Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Meat Sweet Meat

As I was doing my carbon footprint calculations one of the secondary footprint questions that recurred was about the family's consumption of red meat. It turns out that the word "secondary" is more than a little misleading. We can make a huge impact on our energy consumption/carbon footprint by eliminating red meat (and meat all together) from our diets. Vegetarianism vs. Meat-eating

Note: I. Love. Meat.

My family loves meat.

And, we have some personal biases against the idea of vegetarianism. I'm not even sure I can articulate them. There is just a large amount of personal and emotional resistance in both my husband and I toward the idea of being vegetarians. It's huge.

Culturally, my family is Southern. While I live in the Northwest, my mother and all of her family are from the South. I spent a significant portion of my childhood in the South. Southern culture is food culture, in my experience. Loving people means feeding them. Welcoming people means feeding them. Comforting people means feeding them. Eating is also a part of this culture. Eating = fellowship. When we go on vacation, one of the main considerations are the local foods. What new culinary delights await us? It's a cornerstone of an enjoyable experience to be fed and be fed well.

Because of this upbringing of food hospitality, I have some real hang ups about food and eating. Picky eaters drive me insane. To insult someone's food (or refuse to eat it) is a form of personal rejection, and it offends me beyond rational understanding. I go ballistic. To not have enough food for family or company is humiliating and infuriating. To have someone mess with my food... sacrilege. (Once a family member ate all of the chocolate off the top of a snack I made...that was four or five years ago and I still feel a smoldering irritation at the kid.)

Long story short, eliminating meat from our diet seems to violate some sort of cultural principle of love and hospitality for me. I understand this isn't logical, but we're not talking logic, we're talking emotion. It's deeply entrenched in me. So I'm not ready to become a vegetarian. I doubt I'll ever be. But something has to be done, so I'm willing to baby step it. I am going to cook one meatless dinner a week. If that goes well, I'm willing to increase it to two. I talked to the man about this, and he's cautiously supportive of  one meal a week. This food thing may be our toughest hurdle...

So last night I made Penne with Eggplant from a recipe I found online. I ended up modifying it a bit, because I couldn't get the garlic pressed fast enough. We had a date with the swimming pool and I was impatient. So here's the basic recipe from  with modifications below.


  • 3 (8 ounce) packages penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut into small pieces
  • 9 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons olive oil, or more if needed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup sun-dried tomato spread
  • 3 cups tomato sauce, or more if needed
  • 12 leaves chopped fresh basil


This recipe's Ingredients were scaled to yield a new amount. The directions below still refer to the original recipe yield of 2 servings.
  1. Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the penne, and return to a boil. Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 11 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink, reserving 1 cup pasta water.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in eggplant and garlic, and drizzle with remaining olive oil to coat; cook and stir until the eggplant is tender and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the sun-dried tomato spread and tomato sauce; cook and stir until heated, through about 5 minutes more. Add penne and toss. Stir in pasta water if the sauce is too thick. Sprinkle with basil before serving.

Instead of olive oil & garlic, I used Italian dressing. I had two partial bottles in the fridge, so I used those up. I also couldn't find sun dried tomato paste, only sun dried tomatoes in a jar. I cut those up and added them instead. Rather than plain tomato sauce, I used canned garlic pasta sauce. I only used 16 ounces of penne, rather than 24.

It was really good. I've never used eggplant in anything before. Four of the kids loved it, and my husband was okay with it. We have leftovers in the fridge, which I plan on eating for lunch, possibly twice. Overall it was a good experiment, and we will have it again.

I'd like to find some recipes that seem more "normal". There's something off-putting about eggplant for my husband and our second son. Our son really balks at anything "weird". I'm hoping to work meatless meals into our diet in a way so that no one minds, or really notices. I'll keep posting recipes, and I'm open to suggestions.


  1. I'm not from the south but I'm right there with you with food. It's the same in the Midwest -- food means hospitality, comfort, fun.....I can't ever see giving up meat either. We have been doing a meatless meal once a week for awhile and it's fine. I don't go too crazy - it's usually some type of pasta with sauce.

    One thing we did do in regards to meat is purchase it from a local farmer. Last fall we loaded up the freezer with 1/2 hog, 1/4 beef and 15 chickens. We will reorder in October so it will definitely last us until then. We didn't get enough chicken so we will order more of that in the fall. I still do buy some other types of meat -- lunch meat and those disgusting chicken nuggets for the kids. But, otherwise, it has been our primary source since October. I feel good because it's organic and local.

    Good luck with your journey!

  2. Thanks! It has its ups & downs, but I'm learning. :)

    One idea I've been toying with is actually elk. My husband hunts, and a good-sized elk could feed us for quite a while...possibly a year. His work scheduled doesn't usually work out with elk season, but I'm hoping we can get it sorted out this fall.

    Thanks for the encouragement!