Twenty-seven years ago, when I became a vegetarian, I had no idea that doing so would be an artistic adventure, as well as a culinary one.
The dietary change came easily and quickly. Because I was actually thinking about my food, I ate much better than I had before–a lot less pre-packaged swill, and a lot more fresh ingredients. I never missed the meat.
The artistic change has come more slowly and has only really blossomed in the past two years of blogging about food. In the past, I concerned myself with the look of food only on special occasions. Most of the time, I didn’t pay much attention to the aesthetics of my meals.
Now, even meal preparation has become an artistic experience. I notice how water beads on the surface of a tomato or how yellow carrots contrast beautifully with the dark kitchen benchtop, I choose vegetables for their colour as well as their flavour, I appreciate the vision of my ingredients lined up in little bowls waiting to be cooked. Sometimes, I’ll pick the vegetables for dinner a little earlier than I have to, simply so I can enjoy seeing them heaped in colander in the kitchen.
Being a gardener makes the aesthetics all the more rewarding to me–when the fruits of my labour are as beautiful as they are delicious, how can I help but be pleased? And, of course, I’m thinking about colours when I plant my vegetables too.
I say the aesthetics are part of the vegetarianism because I can’t imagine a raw chicken leg looking nice sitting on the kitchen bench. There’s something about the vegetables that’s pleasing, whether raw or cooked. Maybe it’s the colours. The vegetable palette is more varied and bright than the meat palette–snow white cauliflower, dark green spinach, deep magenta beets, bright green peas, sunny yellow squashes, scarlet tomatoes…Cooking with those vegetables is like dipping a paintbrush into the colours and creating a work of art.