A few of my friends have dabbled in meat and animal product restrictive lifestyles (i.e. vegetarianism or veganism). Generally speaking, I disagree with their choices. I like meat. I love butter. I swoon for fancy French cheeses. A lifestyle where I cannot eat those things is not something I want to participate in. However, many of my friends believe that this makes me some sort of meat and dairy fiend, wielding a steakbone and foaming at the mouth. That just isn't the case. In fact, I agree with many of the philosophical underpinnings of these lifestyles.
Conventional meat and dairy production is bad for the environment and our bodies. Our cows eat antibiotic soaked, pesticide ridden, genetically engineered corn and expel more greenhouse gasses than the automobiles we drive. Our chickens are pumped full of so many growth hormones that some believe they are a contributing factor to the early onset of puberty in young girls. And diets high in animal fats like those found in red meat and dairy are under scrutiny as a cause of cancer. We should all try to eat less meat and dairy and more vegetables and fruits. It's a better diet for us and the planet.
So why do I stick my nose up to the vegan train? It's a personal choice. For me, it's the idea of complete restriction that I have a problem with. I absolutely try to eat less meat and more vegetarian protein, but I also want to be able to have a bacon blue cheese burger or a slice of Cheeseboard pizza every now and then. I don't believe in absolutes. Almost everyone has a different perspective on what makes a healthy diet, but so many of them include the word no: NO meat, NO gluten, NO dairy, NO fat. You can ask 10 health conscious people what their secret is and you'll get 10 different, and vehemently passionate, answers. My friends often think I'm so against vegetarian and veganism because I can't live without meat, but it's just not the case. I don't like those types of lifestyles because of their extremism. I've been on diets like that, and have ended up an obsessive compulsive wreck. I've learned my lesson.
I'd rather just keep it simple. I want to eat many different kinds of good food in moderation. Meat and dairy products are healthful, nutritious food if they are sustainably raised without pesticides and chemicals and eaten on occasion. So that's what I eat. That, and many other things like vegetables, beans, chocolate, quinoa, bourbon, and tofu. Like vegetarians and vegans, I stick to my principles: I eat sustainable meat and organic dairy, and I don't eat either every day. Almost everything in life, including eating right, is a balancing act that takes practice, budgeting, and some tough choices, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
That said, let me tell you about this delicious and entirely vegan tofu dish. I saw this recipe for panang tofu curry on Bon Appetit's website a few months ago and instantly felt that I needed to make it. So I did! The spicing is robust and interesting, the coconut milk gives the curry a creamy contrast, and the tofu brimming with more flavor than you could ever expect from processed soybeans. The carrots and bell peppers lend flavor and textural contrasts as well. I didn't use kaffir lime leaves, but I suspect that they would taste wonderful in this dish if you can get your hands on them. The flavor itself improved with age, but the texture of the tofu did not; after a day, the tofu started fall apart (which is fine, just slightly less appetizing). All and all it was a wonderful meal and a very easy way to cook tofu, even if you don't have a lot of experience working with it. With a dish so tasty, it almost feels like I could go vegan. Then enjoy glass of cows ice cold milk and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies before bed, and I regain my senses.