Here in Sweden most people are meat eaters. One look at summer’s food magazines, and one recognizes that barbecued meat has become the favorite menu of the season. The strong sensitivities about how we treat the rest of the natural world in this culture means that the debate about our handling of animals, including those that we consume, rages strong. Since the famed creator of Pippi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren, pleaded in her engaging newspaper articles for the rights of farm animals during the 1970s and 80s, there has been a lot of discussion about the alleged gruesome treatment of pigs in Denmark, the conditions that chickens live in, etc.
Though the number of vegetarian restaurants in Stockholm has increased, reflecting an increase in vegetarians in the population, one can safely say that most people look for their meat (the priority), veg and potatoes on the plate. Although my own children go to Waldorf schools in which there are probably more vegetarians than in other schools, they miss the salami when it is not in the refrigerator and enjoy a finely roasted leg of lamb with rosemary in the autumn.
Having been a vegetarian before coming to Sweden, living without meat isn’t a sacrifice, in fact I find it challenging and exciting from a culinary point of view. For my family it is a little more challenging, which is the reason that I try to keep a balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian in my kitchen. Yet, schedules and lack of time to think through the shopping list can sometimes result in that balance going out of wack. We all know that it’s important to reign in our meat-eating habits for both environmental and health reasons, so this autumn I’ve come up with three principles to keep my kitchen in balance:
1. Plan a vegetarian meal every other day and don’t mention to the family that you are doing so (no one will notice).
2. For the non-vegetarian days, find new ways to combine vegetarian and non-vegetarian ingredients (as in the recipe suggestions, below) thus allowing you to use less meat . Provide “veg and potatoes” (could be a salad or interesting grain) that are so interesting and tasty that they become the main attraction. Check the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook for many options.
3. Don’t do any major food shopping without a shopping list which you’ve thought through. This can seem daunting when you have a heavy work schedule, but it makes life so much easier and satisfying if you’ve taken a few minutes on Sunday to plan ahead and scout the recipe books for vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Planning also tends to benefit your bank account, as you don’t end up purchasing unnecessary foods.
Delicious Hamburgers with Fruit of the Autumn
500 g or 17 oz minced meat
2 slices white toast bread crumbled, crusts removed
1 onion (white or red), finely chopped
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsps tomato paste
1 large cooked beet, chopped into small cubes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt & Pepper
Preheat the grill in your oven. Place the meat in a mixing bowl and add all ingredients. The mixture is best blended using your hands so that you end up with a smooth “dough.” Line a baking tray with baking paper and form the mixture into hamburger patties. Grill for about 5 minutes on either side. Serve with any number of wonderful salads you can find in the Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook.
You can try the same recipe mixing in other types of interesting vegetarian ingredients which increase flavor, improve consistency, create bulk and reduce the quantity of meat you need to buy. For instance, try raw carrots instead of beetroot.