Yum. Barbecue season! Gatherings of pals, the smell of charcoal and roasting meat. You gotta love it. Or do you?
Vegetarians don't exactly get the best deal this time of year, do they? Grilled tofu just doesn't cut it as an olfactory tease.
Some of you diehard veg loyalists might even find yourselves slobbering at the scent of roasting flesh and struggling to maintain your principles.
Lord knows vegetarianism is forever a struggle for me, and not just because of the odours. I really like meat. I've taken to calling myself a "vegepreferian," meaning I don't eat dead animals for the most part, but if someone has cooked it and offers it to me, I will not refuse.
Because ultimately the feelings of the people I care about are more important than anything else. And did I mention that I really like meat?
After the chow-down, of course, I feel guilty.
Some people are totally revolted at the sight and smell of cooked carcass, and temptation isn't an issue.
Well, good for you if you're one of them.
For everyone else, know that preparing and torching meat carries health risks, so be a careful cook.
What the experts say
"When the lower chakra system is out of balance for some reason, temptation becomes stronger. The best way to deal with temptation is to choose your battles wisely. If you're a vegetarian smelling meat and it makes you want to give in, be more creative. This is the answer to just about anything related to desire. Be more creative in the way you cook , in the way you eat, in the way you handle yourself. Add extra sauce or spices [to vegetables.] Approach life with a more relaxed point of view , because without that there's no intuition, and without intuition there is no creativity."
YOGI AKAL , director, International Centre for Yogic Arts and Sciences, Toronto
" I use a tandoori sauce and mix the tofu [extra firm] cubes with mushrooms. Japanese yakitori sauce can also be used. You can get vegetarian roast duck made out of gluten in cans in Chinese stores, cut it into cubes and skewer it, brushed with yakitori , as well. New potatoes are good. One of my favourite grilling sauces, great with eggplant steaks, is equal parts balsamic vinegar , soy sauce and maple syrup . Brush it on rather than marinating. Use reconstituted soy protein or tempeh . I use sauces from all over the world, like jerk marinade from Jamaica or Moroccan charmoula sauce . You can make glazes with orange marmalade . Yves has a new vegetarian Bavarian sausage that is really juicy. Anything you can do on meat you can do on tofu or vegetable protein."
BRYANNA CLARK GROGAN , vegan cookbook author, Nonna's Italian Kitchen: Delicious Home-Style Vegan Cuisine
"Veggie burgers [the kind you buy in the store] aren't necessarily that healthy. I think of them as a treat, like a chocolate bar, because they're high in fat and salt and some of them have artificial flavours. In general, they're still healthier than a meat burger because, although they have about the same fat and salt content, the type of fat is usually healthier. Meat would have more saturated fat. Meat would also be a more concentrated source of pesticides. You can make your own burgers with ingredients like grains, rice, mushrooms or nuts."
KERA PESALL , nutritionist, Toronto Vegetarian Association
"Cases of food poisoning from barbecued meat go up into the millions every year at this time. You want to make sure meat doesn't stay at room temperature for very long and make sure it's well cooked , which means not pink inside, but grey. Red meat is fairly acidic, so beef doesn't tend to be as much of a problem. There could be surface contamination or ground beef could be mixed with the bacteria in it. With chicken, you can get various types of infections, including the bacteria that produce toxins. If you cook it and kill the bacteria, toxins may be left behind [in the meat]. Humans have evolved to avoid food poisoning, so if you're suspicious of something , that probably means you shouldn't eat it ."
DR. IAN CRANDALL , assistant professor of laboratory medicine and pathobiology, University of Toronto
"There are health concerns about grilling, especially of red meat. The likelihood of creating carcinogenic heterocyclic amines [chemicals formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures] increases, and this contributes colon, lung and breast cancer. Barbecuing in general promotes this. It's safer to precook by steaming, boiling or roasting, then finish on the grill. Marinating with spices like garlic, ginger and turmeric prevents those chemicals from forming."
Bryce Wylde, homeopath, RNC, BSc, Toronto