Almost ten years ago I decided to become a vegetarian. But before I made this decision, let’s go back a bit further to six years before I made this choice to when I left my home province of Alberta (“Cattle Country” to many) to go to grad school. At that time it never occurred to me that vegetarianism was an appropriate dietary choice. People (who I may have referred to as “Hippies”) who were vegetarians were probably from California and mostly likely ate granola and sprouts. I was set in my ways and those ways weren’t so bad. I grew up in a household where we ate “real, whole food” before it was a thing. My mom cooked all our meals from scratch and we got a lot of farm-fresh produce from my grandparents. I inherently knew that food came from plants, not from a Plant.
So two things happened when I moved: 1) I was seduced by the all-you-could-eat meals at the residence cafeteria and 2) I met a vegetarian. It was while I was eating my own weight in food that I met this vegetarian. I was so intrigued because he did not look like how I thought vegetarians looked — anemic and sickly — but healthy. He lifted weights and was very nutrition conscious and I could feel a shift in my limited understanding of what being vegetarian meant. Long story short, I fell head over heels for this dreamboat but I remember (quite emphatically) stating that I “could NEVER be a vegetarian.” Six years passed and I found myself watching Oprah one afternoon. Her guest was Michael Pollan and they were talking about a documentary called Food, Inc. as well as his book. I listened and over the course of that show I knew that the time had come that I would become a vegetarian. Imagine my husband’s shock when he came home from work that evening to find out that it was 60 minutes of Oprah that tipped me over the edge and not the previous six years of cooking vegetarian meals for us.
The whole point of sharing my story with you is to tell you that, for some of you, the choice to eat a plant based diet will not be an easy one. Heck. I’ve been at it for almost a decade and it still is an active choice that I make everyday. But the beauty of the One Part Plant (OPP) Movement is that you can tailor it to fit wherever you are in your dietary journey.
I first became acquainted with Jessica Murnane through her podcast, which is part of her One Part Plant, One Part Podcast site. I love listening to her interview interesting guests — many of whom are musicians, wellness-gurus, bloggers, designers — and I feel inspired listening to their stories. So many of those interviews connected with Jessica’s own path to healthy living. Like me, Jessica’s own diet wasn’t always planted based: Six years ago, my major food groups were: Sour Patch Kids, Diet Coke, and Whatever Lean Cuisine Had The Most Cheese. After years of unsuccessful diets and self-help books that didn’t work, I felt pretty low and not so good about myself. I didn’t think it was possible for me to have the willpower to become a truly healthy person. Maybe I also didn’t think I deserved it. Unlike me, she grappled with a debilitating illness — endometriosis — that after trying to conventionally treat, left her with almost one option. A hysterectomy. But a letter from a friend changed that and started her on a journey to heal herself through diet.
Now she’s written a cookbook called One Part Plant: A Simple Guide to Eating Real, One Meal at a Time and her premise is very simple: to eat one meal every day that is comprised of real, whole plant based foods (plant based, for her, means no dairy, eggs, meat but there is a little honey in a few of her recipes which is why you won’t see the term vegan anywhere). See? So simple! You pick the meal — doesn’t matter if it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. What I really appreciate about Jessica’s approach to plant-based eating is that she doesn’t have a list of “forbidden” foods or complex/crazy diet rules. All you’re doing is eating in a way to nourish yourself one meal at a time.
Intuitively I think people know that food is a very powerful thing. It can make us feel at our best or bring us to our lowest points. There are many bloggers and writers chronicling how they’ve improved their health/healed themselves through food. Take Andie Mitchell and Ella Leché for example — both of these people have found balance in their lives and improved their health through diet. Isn’t that what many of us are yearning for? To feel our best and to find a little balance in our lives? I know I am.
