Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Beets to Burgers Redux

As some of you know I've been reading a lot of food-related books lately: Heat, by Bill Buford (he was a lay apprentice to Mario Batali--about whose newest restaurant Del Posto I will get around to blogging soon), The Ominvore's Dilmma, by Michael Pollan, and now there's a new book out on vegetarianism (which I haven't even seen, let alone cracked).

But I thought this review from Slate did a great job of detailing the dilemma that Eli described so well in her inaugural post for this blog:

... vegetarianism grew up as an aberration swathed in asceticism and self-denial. Nobody was supposed to live sumptuously on a vegetarian diet; the point was precisely the opposite. Radical preacher Roger Crab, who became a hermit in 1652, renounced meat with a fervor typical of the early vegetarians and decided to eat only "broth thickned with bran, and pudding made with bran, & Turnep leaves chop't together, and grass." Had he been lucky enough to be a devout Hindu instead of a heretical Christian, he might have been eating the glorious vegetarian cuisine developed in the South Indian temple town of Udipi, notably those big, airy crepes called dosas, filled with spicy potatoes and accompanied by a few spoonfuls of coconut chutney and a little cup of hot, soupy sambhar, laced with vegetables and tamarind. When vegetarianism is about what to eat, instead of what not to eat, life picks up considerably.

In recent decades, the West has finally started to catch on. Anna Thomas, Deborah Madison, and all the other gurus of contemporary vegetarian cooking have dismantled the bleak, defiant approach to food that for so long characterized meatless menus in Britain and America. Nut patties and boiled carrots have given way to a new culinary tradition that draws on nearly everything in the edible kingdom—vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, grains, herbs, and spices—and evokes flavors from cuisines around the world. The absence of meat is unremarkable, just as it should be.

And who chooses to eat this way? People who like food, whether or not they call themselves vegetarians. There was a bloodless revolution, all right, but it happened in the kitchen. The rest is commentary.

Let's get back in the kitchen and lead the revolution ...

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