Joe Yonan makes Meatless Monday fun for the single cook

February 13th, 2014

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 31 million single Americans living alone and for many, the easiest meal solution is takeout or microwave dinners.

Joe Yonan, award-winning food editor for the Washington Post, thinks that single folks, like him, should not lower their standards just because they’re eating alone. His new book, “Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook” (Ten Speed Press), offers  80 recipes along with  practical tips and insights to help people tackle the challenge  of trying to shop, plan, and cook for one.

We asked Joe a few questions about his book and how the Meatless Monday movement is influencing Americans’ consumption of vegetables.

 What’s your advice for how to make vegetables exciting for die-hard carnivores?


First of all, buy vegetables when they’re in season and as fresh as possible (preferably local), so their quality is at its peak. And prepare them in ways and in combinations with other ingredients that results in something with a variety of textures and flavors: crunchy and soft, sweet and sour.

To make a pureed soup like my Creamy Green Gazpacho, for instance, I like to hold out some of the ingredients and add them as a garnish so you get more texture with each bite. And there’s a little honey in there (use agave nectar if you’re vegan) to balance the tart tomatoes.

I also like to use ingredients that have a lot of umami, such as miso and kimchi; and spicy and smoky ingredients such as Spanish pimenton, chiles (fresh and dried), toasted sesame oil, and Thai curry paste.

How do you think Meatless Monday has made an impact on Americans’ consumption of vegetables?

Obviously, the campaign has been successful getting more people to think about ways to move from meat toward vegetables, much in the way that the Catholic abstention of meat one day a week caused so many families to think of — and enjoy — Fish Fridays, which no doubt caused them to see fish in a different light generally. Eating is habitual, of course, so it’s helpful for people who are interested in changing habits to have manageable, easy-to-remember ways to nudge it in a different direction.

Starting with one meal a week is the perfect step for anybody who can’t imagine a dinner plate that isn’t constructed around meat, and as your own [Johns Hopkins] research shows, it’s having an impact on their habits beyond Mondays. That’s nothing but good news. 

I can’t help asking — In your book, you say, “It’s why I wish we could come up with another term for Meatless Mondays.”  Why come up with another term?

Well, I was being a little cheeky, of course. In the sentences that lead up to the one you quote, I make my point: that I wish more people who eat vegetarian dishes, whether it’s for one day or meal a week or more, would celebrate vegetables themselves, rather than the mere fact that they’re meatless. That is, I worry that sometimes the actual vegetables get short shrift because the dishes are defined by what’s not in them rather than by what is. So for instance, do I want people to eat Creamy Green Gazpacho [recipe below] just because it doesn’t have bacon in it? No, because bacon doesn’t really have anything to do with it. I want people to make it and eat it because it’s delicious — and nutritious, and satisfying. (Now, if the Romans had named Monday for Venus and Friday for the moon instead of vice-versa, maybe we’d be talking about Vegetable Venday right now! Since they didn’t, I’ve made my peace with the [Meatless Monday] term.)

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