Sunday, January 9, 2011

From Fringe to Cutting Edge

A recent article in the Washington Post trumpets the rise of veganism in America as a mainstream phenomenon. Apparently 1% of the population is now on the veganwagon--including high-profile folk, like Bill Clinton and Mike Tyson. This is good news for someone who has one vegan cookbook out, and another in the works for 2012 (that would be me), but it should be even better news for anyone concerned about the rising cost of "healthcare" (read: "medical intervention"). All this should come as no real surprise, considering the growing body of anecdotal evidence as well as scientific studies indicating that dropping animal food is a healthful act.

One glaring omission in the discussion on the merits of the vegan diet is very often the improved sense of well-being. We hear about weight loss, and of plummeting cholesterol. We hear a lot about the sick, heartless treatment of animals in factory farms, and about the pollution and greenhouse gases associated with these unconscionable, disgusting death camps. We read how much energy, food and water is wasted producing a pound of meat. And all of this is important information that no sane person would ignore. But what doesn't seem to really make news is how freaking fantastic it feels when you make the switch. It hasn't been that long for me (a mere 16 months), so even on a bad day, I still marvel at how much better my body is functioning without the (literally) deadweight of animal food in my system. By the third day, I felt like a new man--seriously!

To me, this has nothing whatsoever to do with ideology. Sure, I like the fact that I'm not participating in the mistreatment and slaughter of animals when I sit down to eat. But I don't even call myself a "vegan." My diet is vegan, and my sympathies are vegan, but I'm all about what works. Which brings me to the next point, the food.

Although it's not entirely true that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach," food quality is certainly a decisive factor in winning someone over to a new way of eating. As a dedicated hedonist, I would never have even contemplated the switch if I had not been confident that I could bring enjoyment with me. By this, I don't mean I favor meat-imitative products (I don't go for self-deception in any form). I mean food itself can be made delicious, regardless of what restrictions anyone might place on its ingredients. I know this because I've had a long career feeding people on one one kind of diet or another. This is crucial information.

If we're going to move in the direction of a plant-based diet as a culture, we'll have to do two things: 1) lose the notion that eating meat is good (why would you want a faux-burger if you aren't still craving a real one?) but more importantly, 2) raise the quality of vegan fare from the erstwhile hippie fodder to truly excellent food in its own right. Bottom line for any eater: if you're really enjoying it, you're not on some kind of forced diet--you're having the time of your life (as well you should)!

I'm here to help make this happen.

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