Understanding Vegetarianism

November 9, 2012

THE CHEF’S CHALLENGE:
UNDERSTANDING VEGETARIANISM

Is vegetarianism a special diet or a cuisine?  Diet comes from the Greek word “diatia” meaning a way of life or manner of living.  In our modern age it is often referred to as the kind and amount of food prescribed to a person for a specific biological condition.  Cuisine is often defined as the manner or style of preparing food and the food prepared.

Does vegetarianism fit into both definitions?  If it does fit into one or both definitions, how does a professional cook/chef address vegetarianism on their menu?  If you agree that vegetarianism is a dietary choice that would seem to present consumer challenges.  If you agree that it is a cuisine that presents an array of culinary challenges.  If it is both consumer/dietary and culinary without the special diet restrictions (i.e. no cholesterol or lactose free), how does a chef craft a menu that addresses both concepts?

Vegetarianism is a complex culinary challenge for professional chefs to address through their menu development.  What is your understanding of vegetarianism and how would you address it in menu development?

Since date

69 Responses to Understanding Vegetarianism

  1. anfadmin November 11, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    Frank and Mary Hoffman: We believe that the term vegan cuisine is the better choice, much in the same way we would refer to Chinese cuisine, French cuisine, Italian cuinine, or Mexican cuisine. However, within a vegan cuisine there can be various diets, such as a low fat diet, a gluten free diet, or a low salt diet.

    • Amine December 18, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      Hi Michelle,Great site, and great idea: it’s one of those things that you think damn, I shluod have patented it 1st I’m in the UK, so don’t unfortunately have a Trader Joes, but I’ve tried the bagels and hummus route a few times, and it’s pretty good. I love black pepper and sea salt hummus: see if you can track it down if you’ve never had it. Gorgeous.I’d be very interested to see if you could say anything in future on how you’ve found communicating and talking about your veganism to friends/family/spouses. I’ve been vegan for years now, and still find this one of the most challenging, but also sometimes inspiring parts of my life.Respect,Barry

  2. Ron Pickarski November 13, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    Dear Frank and Mary,
    My understanding is that vegetarian covers all categories of the cuisine (i.e. lacto vegetarian, Ovo Vegetarian, Lacto-ovo Vegetarian and Vegan). Vegan cuisine can be low fat, gluten free or low sodium. But so can a carnivorous diet be gluten free or low fat so those types of eating are diets and not a cuisine.

    • Mohamed December 16, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

      I’d say that denying the degisn of 1 million years of evolution making us omnivores, is not a sign of intelligence at all but that’s a matter of opinion.I would hazard a guess that smart people are able to rationalize easier why to take steps in contradiction to the degisn of nature, or are simply more likely to dwell on the moral questions involved in killing animals for food and therefor build up a desire to take steps to mitigate. Hence, the trend in question here.Aside from a handful of Petards, the consensus of anthropologists is that predation is what drove our evolutionary course to develop the intellect that we have now, enabling us to delude ourselves into thinking that we are naturally herbivores. As Larry Niven points out, It doesn’t take any brains to sneak up on leaf. Other traits confirm the predatory nature of man. Our eyes are set forward, to provide binocular vision to help judge distance to prey. We have prominent canine teeth for tearing meat, which have in our evolutionary path shrunk a bit as we substituted tools for teeth in cutting flesh. Our digestive tracts are not long enough to fully utilize plant material, but have the traits found in omnivores and carnivores, geared around digesting meat. Meat is very easy to digest compared to any plant material and it packs a lot of energy into a very small package which in turn provides the building material allowing such a large brain to evolutionarily develop and function.The most telling organ showing our natural omnivorous state, is the appendix. This vestigial organ is most likely the remnants of a cecum, which is a where modern herbivores house bacteria that is used to digest cellulose, that cannot be digested otherwise. That we no longer have a cecum, nor the proper bacteria found in the cecum of herbivores, shows that we have been omnivores for a very long time and that even if we once were, we are not naturally obligate herbivores anymore.Another very telling mark is the requirement of vitamin B12 in human nerve and and blood development. B12 is not produced by any animal or plant alone, it is produced by various bacteria bacteria which thrive in living animals, but not in living plants. (There are B12 microorganisms which can be found in plants, but when they are present, the plants are rotting and inedible.) Since B12 is absolutely required for proper brain development in infants, it is essential that the child gets B12 through their mother’s milk. Before modern day vitamin supplements, the only way that B12 would be present in human milk, is if the mother is eating meat. A Vegan mother, back in the day before vitamin supplements, would have a child that would end up mentally retarded and most likely die from the resulting anemia.Last, but certainly not least, is the telling evidence of the violent capabilities of humans. Such violent behavior, to the extremes that we see in humans and other primates, are not found in obligate herbivores. Herbivores will fight to protect themselves (depending on the herbivore; rabbits for example fight like the Monty Python Vorpal Bunny when cornered) but they do not kill for apparent pleasure, as many carnivores including man do.Ultimately it is an undeniable fact: humans are not naturally obligate herbivores at least not anymore. Without a cecum, and with a requirement of B12 in normal nerve and blood development we cannot be obligate herbivores by degisn of nature.Any adult deciding to take the route of a Vegan diet, should do so carefully and should be very, very careful to make sure that any child raised on a Vegan diet gets the proper B12 supplement to prevent nerve malformation and anemia. (Thankfully, this is easy to do with yeast based supplements, and the requirements of B12 are not high dose.)A Vegan diet can be healthy, but one must be a little careful in its implementation for it to be so.Irony holds that the only thing allowing us to choose a Vegan lifestyle, is the omnivore propagated brain which allows us to find ways around our natural degisn.

