It’s true, Cinco de Mayo does not fall on a Monday this year. But if your May 4th Meatless Monday leaves you so inspired that you want to continue it into Tuesday, we have several delicious suggestions for meatless Mexican dishes.
Cinco de Mayo is also known as the Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. For those who like their Meatless Mondays with a side of history, here’s the backstory: on May 5, 1862, the outmanned Mexican army defeated the French in the Battle of Puebla. Though the French would capture Mexico City one year later and take control of the country for several years, the Battle of Puebla, and the Cinco de Mayo celebrations that began cropping up almost immediately in Puebla and in American towns, became a celebration of Mexican unity and patriotism.
A good argument can be made that Cinco de Mayo is essentially an American holiday that honors Mexican culture and heritage. From the time of our own Civil War and until the 1980s, Cinco de Mayo was a relatively low key celebration marked primarily in cities with large Mexican-American populations, such as Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago. But in recent decades–especially as food and beverage marketers have increased their Cinco de Mayo budgets–the day has grown exponentially in popularity, including weekend long celebrations in cities such as Denver and Phoenix. Here at Meatless Monday, we mark the day by embracing and sharing Mexico’s rich culinary traditions.
If you think about it, Mexico has been meatless for centuries. The foundation of native Mesoamerican food dating back thousands of years includes corn, beans and a range of chili peppers. These ancient–and meatless–items remain Mexican staples. Corn, for millenia, has remained the basic starch of Mexico. The strong, essential flavors of chili peppers define all Mexican cooking, and can take a epicurean up and down the Scoville scale. With generous helpings of indigenous beans, vegetables and flavors such as tomatoes, squash, avocados, cocoa and vanilla, plus regional foods like bananas, guava, mangoes, pears and pineapple, and you have all the ingredients for a colorful Mexican meal.
Below are six mouthwatering meatless recipes that can be part of your Cinco de Mayo celebration. Corn & Black Bean Burritos; 2 ways to make Tostadas with vegetables; a Huevos Rancheros recipe that’s a spin on the classic Mexican breakfast; a green salad with fruits and
sunflower seeds; and Chimichurri Quinoa Stuffed Artichokes.
A frozen margarita is not a Mexican drink. And if you think Mexicans love to shove slices of lime into their beer, think again. Likewise, when it comes to Mexican food, our popular American conceptions bear little resemblance to the actual Mexican diet. That was certainly the conclusion of Dos Caminos Chef Ivy Stark who recently traveled south of the border for inspiration.
“I want to dispel the myth that melted cheese and sour cream are authentic Mexican food,” she said.
You don’t find nachos with beef and cheese whiz, or giant burritos filled with meat and cheese. What you do find is cuisine that’s rich in vegetables and sauces made with roasted vegetables, spices and sometimes nuts.
Following her trip, Chef Stark created a new ‘Healthy Mexican’ menu for Dos Caminos, with dishes like Spring Vegetales Tacos, Grilled Mexican Street Corn and a grapefruit, jicama and watercress salad.
Chef Stark worked with nutrition and sustainability consultants SPE, who offer third-party certification to foodservice establishments who are committed to nutrition, sustainability, and their customers’ well-being. Like Meatless Monday, SPE encourage more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and smaller portions of red meat, as well as limiting processed foods.
The inspiration for SPE came from the Latin phrase Sanitas Per Escam, which literally means “Health Through Food.” Their holistic approach focuses on sourcing (selecting ingredients seasonally, locally and sustainably) preparing (using specific cooking techniques that preserve the integrity and nutritional qualities of the ingredients) and maximizing the nutritional impact through balanced menus and optimal ingredient combinations.
For example, SPE recommended Chef Stark not put proteins on the grill since charring can cause carcinogens to form, but they were fine with her grilling vegetables like corn and asparagus.
Said Chef Stark, “Grilling is also a really good technique, especially if you’re looking to not use any fat. It’s really delcious for corn, squash – everything tastes good on the grill because you get that smokiness against the sweetness of the vegetables. And it’s easy!”
