Consider the poor vegetarian. While the rest of the gang is ordering a second martini, he's fantasizing about a carrot juice cocktail with just a soupcon of... oh... sauerkraut squeezings. While you're polishing off a juicy steak and then lighting up a postprandial cigar, he's getting suited up for his evening jog. Ah, never to know the thrill of a Big Mac, a hot dog, a slab of roast beef... tell you, there's something definitely un-American about the common garden-variety vegetarian.
The only trouble with the vegetarian way of life, it's at least mildly contagious. Several years ago, strictly as an economy measure, our family tried one meatless meal a week. We found we could do very nicely with an omelet or a souffle on that one night. And a cheese casserole worked pretty well on another night. Every now and then there was an all-salad night. The way things now stand, a month can go by before we sink our teeth into anything more profound than a chicken.
This happens to be my favorite meatless meal. Try it just for the fun of it. But be forewarned: Once you start, there's no telling where it will lead.
The Staples: Make sure these are all on hand: olive oil, salt, pepper, eggs, flour, soy sauce, garlic.
The Shopping List: 4 large ripe tomatoes; 3 large Bermuda onions; dill, preferably fresh; 1 box of wheat pilaf (you may have to visit the health food store for this); 1 large potato; 1 bunch parsley; scallions; 4 lemons; 1 head cabbage; 2 carrots; 2 green peppers; cucumber; celery; whole-wheat flour; evaporated milk (13-ounce can); small container sour cream; various cheeses and fruits in season.
Prepare in Advance: The tomato soup. Take 4 of the ripe tomatos and peel them. The way to do this: Dip them in boiling water for less than a minute. The skin will fall away easily with a little prodding with a paring knife. Slice the peeled tomatoes and put them in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 large onion, chopped. And 2 cloves of garlic, minced. A large pinch of dill, minced. A potato, peeled and sliced thinly. A generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper. Set heat to low, cover pot and simmer soup until potato is cooked through -- 15 to 20 minutes.
Pour soup into electric blender and mix it until smooth. Stir in the small container of sour cream and put mixture into refrigerator to cool.
Also Prepare in Advance: The wheat salad. Wheat pilaf can be found in some supermarkets and most healthfood stores. Put 1 cup of wheat pilaf in a bowl. Boil 2 cups of water over a high heat and add that to the pilaf. The pilaf will absorb the water in less than an hour. When it is cool, add 1 green pepper, chopped fine. Peel and grate 2 large carrots and add them. Peel a cucumber, cut into tiny pieces and add that. Peel and chop an onion and add that.
And now the seasonings: Add a large handful of chopped parsley, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. And then a salad dressing consisting of 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice and the same amount of olive oil.
Allow the salad to cool before you serve it. Always serve this salad with a word of warning: This salad can be habit forming. It undoubtedly has something to do with the absence of whole grains in our diet but I've seen sophisticated and very picky eaters work their way through three helpings, apologizing all the while, and ask for a fourth.
5:45 P.M.: Most that remains: The Japanese vegetable pancakes. Most of the cooking done in an oriental kitchen seems to be slicing-and-dicing work.
Using a sharp knife, shred 1/2 head of cabbage, slicing it first one way and then the other.Chop 2 peeled carrots as fine as possible. Peel and chop one of the onions. Chop 4 of the celery stalks without their leaves. Cut a green pepper into small bits.
Beat 1 egg for a few minutes and then mix in the can of evaporated milk. Stir in 1 cup of whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of unbleached white flour. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and all of the chopped vegetables. Chances are the batter will be a little thick at this point. If so, add a splash of water or maybe 2 splashes -- until the batter is more liquid than solid.
Heat a large frying pan or griddle over medium heat and add a dab of butter or a splash of cooking oil. Using a soup ladle, pour small puddles of the batter onto the pan. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes and then take a peek -- when pancakes start to brown on one side, flip them over and cook until they are browned on both sides.
Don't worry about leftovers -- they're excellent served cold the following day.
6:30 P.M.: Begin with the cold tomato soup garnished with sprigs of dill or some chopped cucumber.
Followed by the wheat pilaf salad, served on a bed of lettuce or cabbage leaves. Followed by the vegetable pancakes, served with soy sauce. (Danger!No syrup.)
And followed finally by a selection of fruit and cheese.