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The Essential Vegetarian

By Katharyn Jeffreys

Features Editor

One area of vegetarianism I have not addressed much is animal rights. I feel fundamentally that harming animals wrong, but it is often difficult to convey this to a person who is insensitive to the role of humans on Earth. They see animals as our servants rather than equals. I recently came across a quote which really made me think about meat. It comes from Plutarch, a Greek writer (c. 45-125 C.E.) who covered many topics including history and science. I hope that the following words present meat in a light you may not have considered.

“Can you really ask what reason Pythagoras had for abstaining from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man did so, touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds? ... It is certainly not lions and wolves that we eat out of self-defense; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us, creatures that, I swear, Nature appears to have produced for the sake of their beauty and grace. But nothing abashed us, not the flower-like tinting of the flesh, not the persuasiveness of the harmonious voice, not the cleanliness of their habits or the unusual intelligence that may be found in the poor wretches. No, for the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.”

The vegetarian cooking classes sponsored by Aramark and the Vegetarian Student Group which I began to describe last week finished up and were very successful. The second in the series was “Demystifying Soy Foods,” in which all the dishes contained soy products. There was a smaller turnout to this session, so each student was assigned a dish to prepare. I made a cold noodle dish with spicy peanut sauce. The tang of the sauce was offset by the coolness of the cucumbers and cilantro mixed in.

The next day was gourmet vegetarian cooking, which allowed participants to utilize the basic cooking developed in the first two classes. Overall the classes were informative both for the recipes and techniques presented. And it goes without saying that the food cooked was delicious. I was impressed by all the dishes and the vegetarian camaraderie that developed because of it. For anyone who was unable to attend the classes, I highly recommend trying it out next year.

I recently had lunch at a relatively new restaurant in Kenmore Square. El Bico is an Italian restaurant which does not serve the Americanized garlic and red sauce Italian fare of many Boston area restaurants. Instead they offer a selection, with many vegetarian options, of salads, soups, and sandwiches. I sampled two soups, one which was very light, with white beans in a tomato broth. Another, the vegetable minestrone, had a much stronger flavor.

The sandwiches are rolled in bico, a crispy flatbread from the Tuscany region of Italy. The fresh flavors of zucchini, eggplant and mozzarella mixed well and were a nice complement to the soup. The sandwich was large enough to share alongside the soup, and at about six dollars, they seem to be a good deal. The menu also includes pizzas and vegetarian lasagna.

I would like to add that this whole grey box business is getting silly. I have respect for “The” Dan, both as a columnist and musician (check out the Coffeehouse Open Mic nights to see why), and it is just too bad he needs to start petty arguments to encourage readership.

The following recipe was taken from those used in the vegetarian cooking classes last week (this is the one I prepared). As always, e-mail me at <> with questions and comments.

Soban Noodles with Spicy Tofu Peanut Sauce

1 lb. Soban noodles

3 tbs. cilantro, minced

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced into matchsticks

1 bunch scallions, chopped (green and white parts)

6 oz. firm tofu

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 inch piece ginger, minced

1/4 tbs cayenne pepper

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tbs honey

1/4 cup soy milk

1/2 cup natural peanut butter

Have all ingredients at room temperature before preparing recipe. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain, and cool to room temperature. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl. Add the cilantro, cucumbers, and scallions to the noodles. Toss gently and set aside. In a food processor whip the tofu until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, to taste. Blend briefly until combined. Add sauce to noodles, toss gently. Serve, garnished with cilantro sprigs, scallions, or crushed peanuts.