What Can I Cook My New Vegetarian Neighbor for Dinner?

July 13, 2021

Community living has its challenges. Sometimes your favorite dessert is gone by the time you get to the dining room. Often the papers are late – or someone has already clipped the coupons you wanted. Apartment 1210 has been empty for a few weeks now, and you’re a bit anxious about who is going to move in. You share a divided balcony after all. Faces come and go, you have developed your own pace and schedule, and meeting new people has its ups and downs.

You return from an afternoon swim and a round of golf. Just six holes today. The sun is hot and your swing isn’t what it used to be. You saw the small moving van arrive earlier. Could this be the new neighbor? The door to 1210 is open and voices are coming from inside. The next morning when you return from breakfast a note is stuck on your door. “Hello, neighbor!” it reads.

My neighbor invited me to dinner, and there was no meat!

Hamburgers are hamburgers and salads are salads, right? The word “ham” is there for a reason. Though you prefer beef burgers. Come to think of it, when was the last time you had a pork hamburger? Funny. 

The dinner invitation was pleasant, and your new neighbor is funny and kind. It isn’t going to be so bad, though you’ll always miss your old pal next door. Hamburgers were served, fried up on an electric grill placed on the balcony, and served with an alcohol-free white wine. However, the burgers were vegetarian, and you haven’t gone a day without meat for more than fifty years. 

Your new neighbor has only been a vegetarian for a few years. Can this be a healthy thing to do at your age? “Not for me.” You laughed when they suggested you try going meat-free. 

“Older adults can see a wide range of benefits from switching to a plant-based diet. For one thing, vegetarian diets can positively impact or prevent the development of chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.” BetterAging.com

I love to cook. How many recipes are there for carrots and peas?

The veggie burgers looked like meat, and they tasted good. So what’s the problem? Well, now it’s your turn to invite your neighbor for a meal! You walk to the store two blocks over. It’s a nice day for a walk, and you don’t need much. Your kids keep your pantry stocked, but there is never much in the fridge except for dairy and eggs. You need vegetables if you’re going to make dinner. But what?

The grocery store has a huge produce section. There are at least eight colors of tomatoes. Can there really be five sizes of cucumbers? Where have twelve different salad varieties been your entire life? Then you discover the mushroom section. An entire section? You remember mushrooms being white and button when you were growing up. 

“Help!” A produce clerk smiles and walks over. “Hello! What can I do for you today?” You laugh. “I need to make dinner. A vegetarian dinner.” The clerk nods and smiles again. “Well, you came to the right place!”

After an hour you and the helpful clerk have rounded the store and your basket is full. A cool and zesty Zucchini Carpaccio, followed by warm Ratatouille topped Bruschetta. And for dessert, a Ricotta Cream and strawberries. You feel like a Master Chef. “You’re just a few blocks away. I’ll have someone deliver this for you. Perhaps next time I can fix you up with a Vegan menu.” You feel slightly spoiled by the great service, and your step is lighter on the return trip. BBQ Master today, Veggie Master tomorrow! 

“Go meat-free with delicious and simple vegetarian recipes for any meal. Whether a devout vegetarian in need of new inspiration or a meat lover looking to focus on healthy eating for older people, our filling vegetarian recipes are sure to leave you satisfied.” Silversurfers

My kids are vegan. Is this something for me?

Kids, right? Always doing what they want, even when you tell them otherwise. Your daughter is vegan, while you were the local BBQ master. The apple sometimes falls from the tree and goes rolling down the hill. You like milk in your coffee and cheese in your sandwich. Baked beans on toast are delicious, and carrot sticks with your hotdogs are great. Why ruin a good thing?

“Get the okay from your doctor before starting a vegan diet, and then seek advice from a registered dietitian, who can tailor an eating plan to your nutritional needs. Combine plant food sources for the maximum amount of vitamins and nutrients. Soups, salads, and smoothies with lots of different kinds of foods will help you maximize calories and nutrients.” Harvard Health

Dinner is a success! It took you a few hours to prepare, but the afternoon went by quickly and you had fun. Your neighbor praised your cooking skills and your golf swing. Yes, you’re golfing together now, too, and their handicap is slightly lower than yours. Well, the challenge was accepted! Perhaps there’s something to this Meatless Monday you read about in the paper last week. Did you feel less full after dinner? Did you sleep better? Hmm.

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