Writings about

the many life lessons

unearthed when we dig

in the dirt . . . and pursue

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in the constantly evolving

garden of life.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Meatless in Cleveland

Always interested in food off the beaten path, my wife Lyn and I recently saw our learning curve take a delicious turn upward, thanks to our friend Teresa who visited from Minnesota, bringing wild rice grown on a Chippewa reservation.

Teresa's gift came at a time when Lyn and I had just begun a big shift in the way we eat; we've cut way down on meat and gone way up on fruits, vegetables and nuts. In the process, we've learned a lot about soy milk, tofu, seitan and such.

We had already switched from white rice to brown rice, but this wild rice is a whole 'nother taste. Nutty and crunchy, it has a backbeat in fragrance and taste that is surprisingly tea-like. We've been eating it straight, as well as mixed with with brown and red rice.



Long grains filled with taste and protein.
Ironically, concerns recently rose about levels of arsenic in rice (I saw no mention of wild rice). In the world of research, there's always something. My view: Rinse any rice before cooking, and don't eat it three meals a day.

Speaking of excessive behavior, when we made the shift in our diet, I initially had gone all in, cutting out all meat, dairy, poultry and seafood. Lyn knew this was not the way and simply cut back on those foods.


My irrational exuberance was based on my year-long experience as a vegan in the 1970s when I lived in Cleveland. That experience began casually (rooted in curiosity, not philosophy), and it ended casually – on a lovely summer day when neighbors invited me to a barbecue. The ribs were a great, greasy welcome back to the world of carnivores.

During that year of meatlessnes I lost 20 pounds without trying, tallied no numbers on calories or nutrients, not knowing whether I was getting the recommended 55-60 grams of protein a day. Whether I was just lucky or just young, I suffered no ill effects from my diet. But soon after Lyn and I began our new way of eating about a month ago, I quickly abandoned my totally plants approach, believing bad things might happen if I didn't get enough good ol' animal protein. Such is the contrast between youthful unconcern and older bet-hedging.

Too, my decision to go back to some animal protein is based on my belief that good eating should satisfy the soul as well as the body. My daily search for complete plant-based protein was like work, and the taste of some of it was like, well, artificial food.

To name one, there's the fake meat, seitan, made from wheat gluten. On the other hand, tofu, not trying to be meat, tastes excellent when coated with flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder – and sauteed in oil with peppers, onion, mushrooms, carrots, ginger and whatever else taste buds suggest.

Now, as we eat a good many meatless meals, including that protein-perfect mix of beans and rice, and some meals with modest amounts of grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, organic dairy, seafood, I feel assured that I'm doing no harm; I'll get minimal pesticides and antibiotics – and nutrients enough.

Including those from the wild rice, which contains no fat but is rich in protein. And, taste. Life's too short for anything less.

12 comments:

  1. good for you Lee....I too and trying to cut back!...but still have a rib now and again!! haha

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    1. Heyyy, Sharon, no worries; now that I've come to my senses, I too will have a 'cued bone here and there. Bon appetit!

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  2. It must be middle age! Jim and I are on a journey to cook with less meat, more veggies, beans and rice. He makes a lot of great soups, with beans, beans, and carrots (and beans)! Every once in a while a steak or kielbasa finds its way onto the grill, but we try. I love hearing about your journey on the road to rice and veggies too : )

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    1. Yep, has to be the time of aging and awareness, Laurrie; we're not immortal anymore. That Jim is a talented grill man. Enjoy!

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  3. I changed my way of eating a year ago. I eat way more veggies, fruits etc. I do eat meat but not at ever meal. As with anything you must be moderate. I have lost 35pounds. Do I feel better. You bet. I have a delicious wild rice casserole recipe but it has meat in it. Yummm. Makes me want some right now seeing your gifted rice.

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    1. Seems we're on the same path, Lisa. Whoa! Thirty-five pounds. That certainly makes it a great path for you.

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  4. Interestingly, just a couple of hours ago my husband and I had a conversation about recent reports of arsenic in rice! I love wild rice. The comments you made about the wild rice grown by the Chippewas reminded me of corn meal we buy from a local mill. No cornbread made with modern cornmeal can compete with the nutty, crunchy flavor of the stone-ground kind. I think I could be a semi-vegan, if I could still have fish and the occasional barbecued chicken!

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    1. Deb, that real food you mention is easy to take, along with the fish and chicken. Love that stone ground corn meal.

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  5. Everything in moderation is my motto. I'm too much of a foodie to restict my diet with too many "rules". Although recently I have made an effort to cut back on white sugar and foods that contain hidden sugar or convert to sugar. The only thing I add sugar to now is coffee and no way will that be changing anytime soon :).

    My diet already consists of mostly whole, fresh food and I eat five times a day. Soda isn't a problem for me. I cut out the morning OJ, weeknight wine with dinner, handfuls of gummy bears from the office trough...that sort of stuff. At the same time I ramped up my weight training routine and lost eight pounds.

    Sure, there are many reasons to restrict or not comsume meat but I think processed sugar is more of a health threat for sure.

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    1. Your motto reminds me of a similar one I love: Moderation in all things – including moderation. Sounds like you've reached a fine balance. I'm with on sugar, but I get my weight training wrestling stones.

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  6. I'm not much of a meat eater but live with some fierce carnivores so I trek to a local organic farm to buy grass fed beef and chicken. I also buy humanely raised bacon locally. When I lived in ND I began eating more wild rice since we were on the border with MN. Tasty stuff! I avoid as much processed food as possible and refuse to eat fast food or fatty food. Except for chocolate. That is a staple! I also avoid corn, mayo, etc. Do you like quinoa? It's wonderful!!!

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    1. You've found the way to eat healthy and well. Fortunately, those chocolate-loving researchers have determined that chocolate is good for us. Quinoa? I love its taste and versatility; cooked and served with fruit and milk, it's breakfast. Annnd, in a salad it's lunch or dinner. Loaded with protein, to boot. Wonderful, indeed.

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