    • Sujan December 18, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

      Big up Grouch! Just want to say I love the new Z&G album. I’ve been lookin faowrd to it for quite some time. It’s funny how you are on the healthy diet tip cuz I just recently decided to change my eating habits as well. That song definately made me think about my diet foreal. That’s why Im stoked ya are postin these recipes. Anyways, thanks for the recipe and all the good advice throughout the years. oh n ya know what’s on my wish list Z&G&E! See ya soon. One love

  3. You November 27, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

    Great points altogether, you just gained a new reader. What would you recommend in regards to your put up that you made a few days ago? Any sure?

    • Ron Pickarski November 27, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

      I am not sure what you meant by “your put up” but thinking you are referring to the Thanksgiving Day dinner and recipes.

      My focus with Vegetarianism is on it as a cuisine and I often wonder how the special diet, environmental and animal rights issues, as valid as they are, take away from the beauty of the cuisine. While I appreciate, respect and support all three issues, I wonder if the beauty of this ancient cuisine with immense 21st century relevance gets lost in those worthy causes.

      So my strategy is to develop the beauty of the cuisine, entice humanity to engage vegan vegetarianism as a celebratory, not spartan, cuisine. And by dining on the cuisine they are all subconsciously supporting all supporting those worthy causes and their health in a sustainable manner. This is the way to engage vegan vegetarianism as a lifestyle change.

      Ron Pickarski

    • Bethany December 18, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

      Wow, what a great website, and what wordunfel videos! You certainly are an inspiration! I also found your site through vegan.com, and will definitely subscribe. While I have been vegan for years, I am always looking for new and clever ideas to help friends and family think about what they are eating. While none are vegan (yet . . .) I definitely have them all eating healthier. Future ideas if you don’t grow any of your own veggies, please give it a try! Or inspire others to plant some. A container with one tomato plant is a great start. I am in South Florida, so I tend to have a garden year round. There are several months of the year I don’t have to buy any salad goodies, I just have to go pick them. Talk about saving money on your food bill. Anyway, thanks again for taking time to make a difference. Oh and I love your eco sneaks from a couple episodes back!

      • Ron Pickarski December 21, 2012 at 5:21 am #

        Dear Bethany, being a vegetarian is a great investment in one’s health. My spirit appreciates your support. You are wise in how you are approaching your friends. If you get them think about what they are eating that will lead to their acceptance of at least being a casual part time vegetarian. How you are approaching your friends is how my friends approached me back in 1975 which led me to become a vegetarian and eventually vegan. Your approach is spot on.

        Take care and happy holidays.

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  5. Ron Pickarski December 17, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

    Mohamed,

    I agree with your position on carnivorism. It was an integral part of human evolution. Meat became not only the source of B12 but also a primary source of carbohydrate where grains were in short supply. Where I think the western world went astray was over emphasizing carnivorism to the detriment of a vegetarian diet.

    Diet comes from the Greek word “Diaita” meaning a way of life. Vegetarianism is both a cuisine and a diet. The cuisine side of diet seems to have taken a back seat to the activist side trumping the dietary related moral issues. There is a great deal of dogma surrounding vegetarianism from both the vegetarians and meat industry. While there is truth in both sides, as related to your blog, it is cuisine and human nutrition that will be the ultimate drivers of vegetarianism in the 21st century, not dogmatic positions. Truth isn’t dogmatic. It is buried in both positions as reflected in the evolution of the human body and its diet as omnivores. What is omnivorism but a combination of a vegetarian and carnivores diet. The problem is that there is too much emphasis on the carnivore side. Twenty years ago the ADA believed that a vegetarian diet wasn’t healthy and they eventually changed their position. It is the vegetarian side of a balanced omnivores diet.

    After making a kill, carnivores go for the intestines and vital organs where the primary nutrition lies. The predigested grains loaded with dietary fiber lie in the intestines. Monkey’s after making a kill, will seek out and ingest specific herbs and vegetables to help digest the meat they consumed. Even carnivores need their fiber and instinctively consume it their first course.

    Taste, cost and nutrition are the drivers of vegetarianism which are primarily related to the food. Great cuisine is a marketable vegetarian position. If the consumer likes the cuisine they will indulge and incorporate it into a lifestyle change which has longevity and lasting health benefits. Inspiring consumers to dine on vegetarian cuisine through its development will cause them to embrace it as a dietary lifestyle change.

    The flip side of the irony is that meat consumption, which helped evolve as human beings, is now that which is causing the deterioration of human health and killing us through over consumption in western society. As omnivores we need to lower meat consumption and significantly increase vegetarian cuisine to establish homeostasis in our diets.

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  9. Ron Pickarski January 12, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    I returned Thursday evening from a trip to Philadelphia where I worked with an international food service contractor on vegetarian menus. It was a formidable challenge to bring the menu items I developed to an impeccable standard. The challenge is in bringing vegan cuisine to the standard of meat. Vegetarian Cuisine is compared to meat cuisine’s for acceptability in that meat is the standard. That is a healthy challenge and I believe that vegan cuisine can rise to that standard. It did is several of the entrees I created (Chicken Style BBQ and Chicken Style Tikki Marsala to name a few).

    Eventually vegan cuisine will stand on it’s own merits and not have to take on the names of meat dishes and set a standard of acceptability independent of meat. One of the dishes created was a Moussaka which is related to lamb. The corporate chef came up with the name Greek Eggplant Lasagna. That was rising to the occasion in that neither the recipe nor name relate to Moussaka.

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