Buttered Up: Aubergine pasta for a Meatless Monday

8 Min Read

It can be fun to be an omnivore. Consuming animal products frequently makes us feel capable, powerful and on occasion, privileged. Besides, there’s no need to worry about one more thing in life like eating animals, is there? But what if devouring animals voraciously is becoming more and more of a global concern? What if vegetarians have a solid argument for not eating meat and what if it’s not about animal cuteness or animal cruelty? What if we’ve got it all wrong?

Now, I will never advocate permanent vegetarianism but the more I quietly observe, the more I realize that there’s something daunting about the way we eat and the lethal effect it is having on our lives. What do we do about it then? As always, blame it on fate and cry that it is out of our control.

This has got to stop. Cancer. Diabetes. Obesity. These are not conditions that are based on destiny alone, nor are they to be taken lightly. So this week, I’m proposing an idea.

It’s not a new idea, nor is it my idea. It’s a worldwide initiative that is passing us by. If anything, we should at least pretend to fit in with the rest of the world and its ever-evolving trends. That way we can avoid many a faux pas like making macarons trendy five years after the trend has passed.

The new and intriguing idea goes by the name of “Meatless Monday” and the motto, “One day a week, cut out meat” -— a campaign that is heating up internationally as it urges individuals to abandon meat on Mondays, thereby reducing meat consumption by 15 percent to improve both a person’s health and the health of the planet — as well as the perk of cutting down on expenses.

So let’s run through the scary statistics and see how carefree we are after digesting them: Both red and processed meat consumption is now linked with colon cancer.

Harvard University has also recently discovered that by replacing saturated fat-rich foods like meat and full fat dairy with foods rich in polyunsaturated fats (e.g. nuts and seeds) you can effectively reduce the risk of heart disease by 19 percent. Higher consumption of red and processed meats is also said to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Imperial College London has discovered that limiting overall meat intake prevents long-term weight gain. The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization have attributed 18 percent of greenhouse gases to livestock production. That’s more than transportation.

The same report by the FAO also blames livestock production for some of the world’s more distressing environmental issues, essentially global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution as well as loss of biodiversity. Seventy percent of the agricultural land on Earth, which is 30 percent of the Earth’s total land surface, is directly or indirectly allotted to raising animals for human meals. Worst of all, beef consumption is expected to double by 2050. And the list goes on. Are you alarmed yet? I am.

It’s almost as if we love death and are actively pursuing it as one big happy family.

On a calmer note, I recently found out by way of my mother’s memories that until the 1960’s, most butchers in Egypt closed shop on Mondays rendering the country meatless for a day. You either bought your meat the day before or you were facing a meatless meal. How much panic would that cause now? Nevertheless, one of the main options out there was aubergine — one of the most versatile vegetables around. With its meaty texture and its fibrous nature, it soaks up flavors like a sponge. From aubergine lasagna and ratatouille to our beloved moussaka, aubergines hit the nail on its head when you’re looking to healthily fill that gaping hole we call the burger craving.

It’s about time we build on our traditions and incorporate them with the new. Start with yourself and convince your family and friends. If the above reasons aren’t enough for you, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mario Batali and Kate Moss are going meatless on Monday. So are Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney. Even the snarky Simon Cowell has jumped on the bandwagon. We all have to act on our knowledge to change the way people think about food. Spread the word, reduce your carbon footprint and promise you’ll serve this with a salad and not meat. Remember, Monday is just around the corner.

Aubergine Tomato Pasta
Serves: 4
You’ll need:
500 grams of pasta
1 large aubergine, cubed
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
3 tablespoons of hot water
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon of white vinegar
4 to 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2-1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of chili flakes
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onions and let them sweat for a couple of minutes. Don’t let it burn. Now, add half of the aubergine (or if you’d like to call it eggplant, go ahead; but my momma taught me fancy words). Let it sauté for 8-10 minutes until it gets a little tender. Fry the other half of the aubergine separately until it browns up. Take it out of the oil, drain the excess oil and leave it on the side to cool. Add the diced tomatoes and let it simmer for 2 minutes. Add the vinegar, chopped garlic, tomato paste and hot water. Mix it all in, sprinkle the sugar all over the top and let it seep in. Add the chili flakes, the fried aubergine, grated Parmesan then add your salt and pepper to taste. Leave to simmer for 10 to 20 minutes. The time yours takes depends on whether your aubergine is tender enough and if your sauce has thickened. If your sauce becomes too thick, thin it out with hot water or, even better, hot pasta water. You should boil your pasta in salted water once you’ve left the sauce to simmer. Garnish with parmesan or fresh parsley.

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