Let’s get to it! It’s what we’re all here for — food! Like many plant-based cookbooks Jessica really sets her readers up for success by devoting a chapter to what she considers to be Pantry Essentials:
- Gluten-Free Flours
- Plant-Based Milks
- Nuts and Seeds
- Natural Sweeteners
- Beans and Lentils
- Gluten-Free Grains
- Seed and Nut Butters
- Veggie Broth
- Nutritional Yeast
Add any combo of these essentials to veggies/fruit and you can cook up (and quickly too!) any of her recipes. For those of you who are new to Shipshape Eatworthy, I live in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada (Halifax to be precise) and over the past week we’ve had so many snow days! Our city (literally) shuts down and you have to make due with anything you can find in your fridge and cupboards. On any given day I’m tasked with feeding myself, husband and toddler but last week I had all the grandparents here too. I totally didn’t sweat it because I cooked up some truly amazingly tasty OPP meals. Check it out: White Bean Pepper Chili, Coconut Quinoa & Beans, Grilled Cinnamon & Banana Sandwich, and Curry Corn (which, incidentally has been an evening snack since the first time we tried it!). (If you’re curious to see what other OPP delights I’ve been cooking up click on my special hashtag: #oppcookbookse — I’ll keep adding to it as I try more recipes from the book!)
At first I was a little worried. Was my family going to cry “Where’s the beef?!” (they are from Alberta, after all)? Nope. Although they did know that there wasn’t going to be any beef (or meat), I don’t think it mattered. The meals I made were really tasty and satisfying. No one walked away hungry or feeling like something was missing. Before I became a vegetarian one of my concerns was that I’d have to eat sprouts or crazy-ingrediented food but what I’ve come to realize is that plant-based cooking can be comforting, nourishing, and satisfying just like the meat-based diet I grew up with. I also appreciate that Jessica keeps her ingredient lists for each recipe short and the cooking steps to a minimum. This is good news if you’ve been on a kitchen hiatus or have never cooked before — she’s got your back (there’s even an FAQ chapter if you need a little more info). She also doesn’t want people to feel that they need to be perfect and follow her philosophy perfectly. Jessica has built a supportive community of people who are just trying to feel better about their health and well-being. It’s one of the things I really admire about her approach.
There is no better feeling (at least in my mind) than cooking something that your friends and family can enjoy. I’m a bit lucky in that (for the most part) the people in my life have been totally down with my dietary choices. It’s been a little tough on my relationship with my dad because a lot of our shared experiences have been over food — we were Costco hot dog buddies! He felt that my choice was “different” and he’s found it difficult to accept that vegetarianism is a choice that my husband and I have made for our daughter. Slowly, he’s coming around to the fact that we eat better than most people and we’re healthy and happy. Most of the time if you didn’t know us you’d never guess that we subscribe to a plant-based diet. Maybe that’s because I try not to preach at people. I’m much more sneaky — I serve really delicious food and never label it. It’s after everyone’s enjoying it that I know I’m helping to make plant-based eating non-threatening. If you need tips on navigating new situations that may arise from adopting a different diet Jessica has sprinkled into her cookbook small sections called “Notes From the Field.” Not sure what to do when you’re invited over to a friends house? She’s got tips. What about family or friends that are having difficulty with your choice? She’s gonna help with that too. That’s what this cookbook is all about supporting you in making changes in your life. Jessica is genuine and helpful — this really comes through each page, each recipe or anecdote.
Community. It’s one of the most important things you’ll find within the OPP Movement. You can start building your own OPP communities too. My daughter is at an age where she loves helping out in the kitchen so as I cook she “helps.” Whether it’s pulling the mint leaves off the stem to put in our Pineapple Mint Green Smoothie or just browsing recipes, we’re doing it together. When she spied Jessica’s son in the pages of the cookbook she yelled over to me, “Hey Ma! There’s a kid in your book!” She was fascinated by the fact that other kids are involved with food too. Even my mom and MIL helped chop and cut veggies to get our meals going. Cooking has always been a family affair so I’m glad that it’s universal to any diet.
I hope that you find this helpful — whether you’re making big changes to your diet or small (or even none at all) no one can argue that One Part Plant isn’t full of mouth-watering delicious food. Maybe you’ll find a new reason to fall in love with Meatless Mondays all over again.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jessica Murnane and Harper Collins Publishers for providing me with a free advanced of this book. While I am part of the OPP Book Launch Team, I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.