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1. Who is Afraid of Vegetarian Food?

1. Effects of Food

2. Stay Bright

3. Recipes

4. Positive Books

5. Finding Good Teachers


Suppose you've never cooked vegetarian before.
And you want to try, in spite of a whole list of doubts and questions. So there you are in your kitchen, all nerves and jitters. Will you be alive after this meal?

The following text might give you some support in these difficult moments. Keep this survival manual carefully with you.

Vegetarian cooking is not so difficult. In fact, it is very easy. You can prepare a nice and healthy meal for yourself in less than twenty minutes. We want to give you an example and some hints.

If you don't like to jump into the deep without knowing the Dangers of Vegetarian Eating, continue reading here. When preparing a vegetarian meal, you may want to look at a few things.

For instance, will this meal have:

  • a nice taste?
  • enough protein?
  • enough vitamins?
  • enough other healthy stuff (minerals, fibers, etc.)?

Other considerations might be, is this meal:

  • easy to make?
  • cheap?

Most of these questions are easy to answer when you cook vegetarian. Let's start with the three most famous worries of the prospective vegetarian.

  • Will I get enough protein?
  • Vegetarian cooking is extremely complicated and requires hours and hours in the kitchen.
  • But without meat my meals will be boring!
  • If I don't eat meat, won't I die of a protein deficiency?

This last question has caused many would-be vegetarians nightmares and lost sleep. Imagine how many beginning vegetarians have woken up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, because they were dreaming that they had been reduced to a skeleton in their first meat-less week.

Simple, varied meals give you all the protein you need. All these worries are completely unnecessary. You don't need meat or fish or eggs for your protein. They might even give you an overdose of it, causing acidity and stiff joints. Not so nice when you want to do sports, play music or simply avoid painful diseases like rheumatism and arthritis.

No, you don't need meat or fish or eggs to get the right amount of protein. Experts have testified that including milk products and grains* in your meals is sufficient. Contrary to the old ideas regarding vegetarianism, experts found in the past fifteen years that
it is not possible to get too little protein if you have variation in your meals. Every day white rice with tomato paste will not do. But different kinds of grains (not necessarily in the same meal) are enough. Meals with grains and vegetables and every now and then cheese, yogurt or milk gives you all the protein you need. You can add beans or soy products or nuts or seeds or anything you like, but for your protein you don't need it.

*grains:  rice, bulgur, wheat, oats, bread, toast, pastry, porridge, muesli, corn flakes, macaroni etc.

There are even long-time vegetarians who found that you don't need the milk products; just a variety of grains (not necessarily in the same meal) will give you sufficient protein.

But my grandmother always said I have to eat more protein.
Many people eat far too much protein. We think we need it, because we have been given wrong information. Experts have been lowering the recommended amount of protein steadily, because, as they admit, they don't know with how little we can stay healthy and rather recommend too much than too little. New research revealed every time that the previously recommended amount had been far too high. At the beginning of this century it was 100 grams per day, then experts reduced it to 50 grams and nowadays they say that for the average person 30 grams is enough. They warn now that overconsumption of protein is harmful -it makes the body acidic and stiff. Also the dairy and meat industries have always recommended too much protein - they want to sell their products!

Vegetarian cooking complicated? It's easier than "normal" cooking!
For many years it was thought that as a vegetarian you need a special combination of grains and beans. Non-vegetarians had the impression that you should make complicated side dishes, bean pastes and mysterious mixtures with thirty six different kinds of rare grains that you could only buy in that tiny shop at the other side of town that was open on alternate Thursday mornings if the moon was in its right phase.

As we saw, vegetarian cooking is basically nothing more complicated than preparing grains and vegetables. To those you can add anything you like. Some vegetarians have made cooking their hobby, and they make the most fantastic (and time-consuming) dishes for their meals.

But you can have time for other hobbies! Have a look at the
recipes that are included in this survival manual for beginning vegetarians. The recipes are simplicity itself.

But I like meat! Just grains and vegetables...
It would bore me to death!

Wait. We never said that you should eat only grains and vegetables. They are just the basic material, for your proteins and vitamins and minerals. Once you have them, you can add many interesting things! There are hundreds and hundreds of pages of vegetarian recipes in the library and bookshop. Without investing much time, you can become the most creative cook among your friends, relatives and colleagues.
See the
recipes for some ideas.

Adding spice to your veggies

These 'boring' grains and vegetables themselves can be made very entertaining, too. Are you afraid of adding herbs or spices? There is a whole new world outside the well trodden paths of salt and pepper. Cumin, mild paprika powder, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, curry, garam masala (a mixture of spices; ask your local Asian shop) and more. Fennel, cardamom and anise seeds for a sweeter flavor. Oregano, dill, thyme, parsley and other green herbs.

