I have, of late, been asked by many people, "how do I become a vegan?" In full disclosure, I'm not one myself, as I eat eggs, and see them as essentially the fruit of the bird, which harms none to eat. How certain eggs are mass-produced in ways offensive to nature is another matter. But the real question which seems to be on people's minds is "how do I give up eating meat?"

In having been asked this, I have come to realize that the question is better turned around. A vegetarian is, after all, not simply somebody who eats no meat. They still must eat something, and unless they find a way to subsist on dirt or rocks, that something must come from the vegetable kingdom. So, I contend, the real question is, "how do I become a person who eats vegetables, and finds them satisfying and fulfilling as a diet." And that is actually quite easily answered. For many people, "vegetables" encompasses a dozen or so staples of the kind, with "fruits" covering another dozen or so, and roots and grains reaching a handful more. But in fact, there are hundreds of different kinds of fruits and vegetables consumed around the world -- most now available to the average shopper, in reasonably civilized places. And so, the typical person could quite likely try one new fruit or vegetable every day for a year. True, you'll discover many thing you don't like one bit that way, but inevitably some tastes will cross your plate that you'll wonder how you ever did without. And even the ones you don't like at first blush may grow on you over time, or you may discover a particular way of preparing them which makes them enjoyable.

And once we've expanded our repertoire of fruit and vegetable options, we may proceed to the next level of experimentation, which is combining them in different ways, and cooking them by different methods. If you've found one hundred vegetables you like, you can combine these -- just in pairs -- in 10,000 different ways!! And that would be daily meals for 27 years straight. Now it's true, you probably aren't going to want to mix blueberries with mushrooms, or have a banana-broccoli puree, but there are thousands of combinations which are not intuitively wrong, and many of them are simply right/ Throughout this process it is important, naturally, to record not only which options you find tasty, but which ones you find filling. Some vegetables seem to make the heart of a meal all by themselves. Potatoes!! Beans!! Eggplant!! Artichoke!!

So, instead of approaching this venture from the vantage point of giving something up, approach from the vantage point of trying something new -- something which almost coincidentally happens to be a meatless dish -- and as you discover pleasing new tastes to integrate, try these in new combinations with old favorites, or try these cooked in various different ways -- baked, broiled, stewed, toasted, roasted, even raw if possible. Try them with pasta, polenta, or a pilaf. If you continue eating eggs, adding an omelet is always an option. Once you've hit upon a group of satisfying favorites, make it part of your routine to return to those with regularity. And plan around the fact that you are still trying several of these new things a week (and occasionally revisiting your old favorite vegetable recipes as well), until you have a steady habit of finding satisfaction from the very act of experimentation in cuisine from this side of the food spectrum.

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