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  Eating Those Veggies 11:09 AM -- Thu January 12, 2006  

I posted this on another forum in response to someone asking how they can go vegetarian. Thought I would share the info here:

It's easy! Well, it was for me. I've been vego for 3 or 4 years, and I'm missing so little. I am still a junk food eater. Here are some handy ideas:

YUM Primal Strips Texas BBQ flavor fake jerky... give that stuff a try ASAP. I love it. It's closer to pulled pork than to jerky, really.

Fake burgers (not gardenburgers, which are just veggies smooshed into a patty, but burgers made of soy stuff that are intended to taste like burgers). You will definitely notice a difference, but of course the key is covering it with lots of good stuff. Cheese, onions, BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's, of course). Most mid-quality (above fast food) restaurants will fakify any burger. Islands' Hawaiian burger is awesome. Red Robin has a clone, the Banzai Burger. I am big on teriyaki burgers.

Investigate the fake meats. There is a wide wide range from really awful stuff to great. Tofu especially can be a broad range from slimy clam guts to really firm, meaty texture. Stuff like that generally has little flavor, so it's all in what you put on it (and of course, texture, which is big to me). Textured Vegetable Protein is the real key to fake meat. You can get these little packets of 'chicken strips' or 'beef strips', fajita style, that are really good. There is also "quorn", which is fake chicken that's GROWN. It's a fungus. Strange. It's good, but hard to get over when you know what it is. Very nice texture. There's a lot more to fake meat than just tofu.

I recommend avoiding official tofu dishes at chinese restaurants, from my experience (slime city). But I have found that ordering meat dishes, with tofu substituted for the meat, works much better. It's firm and usually fried, and of course chinese food is always full of flavorful sauces. My latest such order, my dad tried a bite and actually said "that's really good!" He was in shock.

Hot dogs. The morningstar farms fake hot dogs (normal size ones - be very afraid of any very large fake hot dogs, YUCK) to me taste exactly the same as cheap real hot dogs. Not good ones, but cheap ones, which is fine by me.

Then there are little packaged meals that are often good and ridiculously expensive. Find the little vegetarian-wackos niche in the freezer aisle, and there are some very interesting things there.

So that's the fake meat issue, which can cover your cravings very nicely. But fake meat isn't something I even eat the majority of the time. There's too much normal veg stuff I've always had that is great: spaghetti, mac n' cheese, pad thai (get it with tofu), PBJs, bean burritos (lots of mexican food is meatless, if you pretend they didn't cook it in lard, or make it yourself), fries, chips, popcorn, bread in all its splendor and forms, salads, potatoes, and on and on. If you check out your diet, you'll be surprised how many things you eat that are meatless anyway. For me, I had always had meat with lunch and dinner, basically every time, so it was different, but there were still dozens of dishes I could have anyway.

Point is: vegetarians don't generally eat weird stuff. They eat most of the same stuff everyone else does, just not the big slabs of meat that Americans tend to center dinners around.

I say, start small. Look at what's available that isn't meat. If it sounds good, even if not quite AS good, get it. If not, get the meat this time and move on. When we started, we did no meat ourselves, but whenever we were out to eat or at someone's house, and there wasn't something really good that was veg, we had meat. Eventually we stopped that and said it was cold turkey time (but not literally). My family has issues with that, and makes way too big of a deal out of it, but it works out fine.
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