I’ve been a vegetarian most of my life, not because I was pre-programmed with a nuanced understanding of the environmental, compassionate, and dietary reasons behind not eating meat, but mostly because I was born an extraordinarily picky eater. I’ve always hated the texture of meat in my mouth.
Over the past seven years or so, I’ve started eating things that I never would have eaten before, due to various taste and texture issues. Not meat yet, but other foods. I’ve discovered with a mixture of surprise, delight, and sometimes reluctance that I now enjoy eating practically every food I used to avoid, with the exception of raw tomatoes, goji berries, and borscht. I still don’t like those foods. (Pumpkin and squash-related foods are also iffy.)
My uber-expanded palate sometimes gets me questioning: would I actually enjoy meat if I ever tried eating it again? Have I remained a vegetarian now mostly out of habit (other worthy reasons notwithstanding)? I sometimes wonder if a voracious carnivore is lying dormant within me, just biding its time until (if) I venture out and try meat again– this time with a more ‘open’ mind and a less picky palate. Am I a T-Rex waiting to happen?
I hate to admit it, but it’s been the pickiness primarily that’s kept me vegetarian since I was a wee girl. The other benefits of vegetarianism have just been added conveniences for me and have served to make me look like more of an activist and eco-conscious femme than I really am. (The truth comes out!) I’m afraid to try eating meat again, though. I’m kind of afraid that I will like it and that decades of my routines and even my very identity will start to unravel. And then what would happen? I worry about my saturated fat and cholesterol levels skyrocketing, and I worry about gaining lots of weight and having meat sit like a festering sore inside my digestive tract. I’m not sick or unhealthy or feeble or anything like that right now, so there’s nothing pressing me to try meat again. The whole meat-eating issue is just something I think about every now and then.
I don’t think I’m better than anybody because I choose not to eat meat, and I’m also not hyper-competitive with other vegetarians to see who can be the Champion Non-Meat Eater. (‘But do you eat FISH? Hahaha– stupid half-assed ‘vegetarian’.‘) It doesn’t bother me to be in the presence of meat, and there has actually been a lot more meat in our own household lately, because Marty’s body started demanding it under the serious threat of auto-cannibalism otherwise. (In other words, Marty’s body started burning muscle tissue and proteins rather than carbs for fuel. Very scary, actually.) It’s a no-brainer: Marty needs to start eating meat again for his health and so we’ve started buying meat. However, neither of us really know how to prepare meat. We both worry about under-cooking it, over-cooking it, contracting food poisoning from our cutting boards, not disinfecting our counters properly or enough, and every other thing you can possibly worry about when it comes to meat. (Hey– if you’ve never had to prepare meat before, there’s a lot of things to be aware about and learn!)
Luckily, my mother is an amazing cook and just so happens to roast herself a chicken every weekend to take for lunches throughout the week and to freeze for soups and stews later. When I confided to her that I wanted Marty to have some decent, home-cooked meat (nothing over-processed or loaded with antibiotics/sodium/extra fat/crap) and also confessed that salmonella (among other things) scared the bejeezus out of me, she rattled off her tried and tested recipe for roasted chicken and even told me how to know with certainty that it was cooked properly. So I roasted my first effin’ chicken this past weekend!!
I actually had to buy a roasting pan and a turkey baster to get the job done right, but preliminary feedback from Marty suggests that these tools will, indeed, be used again in the future, so I don’t have to worry that I bought a one-off roasting pan. Ingredients and instructions for your very own roasted chicken follow:
Slow-Roasted Chicken With Winter Vegetables
You will need:
– One roasting chicken, preferably organic and/or antibiotic-free (Seriously: Buy the best chicken you can possibly afford– you’re worth it!)
– 1 medium or large onion, peeled and cut into quarters
– 4 or 5 medium to large Yukon Gold potatoes, washed and cut in half (peels on)
– Any combination (or all) of the following:
– 2 carrots, washed and cut into large chunks
– 2 parsnips, washed and cut into large chunks
– Other root vegetables that tickle your fancy. Be creative!
– Salt and pepper to taste
How To Roast Your Chicken:
1. Place the chicken in the center of a dark roasting pan, belly and leg bones up. (Obviously, make sure you’ve purchased a chicken that doesn’t have the bag of innards still inside of it before you toss it into the oven.)
2. Surround chicken with coarsely chopped root vegetables, and lightly season with salt and pepper.
3. Place covered roasting pan in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees F for one hour.
4. After the hour has elapsed, turn oven heat down to 300 degrees F and remove lid from roasting pan. Baste chicken thoroughly with the juices from the bottom of the pan. The vegetables will have released some liquids while roasting, but if the pan seems too dry, add a small amount of water or stock as needed. Don’t let your chicken drown in liquid, though– a little liquid goes a long way!
5. After basting, place the roasting pan back in the oven (now 300 degrees), uncovered, for another hour. Remove and baste chicken periodically throughout this hour– approx every 20 minutes.
6. After the second hour has passed, baste the chicken as needed and put back into the oven for a third and final hour– still at 300 degrees and roasting pan covered. (Remove from oven every 15 or 20 minutes to baste.)
7. At the end of the third hour, check to see if the chicken is finished by twisting the leg bones in place (as though winding a watch). If the bone turns cleanly without catching on any flesh, the chicken is done. If there is any resistance at all to the turning, the chicken still needs to cook for longer.
8. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve chicken with roasted vegetables. Voila! Chicken and veggies will keep in the fridge for about 3 days after roasting; otherwise, they can be frozen and added to soups and stews later on.
—- For some reason, even the long-term vegetarian in me always felt like knowing how to roast a decent chicken was an essential life skill, so I’m happy that I can now whip up a traditional Christmas dinner if need be! And no, I didn’t try any of the chicken myself this time around, but maybe one day I’ll cross that bridge in the future. We’ll see. —-