World Chefs: Overcoming skepticism about meatless meals

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - As the granddaughter of a butcher who ate a standard American diet as a child, cookbook author Sarah Matheny may not seem to be the most likely promoter of a vegetarian diet.

The Oregon-based former divorce lawyer started questioning what she ate when she was pregnant with her first daughter. After leaving her job to become a stay-at-home mother, Matheny started a blog that eventually led to her first cookbook "Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love," which is published this month.

"Everybody can be happy and satisfied eating this way," she said.

Matheny spoke to Reuters about making tasty meals, getting enough protein without eating meat and why a vegetarian lifestyle is accessible to everyone.

Q: Why did you decide to become a vegetarian?

A: "I had a moment when I become a parent. The realization came upon me that the same animals I was teaching my children to be kind to were basically the same animals that were ending up on our plates. That double message I was sending to my kids made me more conscious of how I was going to feed my family."

Q: How did you go from being a divorce lawyer to a cookbook author?

A: "It was quite the jump. As soon as I became a mom I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. When I become pregnant and decided to stay home with my oldest daughter I was looking for an outreach in a way to have a sense of community and interacting with other people. That was when I started the blog peasandthankyou.com.

"Through sharing recipes and stories and following my family's transition to a vegetarian diet, all the feedback I was getting and that sense of community came about. We decided to go ahead and write the book because readers were asking for more recipes and more stories. The book seemed like the perfect way to do that."

Q: What was the reaction of your family to you becoming a vegetarian?

A: "At first it was a path I was taking on my own ... My husband had also been raised on the standard American diet so he was used to his meat and potatoes. Eventually after about a month or two of me cooking three separates meals -- one for myself, my husband and my kids -- I was exhausted. My husband was a saint and stepped up to the plate and said, 'Let me try what you are having.' As soon as he did, he was completely on board."

Q: What did you substitute for meat?

A: "The way I went about it was to try to find recipes that we already enjoyed, like chicken and dumplings and tacos and burgers and pizza, but then recreate them in a way that was using whole foods like grains and beans but still using the same spices and flavors that we are accustomed to and have in our pantries already."

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