The endeavor to offer up healthy, alternative meals began during a visit with my brother.
He knew that I loved to cook, possessed a delectable culinary skill passed onto me by our grandmother and that something savory, tantalizing and tasty could be wielded through my hands. When I arrived, he had decided that he would engage me in preparing daily meals while I was staying at his home.
Certainly, it was going to be a slight challenge since I have been a vegetarian for over thirty years and he has been a steadfast meat eater all his life. Yet, my affection for my younger sibling motivated me to be open, flexible and to put effort into the endeavor of finding a way to please his palate.
When we began this arrangement, he instructed me on how he liked his meat cooked and requested beef for lunch, chicken for dinner every day and prepared in a special way. After my brother informed me of what, when and how, plans were made to conduct a shopping spree at the local store.
At each grocery market location, he filled up his cart with all his favorite foods: sugar laden chocolate cookies, white flour, bland crackers, crunchy, heavily colored and chemical-laden, cheeto-style snacks and the deli, thin-sliced beef along side the roasted, whole chicken basket.
Needless to say, after the initial shopping spree, I almost fainted. However, it is difficult to resign from a job that one has not formally applied for and challenging to say “no” when sibling love is ruling the endeavor.
From that point forward, my mind was busily engaged on how I might survive the new position that I had just landed in.
Fortunately, a few days later, I made a trip to the grocery store on my own as he attended matters with his work. Thank heavens, for this was a great opportunity to see what else might be available to create the same flavors, textures, hues and aromas yet, not with animal flesh nor tasty, toxic chemicals.
Lo and behold, my cart was full of surprises and opportunities to test, trial and determine the extent of my talent and abilities for preparing and serving transitional foods.
My first attempt began with dinner. For this meal, an offering of chicken strips, just the way he likes them, was prepared with delicious, home-made gravy, buttery mashed potatoes and a complimentary vegetable – one of the few that he would embrace and eat.
Dinner was finished, the plate was clean and he smiled.
“How was it?”, I asked eagerly hoping that he didn’t have a clue what I had just done and that he enjoyed his meal to it’s fullest.
“Delicious”, he smiled with a satisfied tone, a full belly and a sigh of yum as he rose from the table and walked over to his easy chair to rest as he digested the faux meat meal.
Whew, I made it through meal number one.
The next test meal took place in the morning as I prepared his lunch for the day. Little did he know that I had three packages of faux meat in the freezer, where he never looked for food. I could choose between chicken strips, beef cubes or lightly seasoned, hamburger-like morsels.
Arrival at home, after the day, I could not help and ask, “How was lunch?”
“Delicious”, he grinned with tremendous satisfaction and delight for having each of his meals prepared with love, delicate spicing and high-quality ingredients.
This routine continued for almost two weeks where I would ensure that he enjoyed the flavor of the foods, as I noticed his empty dinner plates and the empty lunch-box, too.
Finally, at the end of week two, with this surprise transitional diet endeavor, I confessed to him what I had been doing – preparing his meals with “fake” meat.
“How do you feel?”, I inquired, curious if it had made a significant difference for him.
Suddenly, in that moment, he stood in silence, jaw slightly dropped, speechless and in a mild state of shock.
Eventually, he smiled as he reflected on how much better he was feeling since the shift in diet.
“Amazing”, he responded with a surprised grin.
What was even more astonishing was that he never guessed or realized, or tasted that his meat was “fake”. The skill in preparing food just like grandmother helped tremendously in masking the difference between real meat versus high-protein, natural, meat-like morsels.
“How would you describe the difference in the way you feel now compared to how you felt before we made this switch in diet?”, I asked and curious if it had made a big impact.
With great enjoyment he spun out a list of all the differences that suddenly became obvious to him: “My goodness, I feel lighter, I’m sleeping better, I can think clearer and I can tell that I am digesting my food better; I am even eating much less food now, too, than I used to.”
It was true, his portions of food had started to dwindle just a tad and his “munching” on junk food between meals had also subsided greatly.
It is a fact that when one is dining on organic, wholesome meals, there is a tendency to need much less food to nourish the body as the nutritional content is far superior and a great feeling of satisfaction sets into the body unlike the agitation that junk food often creates, demanding more munching and tendency for over-eating. Protein too, is not a concern because a higher source of easily digestible protein is found in the proper combinations of vegetarian foods such as, rice and beans and in higher quantity, spoonful to spoonful, with an emphasis on chickpeas and lentils. Nuts, too, are a great source of protein as well as hempseed.
From that point onward, our kitchen remained a vegetarian kitchen and his health improved dramatically, radically, and so did his vitality as well as taste buds, sense of smell and capacity for quality, nutritious foods.
Slowly, the items he would choose during our combined market outings began to change with the elimination of junk foods, as they quickly lost their taste appeal, and he opted for more nutritious, organic snacks. As time passed, more and more, I insisted that he eat only organic foods, which soon revealed that non-organic foods actually caused him to sneeze or left a bad taste in his mouth. The distinction in quality between organic versus non-organic was becoming utterly obvious.
Gradually, with a little effort and a slight bit of encouragement, his transition was delicately, gently made from animal meat foods to high-nutrition, organic, vegetarian food.
Certainly, if he can make the shift in diet, anyone can.