DIMINISHING DI­ETS

THERE’S A NEW BREED OF “HEALTHY” DIN­ERS IN­VIG­O­RAT­ING THE IN­DUS­TRY AND GIV­ING RESTAU­RANTS—VE­GAN OR OTH­ER­WISE—A FAIR CHANCE

F&B World - - CONTENTS - Text by AN­GELO COM­STI Pho­tos cour­tesy of GRASS­ROOTS PANTRY

Avoid­ing meat—even tem­po­rar­ily—will not only save peo­ple’s health, but also the planet's fu­ture

Mon­days have never been so healthy ever since celebrity sib­lings Paul, Mary, and Stella McCart­ney launched their non- profit cam­paign Meat Free Mon­days eight years ago. It’s a no­ble ef­fort not only to de­crease an­i­mal slaugh­ter but also to raise aware­ness about the un­fa­vor­able im­pact of non- stop meat con­sump­tion on our en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing de­for­esta­tion for pas­tures and in­creased green­house gas emis­sions. Above all and known by many, a meat- free diet im­proves health. Many stud­ies have re­ported that sat­u­rated fat- rich food in­creases the chances of heart dis­ease, can­cer, type 2 di­a­betes, and, well, obe­sity.

Ac­tu­ally, this in­for­ma­tion is not new. We all know that the less meat we eat, the bet­ter it is for the planet and our health. It has been the same from then un­til now; the only thing dif­fer­ent is that more and more peo­ple are do­ing some­thing about it. If ve­g­an­ism was pre­vi­ously as­so­ci­ated with the re­li­gious, the body- con­scious, and an­i­mal rights ac­tivists, these days, a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion has joined the band­wagon by pledg­ing to go ve­gan, even if briefly.

AL­TER­NAT­ING AP­PETITES

To many car­ni­vores— which in­cludes mil­lions of Filipinos— to­tally elim­i­nat­ing fish, dairy, eggs, meat, and by- prod­ucts of slaugh­ter in their daily meals is quite a big, life- chang­ing move. But a lot of them are dis­cov­er­ing that they aren’t re­quired to go that ex­tra mile to live a health­ier life­style. A sin­gle and grad­ual step can al­ready make a big dif­fer­ence.

Ac­cord­ing to the Ve­gan So­ci­ety, a reg­is­tered ed­u­ca­tional char­ity founded in the UK, in 2013, 40 per­cent more peo­ple signed up for a tem­po­rary ve­gan menu com­pared to the prior year. And this prac­tice has gained so much ground re­cently that Whole Foods sees it as one of the big­gest food trends this year. The Amer­i­can su­per­mar­ket chain refers to this fash­ion­able move­ment as flex­i­tar­i­an­ism a. k. a. eat­ing mostly, but not strictly, veg­e­tar­ian. It’s no mys­tery a lot of peo­ple abide by it, as it’s more con­ve­nient, loads eas­ier, and is more at­tain­able than com­pletely fore­go­ing the beloved steak and roast pig. Be­sides, pop­u­lar and well- loved per­son­al­i­ties like Jamie Oliver and Sir Richard Bran­son cham­pion the McCart­neys’ cam­paign.

The shift is ev­i­dent. In re­cent years, our culi­nary vo­cab­u­lary and pantry have been in­tro­duced to a va­ri­ety of grains like quinoa and teff, co­conut sugar and flour, acai and goji berries, and a range of pulses and beans. In the sum­mer of 2011, Europe saw the open­ing of its very first ve­gan gro­cery chain called Ve­ganz lo­cated in Ber­lin. And in terms of at­ti­tude, ma­cho tra­di­tion­al­ists are slowly go­ing the green route after see­ing pow­er­ful men like Bill Gates and Bill Clin­ton trade their love of roasts for veg­gies.

THE GOOD FOOD

The wel­come change in food con­sumerism can also be cred­ited to the likes of Peggy Chan, whose cre­ations in her res­tau­rant Grass­roots Pantry have been at­tract­ing a hefty chunk of the Hong Kong din­ing mar­ket.

