This is a vegetarian blog. It is likely that those who have visited this website know that, and if I have failed to convey this…I deeply apologize. With that being said, it is important to point out that there is a distinct reason I have decided to become a vegetarian, and that is because of the environmental impact of eating meat. Cowspiracy brought to my attention a 2006 UN report which pointed out that “rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars.” This has been examined further by more recent reports which have explored this topic in detail and confirmed the above mentioned conclusion. The reason I am talking about this is because today’s post will stray from the more typical posts about the consumption of food, and focus more on the acquisition of the food that I eat. I do this because in the end my goal is to save the planet, and I feel as if sharing may help in some small part to achieve this goal.
This is where we get to the title of this article, seasonality. It turns out that not all food grows year round. In fact, almost no food grows year round. Growing up, I was ignorant of this fact. It seemed I could have an apple anytime I wanted if I just went to the grocery store and asked my parents politely to purchase one, and that is in fact the case. Yet that apple isn’t always from near where I live. It is likely the apple I eat mid winter is actually brought in from somewhere warmer such as California, or one of the numerous countries south of our border. These countries are near the equator or are so far south that their summer occurs during my winter.
The fact of the matter is that apples in the United States have a growing season which goes from August to November at the latest. This is the time when you can go to apple orchards and pick your own apples, and each meal can have either applesauce, apple cider, or some combination of both. After this time it becomes too cold and the production of apples decreases as the trees go dormant until the next season. During this time the cost of an apple increases, not necessarily for you and your wallet, but someone must pay more for the transportation of the apples which have to come from further away. This transportation often is by semi trucks that transport the fruit and continuously spews out greenhouse gases along the way…
Last week, I made a butternut squash soup in an attempt to make a new, delicious vegetarian dish, but in doing so I became a champion against my own goal. This is not something I intend to do ever again. In order to do so I found a chart online which outlines the growing seasons of various kinds of produce found in the super market. The dark green highlights the typical growing season of the food, and the light green shows when it can easily be found, but has to be brought in from some place warmer. I did not create this chart, and a link at the bottom of this page shows its original producer who I highly recommend you give a visit. More importantly though I urge you to look for foods you commonly eat and if you normally purchase it off season to search for some alternative. I know I will be doing so, in order to reduce my personal greenhouse gas footprint.
1 butternut squash (2-3 pounds), peeled and seeded
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
Nutmeg, salt, and freshly ground black pepper
Cut Squash into 1-inch chunks
In a large pot, melt butter
Add onion and cook until translucent (about 8 minutes)
Add the squash and stock then simmer until the squash is tender (15-20 minutes)
Remove the squash chunks and place in a blender and puree, before returning to the pot
Stir the soup, seasoning with nutmeg, salt, and pepper
After having an amazing butternut squash soup last week, I decided to set a goal of creating my own that was hopefully as good as the one I had ordered at a local restaurant. I have to say, I achieved this goal, while I must also admit, I am incredibly biased with this since I made the above soup personally. Yet the soup was at least comparable in taste as far as I was concerned. I searched a while to find a recipe with high ratings, and it was food network that gave me this one. The original recipe called for chicken stock, but I substituted in a vegetarian stock to make this soup entirely vegetarian.
Peeling the squash can be quite difficult for a novice chef like me but after trying several different utensils I found that a short, sharp knife worked best. Although it was rather crude, it worked faster than the peelers I tried because of the awkward shape of the squash. After peeled, simply chop the squash in half and carve out the center like a pumpkin.
After the simmering is complete, instead of scooping out the individual squash pieces I found that an immersion blender makes life a lot easier. While eating the soup though I noticed approximately three different pieces of squash sitting at the bottom of the pot.The immersion blender made life significantly easier and sped up the cooking of this dish, but also I feel as if the soup would have been a little more thin and soup-like had I simply used a blender on the pieces themselves. So the decision is entirely yours if you have this device.
Butternut Squash and Seasonality
For those who are unaware, the reason I became a vegetarian is because I want to reduce my personal carbon/greenhouse gas footprint. Yet as I was cooking this soup I realized that despite not having any meat in the dish, the squash itself is not at all in season. I hadn’t even thought of this until I was cooking the soup itself since a local restaurant had been serving it just the week before. Regardless, this is something I plan on learning more about.
I’m fully aware of the global impact that is involved with transporting produce that is in season in one country and bringing it to a place (such as my local grocery store) where it is not. Although this allows for us to eat certain produce year round, it is something I will avoid into the future as much as possible. There is no need to eat a butternut squash near the end of winter when it is a late summer/fall fruit. The first step with this is of course learning which items are in fact in season throughout the year. Hopefully I can share my findings with you folks as I learn more and continue on my path to being a vegetarian.
When I first arrived at the Stilt House I thought choosing a meal would be a difficult, strenuous task, but was pleasantly surprised. After just a quick scan I found numerous vegetarian items hidden among the various meat filled dishes. Meals such as stuffed mushroom caps begged for my attention, yet three items stole my attention quickly. I ordered all of them, and was not disappointed one bit. The first of these were the appetizers, A giant baked pretzel with beer cheese sauce and stone ground mustard and a butternut squash soup.
