Book Jacket: @Random House; Eggplant photo: cc by Muffet
Accidental Vegan Devra Gartenstein explains how to eat well while spending less and demonstrates with a deliciously simple baba ghanoush recipe!
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Excerpted from The Accidental Vegan by Devra Gartenstein. Copyright © 2009 by Devra Gartenstein.
Cooking starts with shopping: deciding where to go for our raw materials. That’s a choice that takes into account everything from what’s closest to what we can afford to what matters to us in the larger scheme of things, like our feelings about compassion or the environment. I’ve heard people say that they’d like to eat more vegetarian food but they can’t afford it. That always strikes me as strange, as vegetables are usually less expensive than meat, at least when they’re of like quality. But there really isn’t any vegetarian equivalent of McDonald’s or Taco Bell, with ninety-nine cent meals and cheap, supersized portions.
The fact is, we spend money on what matters to us. I know people who are barely scraping by who buy almost all of their food at farmers’ markets, and I’ve met people who live in mansions who fill their cupboards with processed garbage from big-box warehouses. I try for a middle ground. I will sometimes buy mainstream products that aren’t grown organically, but I do look for items that have no preservatives or other artificial ingredients.
Eating Well while Spending Less
Although good food costs more than processed food, you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to eat well. Sure, some quality items are costly, like fine olive oil and organic produce, but there are also plenty of wonderful foods that are very affordable, even in an age of rapidly climbing prices. I try to look for a happy medium, like picking a decent olive oil that isn’t terribly expensive, or choosing organics when the price isn’t that much higher than conventional produce.
If you enjoy shopping and you have the time for it, get to know the ethnic specialty stores and corner produce stands in your area. Items like rice noodles and dried chiles are often quite a bit cheaper in shops that specialize in these types of food. Neighborhood fruit and vegetable stands tend to have great prices on fresh offerings. Many of them also have their own particular specialties. There’s one place I frequent that consistently has cheap, perfectly ripe avocados, and another one with great prices on fresh herbs.
Eat fruits and vegetables in season. Artichokes, asparagus, and snow peas can be three or four times as expensive in the winter as they are in the spring. Unlike cars or furniture, with produce low prices often correlate with high quality. Fruits and vegetables in season are abundant and fresh, while out of season they tend to be wilted and jet-lagged, or tasteless because they’ve been harvested prematurely.
While we all want to save money on groceries, there are also times when it makes sense to spend more. According to Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, Americans today spend a smaller percentage of our income on food than any other culture in the history of the world. I’ve heard figures ranging from 11 to 15 percent. Whatever the exact number, it’s partly a result of federal policies aimed at preventing the kind of widespread discontent that occurred when food prices rose during the 1970s, causing angry housewives to boycott meat and picket grocery stores.
It’s quite possible that we’d spend less on health care if we opted for better, more wholesome foods. But it still makes sense to pay attention to prices and make informed purchasing decisions.
Makes 2 cups
Serve this dip with Hummus and pita bread for a light and satisfying meal.
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped parsley, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F
Poke the eggplants all over with a fork or knife, then bake on a cookie sheet until they’re wrinkled and soft, about 1 hour.
When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, scoop out the pulp and transfer to a food processor or blender. Add the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper and process until smooth. Serve at room temperature.
Excerpted from The Accidental Vegan by Devra Gartenstein. Copyright © 2009 by Devra Gartenstein. Excerpted by permission of Celestial Arts, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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