offer the recipe for upcoming spring cooking.
So I think Meatless Mondays should be shared, by you, GoodFood World readers! Take these recipes, tweak them to be your own, add others you love or want to try, and invite some friends over to do this together.
Cook, share, live and eat, love and play!
Until next time,