If you, like I, have been trying to cut back on meat, definitely check out Mark Bittman’s article today on exactly how to go about doing that. He doesn’t advocate vegetarianism; he just suggests we move away from thinking of meat as the focus of the dinner plate and towards looking at it as more of a condiment. Which suits me just fine; when I tried for a short period (the duration of Lent) to give up meat entirely, I found that what I missed most was not sitting down to a piece of steak, but rather tossing a piece of pork into a pot of beans or using chicken stock as a base for soup. A little bit of meat really does add a lot of flavor.
He has great tips throughout the article, but here are the restaurant-specific ones:
7. Look at restaurant menus differently. If you’re cutting back on meat, there are three restaurant strategies. Two are easy, and one is hard, but probably the most important.
The first: go to restaurants that don’t feature meat-heavy dishes. It’s harder to go overboard eating at most Asian restaurants, and traditional Italian is fairly safe also.
The second: Once in a while, forget the rules and pledges, and eat like a real American; obviously you can’t do this every time, but it’s an option.
The third is the tricky one: Remember you’re doing this voluntarily, for whatever reasons seem important to you (or at least seemed, until you were confronted with the lamb shanks on the menu). Then order from the parts of the menu that contain little or no meat: salads, sides, soups and (often, anyway) appetizers. If all else fails, offer to share a meat course among two or even three or four people; many restaurant entrees are too big anyway.
One extra word of advice: my boyfriend and I often share meat entrees, but then we’ve been hit with quite a few sharing charges. Ask if there is charge for sharing a plate, and if so, consider ordering two dishes and taking half of each home. Not that I’ve ever managed to have enough self-control for that — if the food is very good, chances are I’ll finish it.
Putting Meat back in its Place [New York Times]