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  Corkscrew Issue 37, January 2006   
Vegetarian Cooking and WineVegetarian Cooking and Wine  Contents 
Issue 36, December 2005 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 38, February 2006

Vegetarian Cooking and Wine

More and more people are getting into vegetarianism, because of the repeating food scandals or as a lifestyle. A diet rich in many foods, which can be perfectly matched to wine

 Living healthy is a legitimate aspiration of all of us. However, health should not be considered as a gift of nature, it is something to be obtained and preserved through a rational, healthy and balanced diet. The civilization of consumption has accustomed us to a more sophisticated diet, rich in fats, meats and sugars, which are frequently cause of many diseases. Millions of people in the world - worried for the repeating food scandals or motivated by hygienic, economical, moral or religious reasons - have decided to follow a vegetarian diet. They substituted meat and fish with eggs and dairy products, eat more fibers, cereals, legumes, vegetables and fruit. Eating vegetarian style means trying to feed oneself - by choosing healthy food, not being contaminated from chemical or artificial products - according to nature or, better to say, trying not to be detached from it. Choosing a vegetarian menu does not preclude the matching with a good wine.

 

Vegetarianism in History

 In the history of humanity, there are plenty of examples of vegetarianism. In every era, there have been people who eliminated meat from their diet, both for social or religious reasons, as well as because of their poverty. The term “vegetarianism” was created in the nineteenth century: the word appears in England in 1874 and in France in 1875. In Italy, one of the first cookbooks is dated back to the first decades of the twentieth century. It was “Vegetarian cooking and raw foods naturism”, written by Duke of Salaparuta. The first vegetarian association, the Società Italiana Vegetariana, (Italian Vegetarian Society), known today as Associazione Vegetariana Italiana - AVI (Italian Vegetarian Association), was founded in 1952.


Rice with curry and vegetables: one
of the many tasty dishes of vegetarian cooking
Rice with curry and vegetables: one of the many tasty dishes of vegetarian cooking

 Since ancient times, illustrious men decided to adopt a vegetarian diet because of moral reasons and they also advocated their decisions in their writings. The mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras - as told by his biographer Diogenes and by Ovid in the twentieth book of Metamorphosis - declared that the earth offers a great quantity of wealth, of uncontaminated food, which do not cause bloodshed or death. The writer Plutarch, lived between the first and second century AD, in the essay “On eating meat” - included in “Hygienic Advices” - wrote that «for a piece of meat, man deprives harmless creatures - animals - of the sun, the light, the natural duration of life, to which they have the right for the fact they were born». Leonardo Da Vinci, great painter, architect, sculptor, scientist and thinker of the Renaissance, summarized the ethical principles of vegetarianism, declaring that «the one who does not respect life, does not deserve it». French philosopher of 1700's, Jean Jacques Rousseau, observed the herbivorous animals were less cruel and violent than the omnivorous ones, so he asserted a vegetarian diet would have turned men in less aggressive beings. Other historical figures preferred a vegetarian diet: Scottish economist Adam Smith, Benjamin Franklin, romantic English poet Shelley and Russian writer Tolstoj. Among the most famous ones are mentioned Gandhi, who denied the fallacy that vegetarian diet would turn men into weak, passive and abulic beings.

 

Types of Vegetarianism

 In all types of vegetarianism there is the common refusal of meat, and, besides this, other kinds of foods can be eliminated from diet as well, including the products of animal origin: eggs, milk and cheese. Therefore, we can distinguish - among the most permissive vegetarian diets - lacto-ovo vegetarianism, which provides for the abstinence from meat and the consumption of milk, dairy products and eggs; ovo vegetarianism, characterized by the consumption of eggs and the abstinence from meat, milk and dairy products; Lacto vegetarianism, characterized by the consumption of milk, dairy products and by the abstinence from meat and eggs. Restrictive vegetarian diets - also called veganism - provide for an exclusively vegetable diet, therefore meat, fish, milk, dairy products, eggs and honey are not allowed. Veganism includes macrobiotics - which provides cereals and beans only - fruitarians - who eat fruit only - and raw foodists, who eat raw vegetables only. The macrobiotic diets can be considered as a permissive vegetarian diets or a vegan diet, because macrobiotics is not based on the elimination of meat, but on the balance between yin and yang foods.

 

The Foods of Vegetarian Diet

 The base foods of vegetarian diet are: cereals, legumes, dry fruits and oleaginous seeds, fruit and vegetables, dairy products and eggs. Moreover, supplements should considered as well: yeast, wheat germ, sprouts and seaweeds. Condiments are used to prepare the dishes: fat substances, sweetener and other condiments. Concerning drinks, besides water, vegetarians are favorable to the use of fruit, vegetable and herbs juices, tisanes, cereal coffee, decaffeinated tea, green tea, quality wine - sometimes from organic agriculture - beers with low alcohol. Vegetarians are generally contrary to exciting drinks, sweet drinks, syrups and high alcoholic drinks. Moreover, vegetarians do not usually consume refined foods, conserves, deep-frozen food and sugar.


 

 Cereals play an important role in vegetarian diet. They are the main dish of the meals, usually associated to cooked and raw vegetables. Vegetarians generally prefer stone milled whole wheat flour, because of the higher content in vitamins and minerals. Among the most consumed cereals, there is wheat - in the form of bread, pasta, crêpe, pizza, custard pies - as well as corn and rice. Macrobiotics prefer consuming this latter one, although they also like eating wheat, millet, barley, buckwheat, rye, corn, oat and spelt. These cereals are often bought in grains and used for the preparation of dishes with vegetables, cereals, legumes or seaweeds. Some people have rice in the morning, for breakfast.

