Plant One On Me
Vegetables are getting a lot of love in the food world these days. The simple message by Michael Pollan over a decade ago to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants” seems to be coming into full broadcast. Today's interest in clean eating and whole foods, combined with more adventuresome palates and superfood popularity are giving plants a more prominent place on the plate without having to call itself Vegetarian or Vegan.There are a variety of forces driving this herbivore culture. There are ethical issues like climate change and animal welfare concerns raised by those with a political stance against meat; some cite health reasons, referencing the the revised Dietary Guidelines advising Americans to eat less meat or the WHO report that linked meat to cancer; and others who can't afford the volatile beef prices or are simply worried about food safety. As meat is being reconsidered, plants have benefited from more favorable reappraisal.Plants have slowly crept into the fabric of our food culture over the last five years. We talk about vegetables of the year, like Brussels sprouts and kale (seaweed is poised to take over 2016), and non-meat ingredients are taking the place of iconic meat dishes, like Ramen burgers. Vegetarian fast food joints are opening and traditional fast food joints, long on beef and chicken offerings, are showcasing more vegetable focused dishes to retain and attract evolving customer tastes. Amy’s, the frozen food entrée brand has built an empire on vegetarian recipes, and Meatless Mondays are a real thing, giving us a new category of eaters: Flexitarians, those who have cut back on meat rather than cut it out altogether.
Restaurants are delivering up plants in new ways. Dirt Candy in New York doesn’t even use the word vegetarian (despite being a vegetarian restaurant) because chef and owner Amanda Cohen doesn’t want to get lumped into a lifestyle category. Bon Appetit named AL’s Place in San Francisco the best new restaurant of 2015 and the meat on the menu is assigned to the role of a side, not an entrée. Frankie and Jo's is a plant-based ice cream shop in Seattle, and Spiralizing has a place on restaurant menus. Lastly, I have to mention Mark Bittman who recently left his position as New York Times food writer to help launch The Purple Carrot, a vegan take on the ever popular meal delivery kits to live his mission to help people eat more plants.
The latest trend in all things plants is the Vegetarian Butcher, which takes your traditional meat product (burger patty, tenderloin, meatball, etc.) and makes it out of plants. Right up the street from us is the Herbivorous Butcher selling a wide variety of plant-based meats and cheeses, and is one of many vegetarian butchers to open in the US. This trend gives new relevance to the popularity of plants and because of it's mock meat form, an even bigger threat to meat as a full replacement. If plants can be cheaper, more sustainable, and tastier than their meat counterparts, the rise of plants could be more revolution than an evolution of our diet.In short: Plants have a more prominent place on the plate today. Vegetarians, Vegans, and Flexitarian diets are growing in popularity as plant-based diets are showcased as the healthier and cheaper alternative to meat. Check out your local Vegetarian Butcher to get a plant-based andouille sausage if you don't believe me.