Saturday, September 18, 2010

Meatless Mondays Made Easy with Kim O'Donnel

My mother is an O'Donnell.

This has her disgusted at the moment because of Tea Party victor Christine O'Donnell.

I, on the other hand, went to a reading at Chop Suey by Kim O'Donnel, former food writer for the Washington Post and author of the new book The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook and no embarrassment to the family name at all.

As a bonus, Kendra, Ipanema's owner, had prepared four recipes from the cookbook for the reading audience to enjoy.

With the exception of the Chop Suey reading I went to where a jar of moonshine was passed around, here, today's reading had the most to offer beyond just words.

In a nod to the world we live in today, the reading began on Twitter when Kendra (who follows Kim) contacted her about making a stop in RVA before beginning her press blitz for the new cookbook.

She graciously accommodated, even bringing her book and cat-loving husband along.

Kim started the informal talk with the sobering statistic that Americans eat 200 pounds of meat per capita a year.

Her cookbook is part of the Meatless Monday movement, an attempt to gradually reduce the amount of meat we consume for health's sake as well as the good of the planet.

Mario Batali has made all fourteen of his restaurants meatless on Mondays, so we're not talking about just a fad.

She made it clear that the recipes were designed for hearty satisfaction rather than just using faux meats, which she reminded the audience are highly processed.

Her measuring stick for inclusion was her mother's husband, a carnivore she referred to as Mr. Sausage.

To be included, the dish had to come from a meat-lover's perspective and satisfy him.

The dishes we tasted today were hits: kale chips, hummus-stuffed cherry tomatoes, vinegar slaw shots and roasted cauliflower and broccoli.

The kale chips, in particular, were wildly popular with their combination of super-food status and salty crunch.

Just don't try reheating them in your toaster oven, Kim warned, or it may catch on fire. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

She was also a big proponent of Americans cooking more at home, a habit she feels is slowly dying.

Her cookbook offers up a menu for each week of the year as a way to ease meat-eaters into a shift in their habits.

Afterwards, a few of us sat around talking about Richmond ("It's changed a lot in 20 years," Kim noted), our vibrant food scene and her next few stops, including a homeless facility run by Franciscan monks in Baltimore.

I'll have to let my Mom know that there are still O'Donnells out there that she can be proud of.

It might even be enough to get her and my Dad to give up their mighty meat habit.

We're talking about a woman who, at any given moment, always has a ham in her refrigerator ("It's so versatile," she swears. "You can serve it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.").

Okay, the meat thing may be a tough sell for her, but the O'Donnell part will at least distract her from the recent disgrace to her family name.

And I know my Dad would love the kale chips.

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