Dos Caminos and SPE have generously provided one of the recipes from the certified Healthy Mexican menu, which you can access here. Happy Authentic Cinco de Mayo!
You often hear that people would eat healthier if it was cheaper and easier – if healthy food was as accessible as fast food. Two years ago, author and columnist for the NY Times, Mark Bittman, wrote an article titled, “Yes, Healthful Fast Food is Possible. But Edible?” He profiled several budding restaurant chains who were looking to close that gap between fast food and healthy (even vegan) food produced with sustainability in mind.
It appears two years later that there’s progress if not yet perfection.
One chain Bittman focused on was Veggie Grill. Greg Dollarhyde, the CEO (Chief Energizing Officer in his parlance) recently described what the typical consumer wants.
“Make it better for me, but I don’t want to give anything up. I want less salt, no antibiotics, no trans-fats, more fruits, more veggies. I don’t go out to restaurants to give stuff up; I go to restaurants to be tantalized.”
The Santa Monica fast-casual restaurant chain, which serves exclusively plant-based food, was launched in 2006 and has grown to 28 restaurants on the West Coast. They purposely avoid labels like ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian.’ In their manifesto they say about their diners,
“We see you with eyes wide open. As one of us. Not as a diet, but as a person, as someone seeking out the vegetable. We think of you as veggie positive.”
Veggie Grill says that their biggest growth has been among typical meat-eating consumers and semi-vegetarians who are looking to eat more whole grains and fresh vegetables.
The founders of Sweetgreen were still in college when they opened their first restaurant, in past because they just wanted a healthy place to eat. They’re popular ‘build a bowl’ concept has spawned locations in six states as well as eleven stores in the District of Columbia. There are vegan options but also bowls featuring chicken and salmon, bowls full of green leafy vegetables and also full of grains like organic while rice and quinoa.
Sweetgreen core values emphasize ‘authentic food,’ thinking sustainably, and connecting with people through food – helping you live the sweet life. To that end they’ve held music festivals with healthy food and 20,000 fans They want to make eating healthy easy, fun, and approachable. Long lines can undermine the ‘fast’ food concept, but they may not think that’s a terrible problem to have.
Bittman also looked at Lyfe Kitchen, saying, “Lyfe has the pedigree, menu, financing, plan and ambition to take on the major chains. The company is trying to build 250 locations in the next five years and QSR has already wondered whether it will become the “Whole Foods of fast food.”
‘Lyfe’ has begun in six California cities as well as Chicago, New York, Boulder, and Dallas, so they certainly seem on their way to fulfill their mission of bringing delicious, healthy and socially responsible dining options to people across the country. When they tell their ‘Lyfe story’ on their site, they emphasize that there is something for everyone from carnivores to vegans, and that every dish has fewer than 600 calories. They strive for organic whenever possible, locally-sourced produce and responsibly raised meats.
According to data from Technomic, sales at healthy fast-casual chains totaled about $384 million in 2014, up almost 30 percent from 2013. The National Restaurant Association does an Industry Forecast every year and for 2015 the top five menu trends they cited for Tableservice restaurants include: Locally grown produce; Environmental Sustainability; Healthful kids’ meals; and Natural ingredients/minimally processed food.
Hudson Riehle of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group said that consumers, “want to be able to follow their personal preferences and philosophies no matter where or how they choose to dine. So, it’s only natural that culinary themes like local sourcing, sustainability and nutrition top our list of menu trends for 2015.”
In a recent article titled, “Vegetables take center plate as fast food chains expand,” AP reporter Kelli Kennedy asked, “The chains might be prospering, but is the Meatless Monday crowd strong enough to give these healthy chains staying power on a national scale?”
Harry Balzer, of the Chicago-based consumer research firm NPD Group, believes, “It will be harder for them to become McDonald’s. I don’t think it will be harder for them to survive.”
