Want to Eat Less Meat? Try Something Sour.


In her own kitchen, she likes to use beans as the star ingredient: plump chickpeas or gandules (pigeon peas), a hardy local crop that slows erosion and grows easily in times of drought — something we should eat because it’s good for the planet, although Kennedy says with a laugh, “I try not to be pedantic.” And it’s delicious, too. She adds Spanish stuffed olives before serving, for extra richness. The beans are meaty enough to sate and at the same time small enough to scoop up with a chip, or, as Kennedy prefers, to be spooned, almost daintily (“like caviar,” she says), onto a delicate, whisper-thin strip of crisped plantain, hot from the skillet.

Omnivores often cast vegetarians as browbeating evangelists. When I gave up eating meat for a while in my 20s, I didn’t talk about it; I just quietly ate whatever vegetables were on hand, trying to cause as little trouble as possible. Nevertheless, one friend, an unabashed lover of steak, insisted on telling me repeatedly how joyless vegetarianism was. Finally, exasperated, I said: “Why are you fighting with me? I’m not trying to convince you to change,” and she said, “Well, if you really believed in it, you would.”

Kennedy is not a proselytizer. For her, the proof is on the table. “I can create food out of whatever is available,” she says. She recalls her early days as a vegan baker, conjuring eggs out of ground flax seed. “It made me think differently about where and what food is. You don’t have to search high and low.” So lunch might be leftover stems of portobello mushrooms, seared in a pan, or fritters made with the tiny yellow florets hidden inside a banana blossom’s purple cone of leaves — an ingredient she once didn’t even know existed.

“This has become my life’s purpose,” Kennedy writes in her book. “Showing people life without meat is still a beautiful life.” It is not, in fact, a life “without” at all, but one of more — of abundance.


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