Long ago, meat lost its starring role in my diet. Like many aspects of my life, my diet was profoundly influenced by the year I spent teaching English in South Korea.
There, meat could be found in almost every dish, but it wasn't a dominating ingredient. A sprinkling of pork flavored spicy kimchi stew, dried fish added depth to broths, and a lone clam sank to the bottom of the tofu soup I ate almost every day for lunch.
Koreans love meat. DIY BBQ places line the streets, and a favorite Friday night activity was eating pork at a streetside restaurant with my fellow teachers. We sat on small plastic stools, coughed from the smoke rolling off our combination table/grill, and drank pungent Korean soju to wash it all down. Even there, we rarely ate meat by itself. Though the samgyeopsal (pork belly) or moksal (pork chops) were the star ingredients, we carefully wrapped each bite in an entire Romaine lettuce leaf, along with roasted garlic and onion, grilled kimchi, ssamjang (a combo miso-pepper paste) and a bit of pickled radish.
Awhile back in the NYT Dining section, Mark Bittmann writes about "Putting Meat Back in its Place."
Bittman, a self-proclaimed meat lover, is, like many of us, cutting back on the amount of meat he eats. He's not giving it up cold turkey, but he's trying to make less of the focus of the meal.
In most foreign cuisines, "meat is seen as a treasure, not as something to be gobbled up as if it were air," he writes.
Like any gastronomical "vice," be it chocolate, red wine, or ice cream, there is room for meat in a healthy lifestyle. It's all a question of moderation. Bittman offers great pointers for people who are trying to wean themselves off the 16-ounce ribeyes found on most restaurant menus.
I've already cut meat from my diet, but my boyfriend found the tips quite helpful and informative. He's a flexitarian, meaning he eats vegetarian meals several times a week (any time he eats at home).
Are you eating less meat these days? What are some ways that you make a little meat go a long way?
*Photo from 2005, of me and my friends Jen and Shan eating BBQ in Seoul, South Korea
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