All have gained popularity on the coasts, but are far from being accepted nationally. There are also many operational challenges. Sustainability takes time and effort, and serving fresh unprocessed foods and organic ingredients is expensive and more difficult than deep frying or microwaving frozen food.
One thing is certain – those practicing Meatless Monday have more and more options, and the demand their creating is making more possible than ever before.
As part of Earth Week, Access Hollywood Live co-hosts Kit Hoover and Billy Bush invited Chef Ayinde Howell, founder and publisher of the award-winning iEatGrass.com. to show how he creates delicious meatless versions of traditional meals for Meatless Monday.
Chef Ayinde began by cooking up a traditional meatloaf using tofu, with lentils added for texture, and oats to bind it together, plus onions, dijon mustard catsup, and a few other ingredients for flavor. One smart tip he suggested was shaping them into mini-meatloafs to make them more attractive to kids. Billy Bush, a self-proclaimed ‘heavy carnivore’ decided to be the guinea pig and took the first taste. He gave the meatloaf top marks, as did Kit Hoover. You can see the recipe here.
Chef Ayinde said the simple recipe would be about 40% less expensive than if you used beef. While the savings are significant, the focus of the segment was how Meatless Monday benefits the planet, and Billy Bush shared an important statistic:
Over a year, if your four-person family skips meat once a week, it’s like taking your car off the road for five weeks.
Chef Ayinde, who is from Los Angeles and is living through the terrible drought there also reminded viewers that going meatless one day a week is a little known way to save thousands of gallons of water, given that it takes over 1800 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef.
In addition to the meatloaf he also whipped together another traditional favorite, chicken pot pie, using seitan , a wheat protein.
Just last year Chef Ayinde co-authored a cookbook with Zoe Eisenberg with the provocative title, The Lusty Vegan. It features 80 recipes as well as tips on how to create vegan meals that even meat-eaters will love. That’s the ‘vegan’ part.
The ‘lusty’ part is light, witty advice on navigating the challenges of vegans dating non-vegans. Both authors are vegans who have dated omnivores and they have plenty of experience to share. How often can you get delicious recipes and dating advice in one book? Be sure to check it out. And watch the Access Hollywood Live segment here.
Over a decade ago, The Meatrix, an animated parody of The Matrix movie, spread like fire over the internet, entertaining and educating millions regarding, ‘the lie we tell ourselves about where our food comes from.’
“Much more than a comical redux,” said Colicchio of the sequel, “it’s an important benchmark in the evolution of the sustainable food movement and compels us to look back at how far we’ve come over the last decade — and how far we still have to go. A decade ago, concepts like “sustainable farming,” “animal welfare” and “organic food” were considered fringe.”
The Meatrix series began in early 2003 when Free Range Studios awarded a grant to the Sustainable Table program to create an animated movie. The studio was impressed that Sustainable Table not only informed the public about factory farming but also offered simple solutions to support sustainable food and agriculture. They created The Meatrix, spoofing The Matrix movie while educating viewers about heinous corporate farming practices.
Based on the overwhelming success of the original, Sustainable Table and Free Range Studios launched a sequel: The Meatrix II: Revolting. In November 2006, The Meatrix II 1/2 was released to help promote the social action campaign around the Fast Food Nation movie and to show what happens inside a meat processing facility. All the films feature Moopheus, a trench-coat-clad cow who’s the leader of the Resistance, as well as Chickity, the feathered defender of family farms and Leo, the young pig who wonders if he is “the one.”
The Meatrix Relaunched was created, in part, to publicize the Eat Well Guide, a free, online directory of 25,000 sustainable farms, restaurants, food co-ops and farmers’ markets that, in the words of Colicchio, “allows consumers to make better choices about the food they eat and provide for their families.”
At the end of the movie, viewers are encouraged to, “Join the Revolution. Take action and get the facts at SustainableTable.org.” One of the actions Sustainable Table recommends is adopting Meatless Monday. You don’t have to be Moopheus to know that’s an excellent idea.
