Journey of a Herbivore
Written by Lauryn Evans
Over five years ago, I watched a video of a cow that people rescued from a slaughterhouse that recognized its rescuers. This cow ran to greet those that rescued them, plopped its little (big) head into the man’s lap, and then the video showed the cow playing with a ball. While watching that video, I realized that cows are just oversized dogs. Perhaps my association is far-reaching, but it made me realize I did not want to eat meat anymore. In this piece, I will speak about my journey thus far of being vegetarian and how I feel my health has improved since making this switch. This piece will speak about food and briefly about my relationship with food. If this is something that may be difficult to read, please feel free to skip the rest of what I have written.
The next morning, after apologizing to my dog for having eaten his far, distant relatives, I announced to my family that I would no longer be eating meat. I was 17 then, and it has been five years since I last consumed meat. I will note that I am a huge lover of animals, often preferring them over any human company. I’m not here to be another voice telling you to change your diet to exclude meat. Frankly, it’s not any of my business to say that a non-meat diet is superior to a meat-eating diet. However, it does feel good when you are conscientious about what you put in your body and how it is grown, fed, developed, or created.
To begin with, I was never the biggest meat eater. Initially, I thought being a pescetarian was a good start. Then, like the cow video that started this all, I watched a video of a fish (I think it was a salmon) that was playing a game with a human where they swim into his hands. The human would pick them up and gently toss the fish, and then the fish would swim back to start the process all over again. Within that first week, I cut out all meat, including all sea animals.
The transition for me was rather easy. I never craved any meat, even when my mom made chicken adobo. I had fun learning how to make my favourite dishes vegetarian, and thankfully, mushroom adobo is just as good, maybe even better. It was new and exciting, and it helped me step into new areas of cooking. Not to mention, my groceries are not as expensive as they would be with meat. Except when I get cashews – nuts are so damn expensive.
Being vegetarian has improved not just my physical health but also my mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I used to be quite the avid napper – I would come home from school and nap. Once I finished either field hockey practice or a game, I would nap. I used to even take naps during my spare period in high school. While I am still a lover of being unconscious, I no longer feel exhausted at the end (or middle) of my days and need to take a 1-2 hour “power nap.” I feel I have more energy; with this energy, I’ve also stopped drinking as much caffeine. This change in energy was something that I noticed within my first six months of becoming vegetarian. It is important to note that vegetarians and vegans are more likely to become deficient in iron and vitamin B12, so vitamin supplements are always a good choice.
One of the things I am most grateful for is my relationship with food has also improved. My relationship with food in my teenage years felt complex, and I will be honest in saying there are still times I feel this complexity. The transformation of my relationship with food is not from being vegetarian alone; there was a lot of work I had to do to get where I am now. However, vegetarianism played a major role in my understanding of what it means to nourish my body. I learned that when I feel good about what I am putting into my body, my mind also feels good about my actions. In a way, I was able to mend my perception of food. Spiritually, it allows me to feel more connected to this world, and plants seeds of appreciation for the life that exists here that nourishes us.
Thinking about the challenges of being vegetarian, the only one that comes to mind is that sometimes it can be challenging to find a restaurant. While many restaurants offer vegetarian dishes or versions of dishes, they can often be limited to one or two choices, be tasteless (or even overly flavourful), or just simply be completely disappointing. It is possible to find restaurants offering numerous options and great-tasting food, but this is where I have struggled the most.
As mentioned before, I enjoyed learning to make my favourite dishes vegetarian, as well as learning new recipes and building off them. In this piece, I am including two of my very own recipes, as well as my friend, Rayyan’s recipe. Please note that I do not use any measuring devices when I cook; I simply go off of what feels right and tastes right. Luckily, for this article, I decided to cook all three and actually measure how I make them so that there is a recipe to follow, and hopefully, it turns out just as well for you. These are also bank account-friendly recipes, and they aren’t hard to make, but they sure are delicious. I present my mushroom adobo, teriyaki tofu bowl, and Rayyan’s samosa recipes.
Mushroom Adobo for Two
- 3 tbs oil
- 2 bay leaves
- Large pack of crimini mushrooms
- Garlic (to taste)
- Ginger (to taste)
- Black pepper (to taste)
- 50 ml soy sauce
- 25 ml vinegar
- 25 ml lemon juice
- 3 tbsp sugar or add to taste (or you can use honey as a substitute)
- 2 cups of white rice
- Start with rinsing your rice and putting it on. I use a rice cooker. I do not know how to cook rice in a pot, so if you use a pot, do your thing or google it.
- Begin with cleaning your mushrooms. Cut the stems off, and you can cut them in half if you prefer. If they are smaller mushrooms, I recommend leaving them whole as mushrooms shrink when cooked. Heat your pan (I prefer a wok, but any pan will work that can hold liquids) to medium heat. Let your pan heat and add around 3 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is heated, add two bay leaves and your mushrooms. Add black pepper to taste. Cook mushrooms until they are a bit golden, about 7 minutes. Add your garlic and ginger when they are halfway done.
- Add soy sauce, vinegar, and lemon juice to pan. Turn heat to high and bring to a simmer. Add your sugar and stir well, then reduce heat to medium and let the sauce thicken.
- Once the sauce has thickened, your adobo is now done. Maybe it needs more black pepper or garlic, maybe ginger. Add it still and just let it cook a bit longer.
Cooking tip: never put oil into a cold pan. Wait till the pan is hot before adding oil!
