There are vegetarian cookbooks, restaurants, chefs, websites, clubs, starter kits, chat rooms, there’s even a pre-packaged vegetarian diet program you can order online. The vegetarian “movement” started, as many things do in the U.S., in California and moved eastward. Veggie lovers are so popular now that Walmarts all over the world have special sections full of meat alternatives.
When the veggie craze started, there weren’t many choices for sources of protein. Vegetarians got their daily requirement for protein mostly from nuts, peanut butter, legumes, and other beans. Now there’s TVP, (texturized vegetable protein), Seitan, (an actual meat substitute), tofu, (and there’s soft or hard, light or dark tofu), mycroproteins and a few others. You can also find veggie burgers and veggie dogs in the frozen foods section of most grocery stores.
One of the most well known veggie chefs, David Lee, owns his own restaurant. In 1997 he decided to create his own protein-rich, tasty meat alternative and founded The Field Roast Grain Meat Company. Incidentally he also won PETA’s “Proggy For Best New Veggie Sausage,” and vegcooking.com’s “Chef of the Month.” Once a year in March he comes together with fellow veggie lovers to throw “Meatout,” a worldwide event to educate the public about healthy and humane diet offering lectures and tastings.
It’s easy to think of veggies as a side dish, breads, (zuchinni and pumpkin are delicious), and even desserts, (zuchinni chocolate cake, you can’t taste the veggie and it’s oh so moist and scrumptious), but how do you create a true vegetarian meal – what’s the main dish? Veggie lovers claim that you can substitute TVP, Seitan, tofu or mycroprotein for ground beef in any recipe and voila you have a veggie main dish. You can even plan ahead and “crockpot” a vegetarian meal; curried rice and lentils, bbq tofu, even veggie lasagna – yes in a crockpot. It’s made with tofu and spinach and lasagna noodles of course. There’s even vegetarian chicken you can use in any chicken recipe – don’t know that it fries well though.
There are many health benefits to going veggie; lower blood pressure, less cancer risk, less cardiovascular problems and it’s great for diabetes.
Some vegetables have a rich and interesting history. The strawberry is not a fruit, it’s actually the enlarged stamen of the plant and therefore a vegetable. They were once used to treat gout, heal sunburn and help in digestion. Today we know them as an aphrodisiac. Artichokes, low in saturated fat, high in fiber and vitamin C and K, are such a powerful and potent aphrodisiac that women were forbidden to eat them in the 16th century. Peas, packed with protein and fiber and low in fat have been around since 400/500 B.C. Broccoli arrived in the United States thanks to Italians who’ve been growing it since Rome ruled the world. It’s a great source of beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium, fiber and has been shown to fight cancer. Asparagus, a favorite of Louis XVI, contains no cholesterol, no fat, very little sodium and is high in fiber, folic acid, potassium, and vitamins C and B6.
The next time you’re in the produce isle at the local supermarket, grab some veggies and be healthy and happier than you thought you could be.