April 22nd is Earth Day, and if you’re wondering what you can do to show your love for our planet, joining the global Meatless Monday movement is a great place to start. The more we find out about the strain meat production is putting on the environment, the more significant skipping meat once a week becomes.
Freshwater depletion is one of the ecological concerns raised by industrial meat production. According to the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Schools of Public Health, an estimated 1,600 gallons of water are involved in producing just one pound of feedlot beef. The info graphic below puts it in a more individualized context.
So if you’ve been showering under a trickle to conserve water, well good for you…but perhaps you should also look at how eating meat is impacting your water “footprint.” A great resource for this is the water footprint calculator available at Watercalculator.org.
Climate change is another area of concern impacted by meat production. Globally, livestock production is responsible for an estimated 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Put another way, less meat, less heat.
As this other info graphic shows, if everyone in the world signed on to do Meatless Monday it would have the same impact on greenhouse gas emissions as taking about 240 million cars off the road each year.
Deforestation is also a consequence of high meat consumption. Over 18 percent of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has been cleared since 1970, primarily for cattle ranching. Then there’s nutrient pollution. Waste from animal feeding operations can pollute waterways, dramatically altering aquatic ecosystems.
In addition to going meatless on Monday, there are many other things you can do to be kind to our planet. Purchasing locally grown food is a great way to not only get delicious seasonal produce but to cut down on the fuel used to transport food. You can use the The Eat Well Guide to help you find farmer’s markets, as well as grocery stores and restaurants that support local farmers.
Join all those on 6 continents and in 35 countries who have taken the pledge to go meatless on Monday. Whether it’s called Lunes Sin Carne (Mexico) or Luntiang Lunes (Philippines), skipping meat once a week is a small, simple step that can have a big impact. So give back to our wonderful planet that gives so much to us.
Happy Earth Day!
Michele Simon, President of Eat Drink Politics.com and author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, stopped by our office this week. She’s working with My Plate, My Planet, and other groups supporting the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, that call for eating less red meat and less processed meat for both environmental and health reasons. Here are some excerpts from what she had to say:
On understanding the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee:
Every five years, a scientific committee is formed – organized by the government but not government people – mostly academics and scientific experts – who come together and spend two years researching the latest science to update what we know now about how to eat right. And this is a very intensive process. They have public hearings, a comment period, they really do their homework.
On why you should care:
While it’s true that most Americans don’t pay much attention to dietary advice from the government, the guidelines are still important as an education tool, and the government does put out many materials that come from these guidelines. For years it was the ‘Food Pyramid’, then it morphed into ‘My Plate’ showing that you should fill half your plate with fruits & vegetables – which was a big accomplishment for the government to say that in the last revision.
And just as important is how the government uses the guidelines as the basis for its food assistance program, which makes sense. If the federal government is going to use our tax dollars for things like school meals, they should be based on some kind of federal guidelines. That’s really why this is so important. It’s a federal policy-making tool, even though most people know it as the food pyramid or some government messaging that may not seem so relevant.
On why the committee’s recommendations are getting so much attention:
For the first time, the committee took up the issue of sustainability and from the get-go that caused some controversy. It shouldn’t be so crazy that when we’re talking about health, the idea of where our food comes from should matter. But the meat industry is very threatened by the idea that we should be connecting the sources of our food supply to the dietary guidelines.
So – no surprise to many of us – it turns out there’s a direct connection between meat production and the environment. The committee actually went further and said eating more of a plant-based diet and less animal food is what’s best for the environment AND our health. That’s not rocket science. Science has told us this for decades. But the scientific committee is addressing this issue in a very thoughtful way.
In addition to the recommendation that the guidelines take into account sustainability, they also squarely landed on red meat and processed meat being unhealthy. Specifically on a health basis. Everyone’s up in arms over the sustainability piece because the meat industry wants to say that’s not in the jurisdiction, or within the expertise of this committee. But what’s squarely in their expertise is health. And they were very plain that a diet with too much red meat and processed meat is bad for your health. It’s related to a number of poor health outcomes including heart disease, cancers, diabetes, etc.
