Perhaps I am just in a snotty mood, but I'm distressed as I read this month's Vegetarian Times.
As usual, the magazine is full of beautiful pictures of food, great cooking advice, some terrific-sounding recipes (especially those by vegan chef Myra Kornfeld who also has one vegan and one flexitarian cookbook), and interesting food news from people who share many of my commitments to sustainable agriculture.
I'm not thrilled about all of the recipes, but I am almost used to those calling for processed ingredients like a particular brand's frozen potatoes or fake-food processed soy sausage. Fine--I just won't make those.
I am also almost used to all the ads for commercial supplements--advertisements promising to fulfill an emptiness in your life more than an inadequacy in your diet. (And now that I think about it, I realize that a food magazine would not want to advertise that a diet following their recipes might be inadequate.)
What bothers me this month is an article about how to avoid non-vegetarian foods often found in foods that might appear to be vegetarian or vegan.
Up to a point, I get the point.
While I don't want to switch from Guinness and Bass and other cask-conditioned fine ales (and even some Chardonnay) to Budweiser, it might make sense for those of you who do not want to imbibe isinglass, a protein from fish air bladders. (Yep--thousands of years ago people stored their beer in fish air bladders because they did not let anything go to waste. They discovered that it improved their beer. Wild, isn't it?)
While I don't want to switch from aged and imported European cheeses, or from the local cheeses made from raw milk, to Land 0' Lakes Mozzarella (named by the article) or even Horizon Organic Cheddar, it might make sense for those of you who do not want to ingest animal rennet, an enzyme from the stomach of calves, an enzyme discovered thousands of years ago when calf stomachs were used to hold milk--and lo and behold it made cheese. Wild, isn't it?) Vegetarian rennet is made from fungi and fig leafs instead. And some "cheeses" are rennetless, like most goat cheeses and cottage cheeses.
You should also skip the Horizon Organic Milk and Promise Light margarine, fortified with Vit D-3 made from lanolin (!) or fish oil, and go instead for a milk that is fortified with Vit D-2, made from plants and not as easy to absorb. Personally, I'll stick with organic whole milk from a local creamery. Whole milk does not need to be fortified with Vit D at all, unlike skim and 2% which legally must be (the D is in the fat). Nevertheless, I realize many people are worried about the saturated fat or the calories and want a reduced-fat milk.
We no longer have to depend on the old ways. I personally like to, but I realize there are competing ethical issues and health issues at play here and for many people, the balance would not fall where I put it for myself.
So while I don't plan to follow their advice, I am supportive so far.
What makes me crazy is that we should replace commercial strawberry yogurt that might have cochineal, a coloring derived from insects, NOT with real yogurt (if you are not vegan) and real strawberries (when they are in season) but with--get this--"foods with synthetic colorings (such as FD&C Red No. 40)". Make sure THAT is on your label.
Perhaps I should relax. After all, a vegetarian diet is not by definition a diet based on natural foods or environmental concerns.
But so many vegetarians, and so many writers in Vegetarian Times, share my concerns about natural foods and the environment--and in fact choose vegetarianism for precisely those reasons, or at least partly for those reasons. I see vegetarians and this magazine as fellow travelers. If you are in that camp, shoot them an email reminding them.