Ready, set, (no m)eat! Yesterday the 40 Days Without Meat challenge has been kicked off. The annual challenge to skip grilled ribs, juicy steaks, chicken thighs and the like has become a tradition among friends and colleagues. Abstinence is trending. The day before meat has been banned, Tournée Minérale came to an end. The collective resolution to skip alcohol in the month of Februari was a hit. It looks like we are becoming more and more conscious of the stuff we put in our mouth and that’s a good thing. I spent half of February in the land of mojito, daiquiri and Cuba libre so in the name of cultural exchange I did not participate. I did, however, cut down on drinking from early January. This comes with a request to bar tenders and restaurant owners everywhere. Get out some cool glasses and take pride in non-alcoholic alternatives. Go buy umbrellas by the bulk!
Regarding Days Without Meat, I’m opting out. I won’t be spending the next 39 days in a meat eating country (although if someone wants to donate a plane ticket to Argentina, pick me!), but I decided to pass on the challenge either way. Somewhere along the road paved with super foods, clean eating and healthy cooking ideas I got hit by food fatigue. So I decided to keep calm, carry on and do with a little less of everything. Some days I’ll eat meat, some days I’ll consciously look for alternatives. Some of my glasses will be filled with wine, others with water and a pretty umbrella.
40 Days without meat takes me back to when I was a kid and fond of sour gummy bears. In that case, a family that honours the tradition of Lent is the worst thing that can happen. Right after Mardi Gras, 40 days of sober living prepare you for the overkill of chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday. At my grandparents house, we skipped meat on the first day of Lent and every Friday after that. The candy jar went behind closed door as well, and that was way more awful than missing out on bacon. The habit of soberness these days sticks with me more than I cared to realize. So when Days Without Meat kicked off on Wednesday, I honoured it with a meat-free meal anyway. Spaghetti bolognese had been on our to-eat list for days, so this called for some creativeness on my part and some flexibility on my boyfriend’s. We managed both (thanks dear!). It turns out Jamie Oliver has some great ideas for a vegetable spag bol. We upped the game with my boyfriend’s heavenly tomato sauce and no-meat Wednesday it was. Our plates were empty quicker than I could open my Instagram, but here’s a picture of Sloppy Joe’s the day after. Sloppy Joe’s is the best thing that ever happened to bolognese.
When you knock on my door these next days, you might get grilled Brussels sprouts with aïoli instead of cookies and cake. If it’s Friday, there may or may not be no meat. Who knows. I just can’t promise I’ll be gummy bear-free. To all you vegetarians, occassional meat skippers, minimal meat eaters, omnivores, full on carnivores, total abstainers, social drinkers, daily wine lovers and every one else out there: eat, drink and be merry.
Veggie lentil bolognese
50g dried green lentils, 10g dried porcini, 1 onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 stick celery, 3 bay leaves, 50 ml red wine (or not), 2 400g can of passata or tomato sauce base (I used my boyfriends, it’s lovely and available on request I’m sure), thyme and rosemary, cheese to sprinkle.
Let the green lentils soak or cook them according to the package. Put the porcini in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to rehydrate. Finely chop the celery, onion and garlic. Put olive oil in a large enough pot and add the chopped vegetables. Fry them on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until very soft. Add the herbs (fresh or dried) and let it rest for a bit. If you use wine, this is the time to add it. Cook until resolved. Chop the dried porcini into tiny pieces and add to the mix. You can add a bit of the soaking water if you like. Add the passata and cook for 10 minutes while stirring. Add the lentils, turn the heat down low and let simmer for as long as you like (minimum 30 minutes).