These are great days to be a vegetarian. There's no such thing as “Mad Tofu Disease,” there haven't been any outbreaks of “Sprout-in-Mouth Disease,” and 60 Minutes hasn't run an exposé about the dangers of undercooked carrots. The variety of healthful, dynamic, fresh, and wholesome vegetarian options in mainstream U.S. food markets and restaurants has never been better!
Even Europe, where classical chefs once looked down their noses at vegetarian dining, is abloom in splendid meat-free cafés, restaurants, and markets. I spent several months in Berlin recently, expecting to find menus of meat accompanied by meat with a side dish of meat. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled on the upscale, mostly vegetarian Café Abendmahl only a few steps from the door of my Kreuzberg apartment! Wandering through the “strasses” and “platzes” on day two, I came upon a restaurant whose specialty was spinach pancakes. Blocks away was a thriving vegetable market along the Landwehrkanal stretching for block after city block, with more choices than I'd ever seen in a lifetime of A & Ps. A recent trip to Paris revealed a similar botanical bounty.
With celebrities like Alec Baldwin, Melissa Etheridge, Brooke Shields, Drew Barrymore, and Brad Pitt proudly proclaiming their flesh-free proclivities, today's vegetarianism is not just ethical, it's chic. When bodybuilders, triathletes, and marathon runners eschew meat and win events, who can deny the strength-giving character of their balanced diets?
On our shrinking planet, arguments for vegetarianism are as close as the front page of the newspaper. Every day, articles feature stories of famine, while livestock consume enough grain to feed millions. Horrific tales of herbivorous sheep and cows being forced to eat the ground-up remains of their unfortunate brethren as “feed” have sent shockwaves through the meat-consuming public. And the near-annihilation of many fish species due to overfishing has become routine. Just cutting down on the amount of meat and fish in your diet is something to feel good about.
With proper balance and, in some cases, judicious use of dietary supplements like B vitamins, the vegetarian lifestyle can lead to better heart health, clearer skin, longer life, and fewer disease threats without any deficiencies. The first thing critics of the meat-free diet cite is a supposed dearth of protein. But nutritionists agree on two things: Americans grossly overdose on protein, and the right combination of vegetarian foods gives us more than enough building blocks to complete our protein needs. The pages of this book overflow with all the delicious ways you'll need to enjoy food in a whole new way.