 Legumes - excluded by some vegetarians - are part of the macrobiotic diet, characterized by beans and seaweeds. The most used legumes are lentils, chickpeas, red beans or azuki, soy - in form of germs, seeds or flour - and dwarf beans. Tofu, a derivative of soybeans, broiled or used as a condiments, is very consumed. It is frequently served with soy sauce, tamari or shoyu, generally used as a substitute for salt. Another food derived from fermented soy is tempeh - rich in iron, proteins, vitamin B12 - a good surrogate of meat which is served in slices and fried. Among the foods consumed by vegetarians, are also included seitan - gluten of wheat - used for sauces, condiments or cooked on the griddle. Bulghur is very good, too - it is made with sprouted hard wheat, precooked, dried and milled - used to make tabuleh, although it is also good served cold, in salads or cooked with vegetables. It is also very good for making little balls or vegetable stuffings, mixed with eggs, onion and cheese.

 Among the most used oleaginous seeds by vegetarians, are mentioned nuts, peanuts, pistachios, almonds, sunflower seeds and sesame. Dried fruits include raisin, apricots, plums, dates, figs and bananas. Seaweeds - especially consumed by macrobiotics - are used in addition to soups or salads. Germs of different kinds, soy or Alpha Alpha germs, are generally used in salads. The natural flavors added to raw vegetables, cooked dishes as well as to cakes, are many. The most common herbs are laurel, thyme, rosemary, parsley and marjoram. Among the most common spices are mentioned curry, chilly pepper, cloves, coriander, ginger, curcuma, paprika, saffron, cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Moreover, it should be remembered vegetarian cooking makes use of garlic, onion, shallot, soy sauces and other condiments such as yeast, wheat germ, which are particular important as supplements. As a sweetener, in place of refined sugar, vegetarians use cane sugar, honey and raisin. Fruit is highly consumed by vegetarians - cooked, raw or dried - on the contrary, macrobiotics do not eat them much. Many kinds of fruit - such as citrus fruits - are forbidden by macrobiotics; fruit juices are not advised, too.

 Vegetarians and macrobiotics avoid sugar and sugared foods - such as drinks, cakes and marmalades - because they are considered bad for the health or useless. Stimulants are excluded from the diet, too. Some also avoid coffee and even chocolate, the latter because contains theobromine, a natural stimulant. In cakes, chocolate is often substituted by carobs. Macrobiotics frequently avoid mint, because it is considered as a stimulating drink. White sugar, polished rice, white bread, finely sifted flours, refined oils and every industrial food made with these ingredients, are banished from vegetarian diet. The choice of oil is very important: olive oil, carthame oil, sesame oil or peanut oil are used only in case they are of primary pressing - preferably cold pressing - without the use of any solvent. Vegetarian diet does not approve conserves and, even less, deep-frozen foods or frozen foods. This is because many vegetarians believe industrial processing of preservation, to which the food is subjected to, is bad for quality as well as for their adulteration.

 For a better appreciation of the vegetarian cooking and in order to make a healthy, tasty and light cooking, it is very important the way foods are cooked as well as the appropriate matching with wines. In particular, the right processing and appropriate way of cooking foods, greatly influence taste, nutritional values, digestibility and the time required for digestion. It is always very important to keep the nutritional principles of foods, including vitamin and mineral salts, essential elements for a correct diet.

 

The Matching with Wine

 Despite the consumption of wine is usually excluded by the different types of vegetarianism, there are many - who decide to exclusively have food of a vegetable origin - who tolerate and appreciate the consumption of the beverage of Bacchus and the possibility to match it with food. Because vegetarian diet does not allow the consumption of meat and other foods of animal origin, vegetarian cooking is usually - and wrongly - considered simple and not tasty, characterized by light and delicate dishes. This is false, because legumes - one of the main ingredients of vegetarian diet, in particular beans - allow the preparation of nutrient and tasty dishes. The same is valid for cereals - including pasta - with which can be made very tasty soups and dishes. In the wide variety of ingredients typical in vegetarian diet, the matching with wine is rich and interesting as well.

 Knowing the organoleptic qualities of the ingredients used in vegetarian cooking is essential in order to make the right food matching, a factor which is in any case indispensable no matter the type of cooking and its ingredients. Vegetables are, first of all, rich in minerals, so they usually have - without the adding of other condiments - a basically sapid taste, especially when consumed raw. For this reason they require the matching with a pretty round wine, and this is also a good choice for matching the slightly bitter taste of some vegetables. Vegetables - as well as cereals and legumes - are also characterized by a basically sweet taste, a quality requiring the matching with crisp wines having a good acidity. White wines, rose wines - as well as many sparkling wines, even produced with the classic method - can be therefore matched with vegetables and legumes.

 Even red wine can be matched with vegetarian cooking, in particular with legumes, rich in proteins - such as beans and soybeans - especially when the preparation provides for a long cooking and robust condiments. In such cases, it is possible to choose a red wine with a good body, with a pretty high content in alcohol and moderate astringency, in order to balance succulence. Pasta dishes, with vegetable condiments, can be matched with non tannic red wines, such as Pinot Noir and Grignolino. In case tomato is present in the condiment, it is best to choose a white or red wine with a good roundness. Fruit is the most typical ingredient in the vegetarian desserts. In case desserts are prepared with fresh fruit, a good matching is represented by sweet sparkling wines, such as Asti and Brachetto, whereas desserts with dried fruits can be exalted with the matching with a sweet wine or a raisin wine.

 




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  Corkscrew Issue 37, January 2006   
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