Chan wasn’t raised a ve­gan. In fact, she has trav­eled around China and has sam­pled many of the coun­try’s most bizarre of­fer­ings— fried mag­gots, pig’s brain, and a still- beat­ing snake’s heart. In 2010, like many con­verts, her con­cern for an­i­mal wel­fare and con­vic­tion for non- vi­o­lence drove her to stop eat­ing red meat. She then re­searched and stud­ied the mat­ter fur­ther and dis­cov­ered the count­less is­sues linked to meat con­sump­tion, which even­tu­ally pushed her to do some­thing about her own diet. “I made a con­scious de­ci­sion at the age of 16 to quit con­sum­ing red meat for re­li­gious and an­i­mal wel­fare rea­sons, which stemmed from a stream of cathar­tic ex­pe­ri­ences and even­tu­ally di­rected me to ac­tively prac­tice non- vi­o­lence.”

She adds, “As in­for­ma­tion be­came more and more eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble on the In­ter­net, guer­rilla films and doc­u­men­taries also be­came more wide­spread to­wards the mid- 2000s, I learned about all the sur­round­ing is­sues that live­stock pro­duc­tion con­trib­utes to— be­gin­ning from an eth­i­cal and so­cial ground­ing. With this in­for­ma­tion, I vowed to build a ca­reer that would al­low me to bring about the is­sues that our in­dus­try faces; the un­der­ly­ing is­sues we face in the food pro­duc­tion, man­u­fac­tur­ing, and con­sump­tion cy­cle; and the in­hu­mane prac­tices that are com­mon through­out the an­i­mal live­stock and ge­netic mod­i­fied foods in­dus­tries. As for my­self turn­ing ve­gan, it is still a work in progress, al­though it helps that I eat our own GP dishes 90 per­cent of the time!” Though this is the life­style she has be­come loyal to, Chan ex­plains that her re­spect and sup­port for farm­ers who tend to their pro­duce and an­i­mals are not lost.

In 2011, the Le Cor­don Bleu grad­u­ate opened Grass­roots Pantry with the hope of in­tro­duc­ing— not preach­ing— her kind of cui­sine to those who are open­minded and ad­ven­tur­ous. She has been suc­cess­ful thus far, with dishes like BBQ Pop­corn “Chicken” made of hedge­hog mush­rooms and co­conut amino sauce and gnoc­chi com­posed of teff, maitake mush­room cashew béchamel and lemon- thyme pesto in­spir­ing meat­lov­ing cus­tomers to en­joy a more bal­anced diet.

Her thought process is pretty smart and sen­si­ble. “I al­most al­ways be­gin with the veg­etable list, what­ever is sea­sonal, and then build the dishes from there. The rea­son is that our bod­ies are tuned to the nat­u­ral sea­sons. In the sum­mer when our bod­ies are heated, we crave cool­ing foods such as cu­cum­bers, squash, cit­rus, and salad leaves, whereas in the win­ter, we need warmth and fiber, there­fore our bod­ies will nat­u­rally look for more root veg­eta­bles, whole grains, and sweet spices in our foods.” The ros­ter then goes through a mem­ory process, which in­cludes her own din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, churned by her cre­ativ­ity to cre­ate tex­tures, fla­vors, and her sig­na­ture “grass­roots” twist. Viet­namese Yel­low Curry with Chicken Wings and Baguette be­comes Viet­namese Yel­low Curry with Grilled Hedge­hog Mush­room ( for tex­ture repli­ca­tion), and Or­ganic Short- Grain Brown Rice ( for the starch/ fiber/ whole foods com­po­nent).

Sur­pris­ingly, Chan ad­mits that most of her clients are not re­ally veg­e­tar­i­ans or ve­g­ans, but peo­ple who want to learn about this health­ier life­style. Pre­cisely, the new gen­er­a­tion of din­ers— flex­i­tar­i­ans. “Preach­ing, judge­ment, and putting up diet re­stric­tions are never go­ing to in­spire peo­ple around you to make long- term changes in their habits. In­stead, we spend more en­ergy on stay­ing cre­ative, three steps ahead, and by show­ing how it can be done through tan­gi­ble re­sults.”

“Preach­ing, judge­ment, and putting up diet re­stric­tions are never go­ing to in­spire peo­ple around you to make long-term changes in their habits,” says Peggy Chan.

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