Butternut Squash Soup | Infused With Blue Moon
There are no words which describe the taste of either of these plates. The soup had a particular sweetness mixed with spice that assaulted the taste buds and the pretzel’s mustard had a kick that cannot be compared to. Because of the taste, my new goal for next week is to make a soup that compares to the flavor which this soup delivered. Although likely to be difficult given my relatively limited knowledge of cooking, it is well worth it if I can create a soup even remotely similar.
Although to begin this meal I had every intention of taking a picture of every dish before eating, the smell and look of this flat bread brought me to forget this until only one piece remained. This sole morsel was quickly consumed after this picture was taken. Nothing can quite compare to the taste of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. Nothing.
This first time going out to eat was a success. Pressure from my guests was non-existent, the options were plentiful, and the meal was amazing. I look forward to doing this once again, but until then I just intend on developing my own culinary skills while eating healthy meals that add little to nothing to environmental destruction. I recently found another blog titled “The Vegetarian Ginger” which has numerous recipes I intend on following. I hope, and actually know, that this will be successful given the wide range of vegetarian recipes available.
It is amazing how difficult it is to be a vegetarian. From the beginning I anticipated this, but nevertheless I greatly underestimated this commitment. Despite my best efforts, in the past week I have eaten entirely vegetarian only 3 of the 7 days. Even though this means I cut back on approximately 6 or 7 meat filled meals, I still consumed 4 this week. This is a major improvement for me personally, but it still isn’t enough.
Although it seemed to me mildly pathetic this early on, I needed to get some motivation to continue on with this venture. As I’ve said, I’ve seen Cowspiracy twice, and although this film caused this decision I already knew the facts and needed new ones to keep me going. So I began looking, and honestly I found the fuel to keep me going much faster than I would have thought. After a small search I found numerous reasons why I should continue on this journey.
“Help End World Hunger”
“Live Longer, Slow The Aging Process”
As well as the unbiased,
“Enjoy The Diverse, Colorful, And Delicious World Of Vegetarian Cuisine”
I quickly was reminded of why I am doing this. I want to end world hunger, I want to live longer, and I of course want to enjoy a diverse, colorful, and delicious cuisine. Yet how do I remember these things when I am actually preparing meals, let alone the dreaded but forthcoming eating out. Being a vegetarian you really do change your lifestyle, but it is a change I am fully committed to. I intend to continue tracking my progress and “successful days” as my friends like to call them as this goes on, and over time I expect the successful days to continue to increase.
I have a goal of going out to eat next week, although where is undecided at this point. I’ve heard that this is a challenge for even the most experienced of vegetarians as peer pressure, smells, and the menu do their best to make you eat a burger or some meat related item. Yet despite this, and my relatively shaky track record I have a feeling it will go well.
After watching Cowspiracy twice, I feel I can no longer deny the facts behind global warming. I never necessarily denied the facts per say, but it has always been so easy to ignore them. I knew all about cars and electricity production polluting the planet, but never felt I was in a position to change these long established systems. Yes, I avoid using my car as often as possible, take short showers, and turn lights off when I leave the room but it has never felt satisfying. This all changed after watching the documentary Cowspiracy. The burden of blame has finally been placed directly upon my shoulders.
This film opened my eyes to evidence which many different environmental organizations often ignore for one reason or another. It can be summarized simply with the title of a 2006 U.N. report: “Rearing Cattle Produces More Greenhouse Gases Than Driving Cars.” This seemed impossible…until I thought about how much meat I eat on a daily basis. Bacon or sausage for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch, grilled chicken for dinner. There is literally meat in every meal I eat. These clean little packages of meat don’t simply sprout out of the ground after given enough water and sunlight. These packages of meat were once animals who required food and water to grow, adequate (although hardly) room to allow for that growth, and commonly receiving medication to prevent them from getting sick. While this rapid growth is occurring though, they are constantly emitting waste in the form of liquid, solid, and gas. This waste might not seem like much, but when the size of the animal and sheer number of them is considered you start to see why animal agriculture could produce more greenhouse gases than driving cars.
I’ve always considered myself to be aware of my ecological footprint. Teachers and professors constantly telling me of the dangers of overuse by the American population. Forced to take numerous carbon footprint quizzes to tell me how much I was hurting the planet. I was always told we have to pass regulation to make cars more efficient, power plants more clean, and waste relatively limited. Yet it is time I really begin to make a difference. Not tomorrow, not a week from now, but today. It is easy, and we can all do it by eating less meat. As you may have noticed the name of this blog is in fact “The Part Time Vegetarian” and that is exactly what I plan on being from this day forward. Unfortunately, meat is engraved deeply within me, so the transition will be slow as I find alternatives to my favorite dishes. Yet you can trust me though when I say my meat consumption will be limited from here on out.
This blog will be come a documentary of sorts. I am using it as much to share my story as I am to keep track of my personal progress. It may be slow at first, but unless I take this first step I will never make any progress at all. I hope by visiting you will be inspired to take up the cause and come back every week for more motivation to continue on. This isn’t a simple New Year’s resolution, it is a decision I am making after months of thinking and debating with friends.
A favorite quote of mine states, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” That is exactly what I plan on doing.