My Mondays Are Meatless

Here it is the second Monday after the commotion started when a USDA headquarters interoffice newsletter encouraged employees to choose meatless meals on Mondays in the company cafeteria.

Meatless Monday” is a worldwide public health campaign to go meatless for health one day a week. A New York City ad man from Don Draper days working with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and other big-league players started the crusade. (It shows the power of working across silos.) The USDA newsletter article was not an official position, but it offended the National Cattleman’s Beef Association and a few Republican senators, and so the USDA retracted the statement, removed the newsletter, and apologized to the beef industry. The Meatless Monday folks were not directly involved, but free publicity is good.

It’s All About the Cooking 

Volumes of research show the vegetarian diet is much healthier than a diet full of meat. Not that I’m against meat, a little is nice, but I learned how to be a vegetarian back in my hippie days, and so beans, grains, nuts and seeds, tons of vegetables, and eggs and cheese are simply my staple ingredients. Being a vegetarian is not about “Choose My Plate” with segmented meals, meat-and-potatoes style. Vegetarians tend to eat mixed dishes where grains, beans and cheese become a full meal salad or dish for the first time around and for leftovers.

A recent survey showed that 28% of Americans don’t know how to cook. (I wonder what the others call “cooking.”) Since that 28% is just starting out, they should learn how to cook vegetarian-style. I can attest to the long range health benefits. Here are three meatless recipes that I am cooking this week: Mary’s Wild Rice Salad (bring it to a party); Skillet Gnocchi with Chard & White Beans (impossible to stop eating); Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook Zucchini Feta Pancakes (a summer classic). In August, I try to serve every dish with tomatoes and sweet corn on the side.

Your thoughts: Were you aware of Meatless Mondays? Do you take part?

What the Hippies Knew

Everyday Is Earth Day at my house. It’s been that way since before the first Earth Day, 38 years ago. That’s because I was a hippie in my formative years. And I am still. Hippies made natural food and the environment popular.

This is what I learned – and lived –  as a hippie and I still do (mostly) these things today.  I learned:

How Not to Buy Processed Food
There was simply no attraction to plastic or processed. We were not fooled by corporate America and the chemicals they used. “Question Authority!” was a good hippie slogan.

How to Be a Vegetarian
Cooking with beans, grains, nuts, and seeds? Not a problem. We learned about complimentary proteins from Frances Moore Lappe’s Diet for a Small Planet.  Our cookbooks were the brown-paper covered vegetarian classics: Tassajara Cooking, The Vegetarian Epicure, The Moosewood Cookbook, Recipes for a Small Planet. “The way to be a cook is to cook,” said the Buddhist monks of Tassajara. And we did.

How to Eat Ethnic Food
Brown rice, miso, tofu, tabbouleh, falafel, curries, raitas, dhal, HEALTHY enchiladas?  Bring ‘em on. Not only did we eat vegetarian ethnic foods, but we wore the native costumes to match!

How to Bake Bread, Grow Sprouts and Make Yogurt
Believe it or not, markets didn’t sell foods we take for granted today. Yogurt was something Europeans ate. Bread was white. Hummus was unheard of, chickpeas too. And so, we baked whole grain bread, first for its health and soon for its taste and we learned that kneading is Zen; we kept fresh sprouts growing in the winter kitchen; and we delighted in our yogurt makers, as we saved money.  Poor consumers were we.

How to Tend a Vegetable Garden
“The way to be a gardener is to garden.” If we lived in the country or even the city, we kept a garden and, in doing so, we learned about soil, sun, water and critters, beneficial insects, companion crops and manure. It was about as local and fresh as it gets.

How to Compost and Put up Food
It goes with gardening: You grow the vegetables, you eat and preserve the vegetables, you return the vegetable scraps to the earth, and the compost becomes next year’s vegetables. We love earth worms. Recycling brings us joy.

Listen, I could go on-and-on, but I have to make a lentil soup. Happy Earth Day-Week everyone!

Your thoughts: How do you practice sustainability? Where did you learn it?