Vegetarian Recipes From Around the World

Vegetarian cooking can open up a new world of food possibilities. Judith Klinger explores vegetarian recipes from around the world.

| January/February 1985

  • Vegetarian Soup and Dahl
    Dhal is an Indian dish of lentils (or yellow split peas) that can be served with rice or bread.

  • Vegetarian Soup and Dahl

You have to wonder when you see a 95-pound woman carrying a 200-pound load on her back over the Himalayan trails from dawn to dusk...and be still more amazed to discover that her body is fueled by rice and dhal. And you may be further surprised to learn that these simple foods — in the proper combinations — produce complete proteins, provide plenty of energy and lend themselves to so much variety in preparation that even finicky tastes can be intrigued and convened.

Vegetarian recipes from around the world offer many techniques for achieving a healthful diet while slashing food costs. These include developing new avenues of taste, focusing on foods in season, relying on low-cost carbohydrates as staple foods, using nonmeat forms of protein (and for those folks in transition to a vegetarian lifestyle, serving meat as a condiment rather than as a main dish), seasoning basic foods with a wide range of herbs and spices and utilizing all leftovers.

My family and I used these methods of eating nutritious, low-cost meals during our backpacking trips to more than 100 countries around the world. Our son, Greg, who was 4 years old when we started our 10-month sabbatical, remembers meals of rice and dhal that he consumed in Nepal after hiking 14 miles or more in one day...and Laurie, 1 year of age at the time, developed an appetite for whatever came her way. Today, back in a suburban community, our family spends only $30 to $35 a week on food — $2,500 a year less than the U.S. average for a family of four — while actually enjoying a better diet than the typical American. Here's how it's done.

Develop New Avenues of Taste

The primary step in cutting a family's food budget is to stretch tastes to include more types of food. In changing over to a vegetarian diet, you'll be introduced to new and delicious combinations of edibles. Study the cuisines of different cultures and look for low-cost staples that can be adapted to your new way of cooking. Select the unusual and inexpensive: A fruit cup tossed with unsweetened coconut (bought in bulk), for instance, offers a special touch associated with the South Pacific. Bananas — a staple in the tropics — are often inexpensive in this country. Try baking and sautéing them, whipping them into drinks or drying banana slices for snacks and brown-bag lunches.

Let your crew at home help select countries from which they'd like to try foods. Huevos rancheros (eggs with spicy sauce), burritos and tacos from Mexico are all made with healthy, inexpensive foods, as are meals of all-vegetable Indian curries served with rice and sliced cucumbers tossed with yogurt.

Eating With the Seasons

In season is the time to buy. (In most countries of the world, where refrigeration is still a luxury, it is the only time to buy.) In the United States, we have great diversity in seasonal shopping, and newspapers often list the best buys at farmers' markets or similar produce centers. And, of course, if you're not already raising your own vegetables, consider picking up a spade. Subsistence farming is the normal way of life around the globe.

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