“The Bowl” and the Poor Vegetarian Musician

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Liam and I have returned from Europe poor – like, really poor (I have $30, that’s it, in all the world). So it’s home eats and no catching public transport for us.

Cooking at home more means that food occupies a statistically significant portion of my daily attention. So I thought I might share some things I have learnt over the last few years, about what’s best for a practising musician – and, specifically, a vegetarian one – to eat in order to maintain energy levels and general good health. Also, I occasionally get asked for good vege recipes and promise to send through my favourites but generally forget.

Cooking and eating well is more about being organised than anything else. If I plan my meals ahead, and actually assign them to lunch or dinner on a certain day, the spinach I just bought won’t spend a week going slimy in the fridge. Even if I don’t end up cooking that dish for some reason or another, my mind registers that I need to use the spinach ASAP and I reschedule it. Less waste = less cost (especially when I eat out just because I forgot I had ingredients to cook something, or worse, just didn’t feel up to it).

Increasingly, I get my recipes from the internet rather than cookbooks (although I have a few special ones) – what’s awesome is you just type into google a couple of ingredients you have or you know are in season and therefore cheap, and the internet will, with any luck, spurt out a wonderful recipe complete with enticing photos. There’s a good application called “Ziplist” where you can save internet recipes on a personal page to access later – that’s handy (on Chrome you can get a little icon in the top that you just click on when you come across a good recipe and it saves it automatically). The best thing about internet recipes, though, is that they’re much easier to share and/or take with you on travels around the globe. Browsing recipes is the key to getting excited about cooking, once you start visualising what something will taste like!

Here’s a few ideas for eating well and cheaply as a vego-muso:

  • “The Bowl”: apparently a vegetarian classic, as a recipe stickler I’ve been slow to come across this, but it’s great – you simply choose a grain, a legume/protein, a vegetable (or two), and a sauce. Tonight I had some leftover cooked millet, red lentils, baked pumpkin and briefly blanched silverbeet, topped off with “Yum Sauce” (an easy vegan sauce that tastes absolutely delicious – this time I made it without the nutritional yeast and it was still really good). Another favourite sauce is the Lemon-Tahini, especially good with broccoli, but any flavoursome sauce would do even if straight from a jar. The beauty of the bowl is that it’s a complete meal, ticking all of the protein boxes plus lots of fibre, carbohydrates (extremely important for practise times, or any times where you want your brain/body to function at all – low carb diets are not for musicians), good oil in the sauce, vitamins and minerals. And it’s easy and you can throw it together with whatever’s on hand.
  • This Lentil Soup recipe: easy, healthy, yummy – with a list of variations at the bottom, and cheap as chips (especially if you don’t bother with the saffron in the yoghurt). You can use tinned lentils and save even more time. I’ve taken to making this once a week or so. Silverbeet or spinach works fine if you can’t find kale, though kale is best. The “101 Cookbooks” website this recipe appears on is my favourite.
  • Quinoa: eat it whenever, as your stand-by, rather than pasta or cous-cous or white rice. It only takes 20mins to cook and you can have it with just about anything rice/cous-cous goes with. It’s so much healthier, as it’s actually a seed and not a grain it’s got more protein, and it’s also full of lots of other good stuff and no bad stuff whatsoever. You can also make porridge with it – just cook it up with a bit of extra water plus some cinnamon and cardamom and stir through coconut oil or tahini and honey or agave and some seed mix at the end (or just drizzle with honey). Buy it cheaper in bulk at natural food stores. This looks like a good quinoa recipe, although I’m yet to try it.
  • Mix it up: try to have a different grain, legume/protein and fruit or vegetable for each meal in one day. This becomes easier with time and getting used to planning ahead. Variety also stops you getting bored, but most importantly it means you get all the important bits you need. Try to use grains other than wheat or rice (except brown rice) as often as possible – quinoa, barley, spelt, millet, oats, rye, corn (polenta), etc.
  • Always make enough for leftovers, and always have snacks on hand. Good quality sourdough bread and avocado or nut butter makes a great practise break snack. Pumpernickel with cream cheese and sliced tomato. You get the idea.
  • Tea, and lots of different kinds. Essential.

Well, I hope that’s useful to somebody. I just realised this evening how much I’ve managed to learn about cooking and eating since deciding I was vegetarian at eleven, and it’s all simple stuff but probably worth sharing around. Plus those recipes are all really good and worth passing on.

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