Saturday, July 20, 2013

Confessions of a Southern-Fried Quasi Vegetarian

In the South, some restaurants still list french fries as a vegetable. This wonderfully creative view of vegetables should come in handy—as I flirt with vegetarianism.

I can imagine the raised-eyebrow reactions the above statement may cause among those who know me (or perhaps even those who read this blog). Yes, I am notorious for my adoration of fried chicken. Fried chicken is what I'd eat the night before my firing squad execution, along with garlic mashed potatoes (with gravy), baby lima beans (one should still have something green on the dinner plate), big buttermilk biscuits dripping with butter that I can use to sop up gravy, and banana pudding for dessert. In fact, I love chicken in almost all its cooked variations. A juicy filet mignon (cooked medium well)? Yes, please. Barbecue pork sandwiches in North Carolina? Nectar of the Gods. I even love the 'pulled pork' sandwiches, which are a reasonably close approximation to Southern barbecue, that are trendy now in San Francisco. Pot roast, coq au vin, and lamb chops, oh my!

Why, then, would I even consider becoming a vegetarian? Last May my overall cholesterol level spiked to 218. I suppose the fried chicken and hamburgers had finally caught up with me.

Since then, I've been modifying my diet and upping my exercise, and I've brought the overall level down to 169. But the other numbers (LDL, HDL, etc.) still aren't where they should be, and I don't want to go on statin drugs.

And so, in advance of my next cholesterol test in late July, I decided to take my efforts to a new level. Nearly every morning, I'm eating steel-cut oatmeal with flax seed and slivered almonds. I'm swallowing handfuls of supplements throughout the day: Metamucil capsules, CholestOff, niacin. I took garlic supplements for a while, until Nick turned to me one night and said, sweetly, that I smelled like a basket of ballpark garlic fries.

And now, the big step. Three days a week, sometimes four, I eat absolutely no chicken, pork, or red meat. (I will eat fish during those days.) The shocker? It's not as difficult as I thought, thanks to MorningStar Farms (I actually love their crispy Chik'n patties), Trader Joe's meatless meatballs, vegetarian lasagna from Whole Foods, tuna fish salads, meatless pizzas, and that classic quick lunch, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (with exotic 'jellies,' such as Pineapple and Mango preserves).

In a few weeks, when I get my next cholesterol check, I'll know if all this has paid off. Even if it doesn't, I've already learned something valuable. I'm not as wedded to my old Southern-by-way-of-San-Francisco diet as I assumed. This old dawg can learn new tricks—and perhaps even prefer them to the old ones. Who knows? I may take this vegetarian thing even further.

In any event, it's comforting to know that french fries are a vegetable.


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14 comments:

  1. Okay, I'm all for health and fitness. But meatless meatballs?
    Your Southern relatives are rolling in their graves!!!

    Seriously, good for you! I never thought I'd say it, but one of my favorite things in the world is Arugula lettuce.

    But brother, if we ever meet, can we please eat biscuits and gravy together, rather than fish and legumes?

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    2. It's a date, Judi. Jestine's Kitchen?

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  2. You had me quietly rolling on the floor (everyone except the dog and I are asleep). I can still remember my first meat and two sides dining experience in Columbia..I didn't know jello was a vegetable.

    Seriously you are doing the right things. We have been on the same journey for a while as the hubby's cholesterol was very high and much like you we like food...a lot. It was difficult at first to not do the meat, starch and over cooked green veggie thing we (insert I) grew up eating but now its usually a piece of fish and two veggies. Breakfast instead of bacon and fried eggs is oatmeal or granola. Sandwiches have been replaced with salads or wraps...It is now normal and very tasty. Sadly for us the husbands cholesterol has not dropped as nicely as chicken and waffles (to die for!) and maybe some French fries which are indeed listed as vegetables!

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    1. We're on the same path, Colleen. I did have ribs last night for dinner but also a kale salad, red beans and rice, etc. so even when I'm bad I surrounded the meat with healthful sides.

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    2. Well, I appear to be missing some words in there! It was supposed to say "Next time you come to Charleston we will need to go to the Early Bird Diner and have some chicken and waffles and maybe some French fries which are listed as vegetables and...JuJu will need to come with us".

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  3. Yep, vegetarianism is the way to go! I have been for almost 2 years now, and I'm very happy with the decision. The animals and your health thank you!

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    1. Thanks Roy. It's a brave new world for a little ole Soutern boy like me!

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  4. Damn Jim! Having made no such pledge, I may find myself at Eureka Grill tonight for their not-very-Southern-but-very-tasty fried chicken. (You won't be surprised to know we share the same pre-firing squad meal choice - though I'd switch out the limas for string beans.)

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    1. String beans will do, too, especially if cooked with bacon. And BTW, I like Eureka's fried chicken, too. Damn you for reminding me of that!

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  5. Just found your blog - and I can relate. But living in South Alabama, the veggies are fresh and plentiful (except for this year because of too much rain). We usually have summer dinners of Silver Queen corn, tomatoes, squash, okra and new potatoes with cornbread. Of course, we like to fry the okra - but it's minimal, well drained, and oh, so good!

    Who needs meat when the vegetables grow right down the road?

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    1. Great point -- and you just made me hungry for a meal of Southern veggies!

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  6. Thanks for your post.
    Being a vegetarian is a choice. But I was more suited to the half-vegetarian, because I think there is the content of animal foods that can not be replaced by plant foods

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