Monday, January 17, 2011

Meatless Monday: Things You Might Not Know (and a recipe for Meatless Chili)

On Friday our usual radio show was missing from the airwaves and we happened to stumble upon NPR’s On Point, live from Boston’s WBUR. The topic of the day was “Vegans Take America.” Guests included Kim O’Donnel, author of The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook; Isa Chanda Moskowitz, who wrote the recently-published Appetite for Reduction: 125 Fast and Filling Low-Fat Vegan Recipes; and Mollie Katzen, author of two books I know well: Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Since Meatless Monday was referenced quite a few times during the course of the program, I thought it would make a worthy link. While searching for it, I made a few surprising discoveries about the Meatless Monday movement.

Here is the first. Readers of a certain age will certainly recall the television commercial featuring Mr. Whipple, the grocer who admonished customers, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.” And why is this relevant? Mr. Whipple and Meatless Monday are both the brainchildren of New York City ad man Sid Lerner

About a decade ago Lerner’s doctor had told him that his cholesterol and blood pressure were too high and that his diet was a big part of the problem. In an interview last May Lerner stated, “My wife and I were on the advisory board of an environmental group at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In 2003, cholesterol and saturated fat were in their heyday. We wanted to know how much meat was too much. It turns out we were about 45 percent over what the USDA recommends—or three out of 21 meals a week… Using President Roosevelt and the rationing of meat during World War II as inspiration, we dusted it off, using alliteration as our guide. We started Meatless Monday in 2003 and it's blossomed ever since.” Lerner still eats meat, although less of it and certainly not on Monday, and emphasizes that the movement’s goal is incremental change, without guilt.

The second surprise should have been no surprise once I learned the identity of the mastermind behind the movement. Meatless Monday has gone global! A quick tour of the Meatless Monday site will give you an idea of how many restaurants, institutions, public figures, and bloggers around the world have already embraced the cause. Furthermore, Lerner conducted a survey last summer in which he found that 20% of the people interviewed had heard of Meatless Monday. 

Inspired by all I had read, I decided to get ready for Meatless Monday by cooking up a big batch of an old favorite — vegetarian chili. I always start with a recipe from The Complete Round-theWorld Meat Cookbook, by Myra Waldo, a book my grandmother gave me as a wedding gift [no longer in print]. By substituting a few vegetables for Myra's diced boneless beef, I have morphed her recipe for Texas Chili con Carne into the following:

Meatless Texas Chili
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 large pepper*, chopped
4 medium (or 2 large carrots), peeled, then diced
1 medium sized eggplant, peeled, then diced
1 29 oz can tomatoes 
1 14.5 oz can tomatoes
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons chili powder (I like Penzey’s 9000)
1 16 oz can kidney beans
1 16 oz can black beans
2 cups cooked brown rice
*Try to purchase organic; peppers are No. 7 on EWG’s Dirty Dozen list.

Heat the oil in a large pot. Sauté the onions and garlic until soft. Then add the other vegetables, stirring frequently until tender. Mix in the tomatoes and seasonings. Cover and cook over low heat for at least two hours. Add the beans and rice, taste for seasoning and cook 10 minutes longer. This recipe makes 8 generous servings (at least).

Note that a good substitution for the eggplant [I know some of you out there are not fond of this vegetable] is zucchini. Note also that this is a vegan recipe if you forgo the cheese. This is the perfect comfort food for a cold Winter's day. Enjoy!

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

1 comment:

  1. Yay for Meatless Monday! Your vegetarian chili looks awesome. It's a favorite Meatless Monday dish of mine.

    I host a weekly Meatless Monday blog carnival. This would be a great post to link to it.

    I invite you to add your meatless posts to the carnival and help spread the Meatless Monday movement!

    ♥ Rebecca Jean
    Midnight Maniac