On what YOU can do:
We’re in a comment period right now and it’s really important that our voices get heard. It’s not often that the federal government asks the public to tell them what you think. So, because there’s such an obvious connection between the message of eat less meat and the Meatless Monday campaign, I think everyone that supports Meatless Monday should support the scientific recommendations, specifically to eat less red meat and processed meat and in general to support a plant-based diet for our health and the health of the environment. You can use talking points from MyPlateMyPlanet.org and submit your comments at DietaryGuidelines.gov. I have made a short instructional video on how to submit comments. You can view it here: https://youtu.be/lUzaZStRUds. The deadline for comments is May 8. The more comments the government gets, the more support the Committee’s recommendations will have.
On how she feels about Meatless Monday:
I love Meatless Mondays because…as someone who’s been an advocate for a plant-based diet for many years I feel like people tend to get put off, scared by messaging telling them to give up meat for the rest of their lives. Asking for just one day a week is hard to argue with…I make this argument with my vegan friends – you’ll save more animals getting more people to cut down on their meat consumption than you will getting fewer people to cut out their meat consumption. Do the math, that’s what I say…
And the evidence shows that Monday is the day people are most willing to pay more attention to their health. Plus, people do like to get caught up in something with their friends like, “hey, we’re doing this together!” And providing resources & support – people need that. Because we have a society of meat-eaters. It’s in the air. It’s everywhere you go. And by creating a campaign that gives people the support they need to cut out meat that one day a week they can feel like they’re part of something great and it’s not complete deprivation.
Also, it’s just got a nice ring to it: Meatless Monday! So, I just think it’s brilliant.
We would like to thank Michele for taking the time to speak with us. We will keep you updated on her efforts to support the advisory committee’s recommendations.
Imagine a cow coming up to you as if it’s a huge puppy wanting you to pet him. Or a pig rolling over so you’ll rub her belly. A chicken sitting on your lap and letting you stroke its feathers while it coos like a housecat might purr. Imagine a turkey adopting you for the day and following you around like a loyal dog. These are the kinds of experiences thousands of people have had visiting Farm Sanctuary. And helping readers share in that same kind of happiness, say authors Gene Baur and Gene Stone, is the intent behind their new book, Living the Farm Sanctuary, The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day.
A longtime friend of Meatless Monday, Gene Baur has been giving sanctuary to farm animals since the mid-80s, when he and others rescued Hildy, a sheep, from a factory farm ‘dead pit.’ The book tells the history of Farm Sanctuary and how it’s evolved from a few rescues to about 1000 pigs, cows, chickens, sheep, goats, turkeys, and other animals living on farms in both New York and California. Each year, Farm Sanctuary hosts thousands of guests from all over the country, in addition to educating the public about the plight of factory-farmed animals and lobbying for laws and policies that support animal welfare.
What’s spot-on about their approach, which comes through very clearly in the tone of the book, is that they are strong in their convictions but not at all strident. “We don’t aim to hurt anyone or to destroy anyone’s livelihood,” they write. “We simply encourage people to consider new possibilities.”
While one of their guiding principles is, “Ending factory farming and promoting a plant-based diet is best for animals, human beings, and the environment” they follow that up with, “We support incremental change” and, “We engage people where they are on their journey to a cruelty-free lifestyle.”
In the book’s introduction they list ‘10 Small Steps,’ offering suggestions to help people get started. The first of these is, “Participate in Meatless Monday.” Other small steps they include are to avoid the cruelest animal products like veal, caged eggs, chicken meat and foie gras; to replace meat in recipes with plant-based options; to eat ethnic, exploring and rediscovering traditional dishes which tend to be plant-based; to get to know beans and use them to add protein and flavor to your meals; and to shop at farmer’s markets for fresh seasonal produce which helps support more local, humane, and sustainable food systems.
