Author of Laurel's Kitchen

Today, everyone knows that vegetarian eating is healthier! But in 'those days,' doctors and mothers (and sometimes maybe even we) fretted that our lives would be short and decrepit. Hard to believe now but true! Before Laurel's Kitchen was published in 1976, you could not find any popular scientifically sound nutritional information, vegetarian or not. And forget about finding good vegetarian recipes or restaurants. There's been a vast improvement since then!

On the other side, you were not surrounded by junk food 25 years ago. Most people sat down to meals of mostly real food. Yes, bread was white, and yes, you'd enjoy the occasional birthday cake. But junk wasn't everywhere, wasn't anything like often. Ominously, we see junk burrowing deeper. More and more, in the next 25 years, we will need to ask, what is real food? Where is it coming from? Who can afford it? And, which carrot is vegetarian?

Certainly, the '60s generation didn't invent vegetarianism. It took off in the '70s and '80s because of its newly recognized cachet of healthfulness and the newly appreciated ecological benefits of eating lower on the food chain. These are still valid reasons to eat vegetarian. Vegetarian popularity is due for an upswing. It depends a lot on us. How do we present our cause? By serving as walking proof that vegetarian eating is satisfying. Do we believe and show that it's delicious, pretty, easy, cheap, healthful, fun, and kind to animals and that it saves the rainforest? What's not to like?

Founder, Fantastic World Foods

Today, the idea of eating vegetarian foods in the U.S. is much more common and acceptable to the general public than 25 years ago. In the '70s and '80s, it was a foreign idea to most people. Waiters in restaurants made funny faces when quizzed about ingredients. My children, who grew up as vegetarians, were teased in school. Today, they are respected for being vegetarian. Doctors in general did not advise their patients to avoid meat. Today, practically every doctor recommends cutting back. Twenty-five years ago, there were only a few companies like Fantastic Foods producing vegetarian foods, and the products were sold only in health foods stores. Today, vegetarian products are produced by large companies and comprise one of the fastest growing categories in supermarkets.

Vegetarianism is a trend as opposed to a fad. While the number of true vegetarians is increasing slowly, a rapidly growing segment of consumers chooses to eat vegetarian meals on a regular basis. Meat consumption is down. Today, there is an animal protein glut in this country. Mad cow disease, cancer, arteriolosclerosis, mercury poisoning in fish, etc., have scared people into eating 'more vegetarian.'

In the future, our society (and others) will move to a more vegetarian diet. There are three good reasons why a person chooses to be a vegetarian: compassion/ spiritual, health, and environment. In the first category, the number of people who really feel empathy for the suffering of animals is very small today; however, as we evolve into a more aware and enlightened state of mind, the numbers will grow. Second, the aging of the population is making us more aware of the effect of diet on our health. Though this group generally will not become pure vegetarians, they will eat less animal protein. Finally, with respect to the environment, it appears that, as a society, we are about to become very 'green.' Author Thomas Friedman recently wrote that 'green' is the next red, white, and blue. Over the next few years, we will see a powerful environmental movement. As it takes shape, it will be hard to ignore all the evidence that switching to a vegetarian diet could be the most environmentally responsible thing a person could do. One day eating meat will be seen as decadent, cruel, and irresponsible. Twenty-five years from now, I believe that vegetarianism will be the rule rather than the exception.

VEGETARIAN JOURNAL Issue Three 2007 < previous next >