Please welcome our new Chicklet in the Kitchen! We wanted a voice and inspiration for vegetarian dishes and Carla agreed to come on board! Thank you so much! We can’t wait to see what’s going on in your kitchen. You can see her right over there in the side bar! 😉
I’m so excited to be here! My name is Carla and I’m a vegetarian. It started out as a two-week experiment and has gone on for five months. Actually, it started years ago when I was a kid, and I preferred veggies over meat. My parents had to fight me to eat meat. I couldn’t bear the thought of the slightest fragment of gristle or fat, to the point where they nearly had to wrestle me into eating my dinner. More than once I sat at the table, frowning at a cold plate of pot roast.
Later on I adapted, not to mention I developed a love of seafood. Fast-forward 25 or so years to last February, when my husband and I sat down to a beautiful, sizzling, cheese-and-shrimp-covered steak at Applebee’s. I cut into it, took my first tantalizing bite, chewed…and couldn’t get it past my throat. It had happened before. Known as “Steakhouse Syndrome” or Schatzki’s Ring, it’s a ring of cartilage in my throat that occasionally tightens up, particularly when I’m tense. (Like when my uncle comes for dinner, looks at my homemade beef and broccoli, and says, “What the hell is this?”) I could breathe but I couldn’t swallow, not even water. Not even spit. VERY uncomfortable.
Long story short, the gastroenterologist I met in the ER later that night told me I had a condition that included heartburn. Mind you, I’d never really had a problem with heartburn, but he seemed to think I should, and he prescribed medication for it. Maybe it healed my throat, but I had heartburn like never before. Make-your-eyes-water kind of heartburn. He also asked me to come have my throat scoped again in the OR. So not fun, especially when the nurse comes in and checks to make sure I’m ready for my colonoscopy. Can you say, “Wrong end!”? (She was in the wrong room. I’m not Mrs. Olshansky.)
Over the summer I talked to a friend’s wife when I learned she’s a vegetarian. She has two teenage boys and my husband’s friend, and I asked her how she manages. She said, very calmly, “You can do it. It’s not a problem.” That got me thinking.
A week after that, I decided that on the next Monday I’d give it a try for two weeks, to see how I liked it. First I learned to love baked sweet potatoes. (I loved them anyway, but I learned how to microwave them. The ultimate fast food.) Then I learned to make spaghetti squash. Then I figured out that if I made spaghetti and meatballs for the family, it’s not impossible to navigate around the meatballs and just have spaghetti and sauce for myself.
There’s a way to do anything if you really want it badly enough, and I’m happy to say that in five months, the only heartburn I’ve had, came about after I decided to try meat again. I thought I could be a pescetarian—I still love seafood, and giving up smoked salmon was heartbreaking—but the heartburn that night made me think, uh, no. The inability to resist a lamb/beef gyro gave me heartburn that lasted three days and gave me a migraine. I definitely feel no need to back there. I even tested myself by making a pound of bacon for my husband and sons, and not even licking my fingers when it was all cooked and ready.
Anyway, that’s how I got here. Recently I’ve fallen madly in love with lemon juice. It tastes good on nearly anything (not hot fudge sundaes, mind you, which still qualify as vegetarian fare, thank you God) but especially good on broiled slices of eggplant. We’ll discuss my eggplant conversion another time, but my simple broiled eggplant recipe goes like this:
One eggplant, sliced about ½ to ¾ inch thick
Lemon juice (just bring the bottle)
Coarse sea salt
Lay the sliced eggplant on a spray-oiled broiler. Douse liberally with lemon juice; sprinkle with salt. Broil for 5 minutes on each side. After the second side is broiled, lay a chunk of swiss cheese on each and put it back in the broiler for a minute to 90 seconds, until crispy and golden but not burned. Enjoy!