The book also features 150 pages of vegan recipes for breakfasts, salads, soups, appetizers, entrees and desserts, donated by famous chefs & restaurant owners, authors, activists, and entertainers (including Moby, Ellen DeGeneres & Alicia Silverstone.)
Jon Stewart, in his interview with Gene Baur, spoke about the tone of the book as well. “What I like about it,” said Stewart, “…it’s pragmatic. You take into account that this is not an easy transition for people…and there are a lot of things in here that talk about making small lifestyle changes.” When Gene brought up having veggie burgers instead of hamburgers and eating beans and whole foods Stewart replied, “Or do it once a week.”
“Once a week – Meatless Mondays is a great program,” replied Gene.
Stewart closed the interview by saying, “You are doing phenomenal work at Farm Sanctuary and this book is great as well,” then told his audience, “Get it!” That sounds like another small step that makes sense.
Watch the entire interview with Gene Baur on The Daily Show here.
We recently stumbled upon a wonderful blog created by students at the University at Buffalo to share their personal experiences about trying Meatless Monday. In addition to posting recipes and photos of what they’ve been cooking up on Mondays, they explore how going meatless on Mondays impacts other days of the week and affects those around them. Their responses are candid and full of insight, so we want to share a few of them.
This marks the 4th week I have participated in meatless Monday. Things have been going pretty smoothly. I thought it would be a lot harder to find something meatless…but if your eyes are open…there are plenty of choices!
Many commented on how it led to them try new foods. Connie W:
Overall, I was quite satisfied with this week’s meatless Monday even though I didn’t know what to eat but I managed to find something delicious and easy to make. I hope that everyone will be willing to try different cuisines from all the world because it allows us to experience what each culture has to offer. Connie W.
It also sometimes led their friends to try new things. Rachel D:
Going meatless on Mondays has mainly impacted my own outlook on food but it’s definitely opened up my friends to some weird and interesting new dishes. I feel like even just planning out one day a week starts a ripple effect for all the other days of the week to continually eat cleaner and without meat; I can’t say I mind it.
Alice L had a similar experience with her roommate:
I noticed this week that Meatless Monday has been getting easier and easier. It was easy because I planned what to eat on Sunday. Again, I do feel healthier doing the Meatless Monday…my roommate loved the congee and sweet potatoes I made. She also felt healthier eating those meals. Overall I enjoyed this week’s Meatless Monday. Alice L.
As we all know, some weeks are easier than others. Cristina L:
I definitely planned poorly and kind of not at all. I think in the future I need to be more on top of it. That may be a reason why it’s so difficult for people to limit meat: convenience. It’s easy for me to grab whatever I want at the store and not have to think much about how it effects the environment.
Sometimes family members were affected. Meagan R:
Going meatless this Monday affected my mom back at home while on spring break. Over break I explained the project to her and she was very surprised on the connection of our food choice and the affect they can have on the environment. She said that she was going to start trying to go meatless on Mondays both for her health as well as for the environment.
Kareema C seemed to think it was worth the effort:
As the weeks go on I just find Meatless Monday to be easier and easier. I will not go as far as to say I love it or I can do it all the time but I do understand why we need to do it. If everyone did this we would live in such a healthier world. So I will keep trying to do a meatless day every week.
This is a small taste of what you’ll find at UB Meatless Mondays. We hope they continue going meatless on Mondays and keep sharing their unique perspectives. Thanks for the inspiration!
Photo by T. Susan Chang for NPR
Two-time James Beard Award-winning author Karen Page released, The Flavor Bible in 2008. It made countless lists of top cookbooks of that year, and Forbes actually named it ‘one of the world’s ten best cookbooks of the past century.’ The Flavor Bible revolutionized how so many of us, from home cooks to professional chefs, approach cooking. Instead of just giving recipes to follow, the book taught us all about the dynamics of flavor and showed how to pair ingredients to bring out the most flavor. Her follow up, with tasty photographs by her husband, former chef Andrew Dornenburg, is called The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, and it continues the revolution.