Spices (not the herbs) can be fried in a little butter or oil before you add the vegetables, it makes the taste come out better. Ground spices should be fried a very short time. Try it out with a small quantity.

Using oil
Vegetables can be fried as well. Use a little oil or butter -and keep stirring. Simple and tasty. If they are not soft enough after frying you can add water and cook them for a while. With frying you'll discover new flavors!
(You can get different flavors when you use different oils. Mustard oil is very heavy to digest, better is sunflower oil, or coconut fat. Unrefined vegetable oils are more healthy than butter.)

More things to surprise your family or friends:

  • Mix some homos through the vegetables, after cooking. It's made from ground chickpeas and you can find tins with it in every Asian shop. Gives the whole dish a richer taste.
  • Add soya sauce, tahini and other things you can find in Asian shops. (If you prefer sentient food (to sharpen your mind), watch out for mushrooms in the soya sauce.)
  • Add cubes of tofu (fried beforehand or soaked in soya sauce or any other tasty liquid) or soya flakes.

But I like the taste of meat!

Again here is no problem. There's soya meat (as they call it), purely vegetarian stuff that has never said "Mooh", that clearly tastes like meat. You can buy soya and tofu in many of the bigger supermarkets and in Asian and health food shops (you feel ashamed if someone sees you enter there?) and it is cheaper than meat.
N.B.: Soya and tofu can also be had without added flavor, so you can give it your own taste.

Another suggestion: Why don't you try some vegetarian dishes and add meat if you really can't do without? After some time you might discover that you like the vegetarian dish in itself already enough...

Will I get enough vitamins?
That depends on you. Just like when you eat meat. Simply make sure that you get enough fruits and vegetables, like you hopefully did before, and eat some milk and yogurt every now and then to get enough B-vitamins. Some experts even say that your body will make the B-vitamins if you don't supply them in your food. So no need to worry.

Will I get enough iron? And how about other minerals, and fiber?
You can find iron in many kinds of food. That you need meat for it is a complete myth. Dried fruits (raisins, apricots, prunes etc.) contain a lot of iron. So do beans and spinach and beet greens. Even more iron you can find in yeast and wheat germ. Especially unrefined food (brown rice, unrefined sugar, flour and pasta) gives lots of minerals and fibers. When you bring some variety in what you eat (just like you did when you were eating meat), you'll get all the ingredients that you need.

Is vegetarian cooking cheap?
Yes. It's cheaper than when you eat meat or fish. Tofu and especially soy flakes are very cheap. As a vegetarian you eat yourself rich...

Won't vegetarian food make me weak and unfit for doing sports?
Yes, certainly. If your vegetarian meals consist of a raw carrot and a leaf of lettuce... But if you try full corn rice and other grains, or beans, spaghetti or other pasta, you'll find food that makes you really strong and energetic. The idea that meat makes you strong, comes from the fact that meat makes you more aggressive. Aggression is an unbalanced thing. It is different from strength. Meat makes you aggressive.

In India's history everyone has been vegetarian -except the warrior caste, because the warriors needed to be aggressive. A vegetarian is less aggressive, and since that makes him more balanced, he has more power.

Did you know that Johnny (Tarzan) Weismuller was a vegetarian? Many excellent sportsmen and -women are vegetarian; scientific research has shown that vegetarians have more energy and endurance than non-vegetarians. That is not surprising: meat is hard to digest for our body and takes a lot of our energy. Also the poisons in meat force the body into a constant state of red alert, which costs much energy. Also if you are not a top athlete, vegetarian food is good for you: Vegetarians have a much smaller chance to get cancer and heart diseases than meat eaters.

My friends will laugh at me when they hear I eat vegetarian.
Do they laugh at Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras, Leonardo da Vinci, Newton, Charles Darwin, John Milton, Richard Wagner, H.G. Wells, Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, or Albert Einstein? They were also vegetarian. See a long list of
famous sports people, music stars etc. who are vegetarians.

Are you sure it is easy to cook vegetarian?
Very. See the
recipes . And for busy people there are vegetarian "burgers" and other ready-to-eat things in the health food shops. Why don't you ask a guided tour in such a shop  - you'll find many interesting things!

Recommended books for those who want to know more about (sentient) vegetarian food:

Food for thought
Avadhutika Anandamitra Acaraya
Ananda Marga Publications, Manila, Philippines. 3rd edition 1991

A very legible book about reasons to be vegetarian.
A great source of information if you want to know in which food you can find the protein, vitamins, iron etc. that you need.

Cooking for Consciousness
Joy McLure and Layne Kendall
Nucleus Publications, USA. 2nd edition 1993

Many clear recipes from hors d'oevre to dessert and a wealth of information about grains, vegetables, fruits and how to have a smoothly running kitchen.
Many of the recipes are easy and require little time, but you can also find more sophisticated dishes for special occasions.

Copyright 1998-2000 by Joost Boekhoven