Friday, July 11, 2008

Tagine and teeth

This week I went to the dentist. My insurance plan allows me to go to what I think is the cheapest 10% of dentists in the area. This dentist is on the edge of a transitional neighborhood, in a basement office. He accepts walk-ins. My appointment was rescheduled because (I think) he forgot to pay the phone bill and the line was disconnected for a few days. But he is a character with lots of colorful stories and he swears like a sailor.

While he was examining me, he abruptly asked, "Are you a vegetarian?" When I asked how he knew, he said, "It's because your back teeth are worn down." He went on to say that cellulose (plant walls) wears down tooth enamel, but that steaming or sauteing vegetables will break down the cellulose enough for teeth to handle it. (So, this pointed to me eating a lot of raw vegetables, not necessarily to me being a vegetarian.)

Is this true or just another of my dentist's tall tales? All I've found is one article that says it probably isn't true, although eating citrus fruits isn't especially good for your teeth. I don't eat that much citrus, but I do eat a lot of raw vegetables. I like my veggies crunchy, and I think the nutrients I get from them are more important than some wear and tear on my teeth.

On a completely unrelated topic, I'm going to a potluck tomorrow where the theme is "Mediterranean Vegetarian." I'm bringing tofu tagine (pictured). This recipe is awesome. It won a Vegetarian Times reader recipe contest about 8 years ago and I've been making it ever since. It's somewhat time-consuming but totally worth it. Fried tofu is simmered in a sauce with savory spices, cinnamon, onions, garlic, lemon, and honey (I subbed maple syrup). It's served with couscous that also has a salty, lemony flavor, in addition to mint and dried fruit. Then the whole mess is sprinkled with toasted almonds. The flavor is complex and unusual. Let me know if you try it!

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