In her very personable style, Ms. Page describes how she experimented with vegetarianism in May 2012 but kept quiet about it. Having grown up in the heart of the Midwest where meat was part of most every meal, she wondered whether or not she could stick with a meatless diet for even for a week or two. After poring over books and websites about food and nutrition she was also confused by all the conflicting advice.
Page writes, “I was not surprised to discover that in a 2012 poll, over half of Americans polled said they found it easier to do their taxes than to figure out what to eat to keep themselves healthy.”
When she finally ‘came out’ as a vegetarian she recalls being constantly asked the question all vegetarians & vegans hear day in and day out. “But how do you get your protein?” She addresses that and much more in the book which is grounded by what she calls her “three primary questions: what to eat (and in what quantities), how to make it healthful, and how to make it so delicious that its meatlessness is completely beside the point.”
She and her husband decided that since there were so many foods on the list of ‘what not to buy’ they should create a list of, ‘the healthiest ingredients that would provide us with the biggest nutritional bang for the calorie – “super foods” that we could easily enjoy at home: Black Beans. Blueberries. Broccoli. Kale. Lemons. Quinoa. Spinach. Then I started researching compatible flavors and flavor affinities for each, for ease in creating dishes. Then dish ideas themselves were added…”
Her approach to creating the book mirrors her flavor-based approach to cooking – it’s creative, intuitive, and very well researched. Now thanks to the Vegetarian Flavor Bible we can benefit from all her research and just enjoy the creative part.
The heart of the book is an A –Z guide of ingredients (Acai to Zucchini blossoms) and the spices, herbs, and other seasonings that best enhance their flavors. She describes flavors in depth, including how ‘loud’ an ingredient is, what’s healthful about it, the amount of protein, calories, and other nutritional elements, techniques of cooking it, suggestions for using and/or serving it, and possible substitutes.
The starting point for your creativity in the kitchen can be any number of things, from what’s in season to the desire to cook in a particular way such as grilling in the summer. You can also make your starting point the ingredients you have on hand, a surefire way to make sure no food goes to waste. Using the book to look up what flavors work best together, you can turn random ingredients into a delicious meal. Another starting point can be a craving for the flavors of a particular country.
“My own strategy,” she writes, “is to eat ‘in a different country’ most days of the week, which presents me with a broad range of vegetables over the course of a week or two. “
Chinese: bokchoy, broccoli, eggplant, long beans, mushrooms, snow peas
Greek: chickpeas, eggplant, gigante beans, romaine lettuce, spinach
Indian: cauliflower, chickpeas, eggplant, jackfruit, lentils, spinach…
Italian: arugula, broccoli rabe, tomatoes, white beans, zucchini
Thai: bamboo shoots, bell peppers eggpllant, green beans, onions
Mexican: avocados, beans, chayote, chiles, corn, tomatillos, tomatoes.
There are also tips for making vegetarian versions of standard dishes and advice from leading chefs on how they work with certain ingredients and combine them into signature dishes.
For some historical tidbits check out her chapter ‘Vegetarianism Through the Ages.’ Did you know – Socrates, in The Republic, questioned the excessive amount of land needed to raise cattle – and thought the ideal city would be vegetarian?
Meatless Monday also appears on her historical timeline, initially in 1917 when it was launched by Herbert Hoover so Americans could send more exports to our starving allies in Europe; then in 2003 when it was re-launched to help people decrease meat and saturated fats in their diet.
In a recent interview Ms Page reiterated her support of the movement. “The average American eats more than 200 pounds of meat every year — a level that is far above other countries, and one that is not sustainable. The world needs to reduce its consumption of meat for the health of the planet, not to mention of the individuals that inhabit it. Meatless Monday is a simple yet powerful way to get omnivores to think about skipping meat just one day a week…its full impact is likely even greater as participants continue to reduce their meat consumption on other days of the week.”’
The Vegetarian Flavor Bible can not only make it easier to pursue Meatless Monday but can make it a experience full of rich, delicious flavors.