When in 2001 I wrote a book of vegetarian recipes called Meatless Meat, not many Americans were interested in becoming vegetarians or vegans. I wouldn't have been, either, if I hadn't suddenly discovered that I could no longer digest meat.
Now many young people are becoming vegetarians or vegans because they want to save the environment, and older people with bad hearts are making the same changes because their doctors tell them that if they don't, their hearts will soon give out.
Famous physicians like Dean Ornish, Nathan Pritikin, and Caldwell Esseltyn point to research proving that cutting meat and dairy products from the diet heals damaged hearts, and they have persuaded many people to stop eating those foods. It's not easy to make such a big change, after a lifetime of eating steaks for dinner and enjoying bacon-and-egg breakfasts. But it can be done, if the person is determined to become healthy again.
A dozen years have gone by since I published the meat-free, high-protein recipes in Meatless Meat, and more Americans have cut down on meat or eliminated it altogether. But not with the help of chefs, cooks, and elegant restaurants! Most chefs have devoted themselves either to a continuation of the heart-clogging meals they have always presented, or else to a parody of vegetarian food with such entrees as "flowers that turn out to be made of fried kale and filled with avocado-lime puree," or "a salsify composition that...mimics the flavor of a mignonette-dressed oyster." These "luxury ingredients," available at a new Chicago restaurant called Vegan where a meal costs $250, are reported in a serious — even admiring — review in the Chicago Tribune.
What the new Chicago restaurant offers is not food, it's an imitation of food. It's food as decoration, food as conspicuous consumption. Where is the satisfying high-protein item that takes the place of the steaks we are giving up? Where are the hearty vegetables, the whole grains, the delicious fruits, which, combined with the high-protein item, would constitute a healthy and balanced meal?
To find such food, we have to search for a sensible vegetarian or vegan restaurant like The Loving Hut, and not every town has one. Or we have to learn how to prepare a delicious high-protein but meatless item and surround it with well-cooked, well-seasoned and hearty vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.
Now that my cookbook, Meatless Meat, is available as an eBook from Thinker Media, learning how to make a tasty veggie burger, a meaty-tasting vegetarian pizza, and vegetarian versions of other standard favorites is simpler than ever. You can load this book into your Kindle, Nook, iPad, or Kobo in a few minutes and read recipes for real, meaty-tasting food, not fried ornaments. Preparing such meals is not difficult. Eating this way is eating real food. And you'll be healthier.