Thursday, January 14, 2010

Allow me to introduce myself...

Who is The Chicago Vegetarian? Me! I am a not-so-mild-mannered individual who was raised as an ovo-lacto vegetarian and can totally relate to the struggles of not eating anything that had a mother in this man-eat-meat world. As a small child, I always felt that I might be able to make my way around the kitchen as well as my mother, but was never allowed to until I sneaked into the kitchen at 9 years old to make myself a fried egg sandwich. This is when a lifelong love affair with cooking began. From making dinner for my family to selling German Chocolate cakes to the neighbors downstairs, my ability to prepare different dishes for different occasions grew during my high school years. However, the demands of a full-time college schedule and a part-time job made it way too easy to resort to eating restaurant food and endless packages of ramen noodles. This lifestyle didn't exactly do wonders for my waistline, or for my health in general, and it did take its toll in the form of developing allergies to food additives, especially MSG, not to mention a net weight gain of 55 pounds over 6 years. I learned the hard way that the idea of a vegetarian not being able to get fat was a total fallacy, because I had become the People's Exhibit A. However, the best thing to ever happen for me was close on the horizon: I finally moved out of my parents' house. In terms of diet, it was fantastic because I only had myself to depend on. The possibility of coming home to a meal that was less than nutritious wasn't going to happen unless I prepared it, and I definitely wasn't going to be picking up the phone for delivery because to be honest, it wasn't in my budget. The meals I ate were totally my responsibility from that point on. What was a broke sista to do?
Suprisingly, a lot. I found out that with a few dollars and a smidgen of ingenuity, AKA hustle, you can get a lot of great ingredients to fill your fridge and cupboard and still pay all your other bills on time. My pursuit of the perfect meal has led me to all kinds of grocery stores to make great meals for very little. It's also led me to the doors of more than a few restaurants. Hey, a girl's got to draw inspiration from somewhere, right? However, I do keep my restaurant visits to a minimum because not only is eating at home a great way to save money, but it's a great way to stay healthier. With my blog, I hope to be able to share with all of you the things that I've picked up just by watching my mother, friends that I've visited, or ideas that just happened to pop into my head that ended up being great tasting meals. While I will be sharing recipes here with you, I will also share tips about food preparation, time saving techniques, and about what foods to look for when grocery shopping. I'll also let you in on my hidden gems in Chicago where great grocery shopping can done and a great dining experience can be had.
As a vegetarian here in a city that loves its meat more than most, it can be hard to find your place amongst others, especially in social situations like dinner parties or group outings involving ordering food. You can often feel left out or feel awkward, as if your dietary lifestyle is somehow imposing on others. I totally understand the feeling because I've experienced it on many occasions, being presented with such suggestions as "just pick the meat out" or "well, they have salad." I hope that my blog will help those of you out there in similar situations to find a good way to deal with this dilly of a pickle. I look forward to taking you with me around my beloved city to prove that Chicago really is vegetarian friendly, especially to this one!

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