- Pack of firm or extra firm tofu
- 1 tbs oil
- Chili flakes to taste
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¾ cup soy sauce water
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- ¼ cup cold water
- 3 cups of white rice
- Magi seasoning
- Chili powder
- Coleslaw vegetable mix
- Black pepper
- Onion powder
- Red hot chili powder
Part one: Marinating tofu
- Start with making your teriyaki sauce. Have your garlic and ginger minced and ready to go. Put a medium-sized pot on low-medium heat. Put your oil in your pot and wait for it to heat. Once the oil is heated, add chili flakes and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes. Add your garlic and ginger. Cook for around 3-4 minutes, or until you have a nice aroma. I recommend using Asian chili flakes as they do not burn nearly as fast.
- Add soy sauce and water and raise the heat to high. Add brown sugar and honey and stir thoroughly. Mix cornstarch with cold water and add to the pot. Bring sauce to a boil, then turn the heat to medium and let thicken. Once your sauce has thickened and is to your taste, set a portion aside in an elongated container that can hold all your tofu.
- Drain and press your tofu. I have a tofu press, or you can use a cheesecloth or paper towel and make your own press through two cutting boards sandwiching the tofu and placing a heavy-ish (textbooks are very useful for this!) item on top to drain some water. Press for 10-15 minutes.
- Now it is time to prepare your tofu. It is up to you how to cut your tofu, but I enjoy cutting my block of tofu in half lengthwise and then cutting thin-ish slices off. Once the teriyaki sauce has cooled, add your tofu. Now, let your tofu marinate as you prepare your veggies!
Part 2: The rest of the dish
- Begin by turning your rice on. Once again, I use a rice cooker, so I always start my rice at the beginning of meals. If you are using a pot for rice, do your thing.
- For this dish, I am using a coleslaw bag mix, along with onions, and mushrooms. Begin with washing your mushrooms and destemming them. Turn a pan (I use a wok) to medium heat. Slice your mushrooms into thin-medium pieces. Julienne your onions. Add oil to your pan and allow oil to heat. Once the oil is heated, add garlic and red chili flakes. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Add your onions and mushrooms to the pan. Once almost done add your coleslaw vegetable mix. Add spices and magi seasoning (or you can use soy sauce).
- Put another pan on the stove and turn to low-medium. Once the pan has heated, add your oil and then tofu. The oil will splatter, so use a cover or protect your arms.
- You want a nice char on each side of your tofu slices and initially this may require patience until it is done just right. This takes approximately 8 minutes for each side depending on how high/low you choose to cook it at. Be careful not to let your tofu get stuck to the pan. Cook your tofu in batches so you do not overcrowd your pan, and add more oil as needed.
- With your leftover teriyaki sauce in your pot, reheat on low-medium heat. If the sauce has thickened too much, add a little bit of water at a time to bring back desired consistency.
- When your vegetable mix is done, turn your pan to a low and finish cooking your tofu.
- Place your dish once everything is done, and enjoy!
Cooking tip: taste as you go and let your tastebuds guide you. Add your own desired spices, or cook things in a different way than suggested in the recipe. Afterall, recipes are just suggestions.
Makes approximately 25 samosas
- Red potatoes (approx. 6 large)
- Thai chili peppers (we use 2, but adjust to your spice preference)
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 1 tsp red chili powder
- Black pepper
- Spring roll pastry wrappers (I recommend using the Rooster brand!)
- Wash your potatoes and cut them in half. Do not peel your potatoes. Put potatoes in a large pot and fill with water until potatoes are completely submerged. Turn the pot to high heat and let it boil. Boiling potatoes takes approximately 25 minutes, but this can differ depending on the size of the potatoes. To test the potatoes out, poke with a fork into the center of the potato. Fork should go in smoothly, almost like it is butter. The skin should be easy to peel off or even separate from the potatoes.
- When potatoes are done, drain in a strainer. In a large separate bowl, fill with cold water and add ice cubes. Put potatoes in cold water and allow to cool. Once potatoes are fully cooled, take them out of the water. Now, you want to peel the skin off. This should be rather easy to do now that they are boiled – if your potatoes are not easily peelable, then they are not done.
- Now it is time to mash your potatoes! A potato masher works best, if you do not have one, then you can use a fork (this could be a long process), or you can use a hand mixer, ricer, or food processor. If you use a machine, then be very careful not to overmix. Once potatoes are mashed, add your spices. Taste the mix as you go and add more seasoning to taste if needed. Add cilantro and Thai chili peppers and mix well.
- Now it is time to wrap. I don’t know how to explain this in words that will make it not seem complex. So, instead, here is a visual on how to wrap them. Seal your samosas with water!
- To fry, use something that can hold ½ a cup of vegetable oil. Before adding oil, turn the pan to medium heat (we did 5). Once the pan has heated, add your oil and allow it to heat. Once oil is heated, drop your samosas in. Do not overcrowd your pan – cook in batches. When you drop into the pan, they should start sizzling right away. If they don’t, you have not allowed your oil to heat fully. Each side of the samosa till golden brown.
- Set your samosas on a plate that is lined with a paper towel (or two) to absorb extra oil. Allow to cool, then enjoy! You can also freeze your uncooked samosas, then make them when you want. To cook after having been frozen, microwave them for around 30 seconds each side to defrost so they cook thoroughly in the oil.
Cooking tip: cooking a dish from a different culture? Get authentic spices to step it up a notch! (the spices for Rayyan’s dish are all Suraj)
Mueller, B. (n.d.). Two-Bite Vegetable Samosas. The Little Potato Company. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.littlepotatoes.com/recipes/two-bite-vegetable-samosas/