Go Veg!

Chag Sameach!  And what a joyous festival it has been!   The 20’s and 30’s club sponsored the Succulent Sukkot Vegetarian Potluck and during the past week many of the 20’s and 30’s members of Temple Sholom challenged themselves to eating vegetarian.  It hasn’t been easy for me as I call myself a “flexitarian” or a person who prefers to eat mostly a plant based diet with the occasional meat dish, and in my case I prefer to eat animals humanly raised or “happy meat”.  Sometimes I go to a restaurant and the burger stares me in the face asking me to order and it’s hard to decide whether I want to support the environment or support my craving. But I am not the only person thinking that it is right to treat animals in an ethical way.  During Sukkot the reading begins with the order that a newborn calf must be left with its mother for seven days; we may not slaughter an animal and its offspring on the same day.  We all know this as not eating a calf in its mother’s milk.  There are many reasons to eat ethically, mostly our health and the environment, but eating a plant based diet is the easiest way to eat in a way that hurts the earth the least.

As we enter into October, Vegetarian awareness month, I want to tell you a little bit about why I prefer to eat a mostly plant based diet and just how effortless it can be.  It is no news that we must take steps to protect our Earth, the air, the water, the land.  I believe that one of the largest ways is in our diet.  Kathy Stevens gives us “Thirty Days, Thirty Reasons, Thirty Ways: Go Vegetarian In October!” recently in the Huffington Post, but here are couple of statistics that are important to me.  “It takes over 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef, vs. 49 gallons to produce a pound of apple” says Miss Stevens.  I also learned that “75% of our topsoil has been depleted primarily due to growing animals to feed people.”  Did you know that it takes 500 years to replace topsoil, which is the soil in which we plant seeds for growing the food we eat?  I also know that 70% of the antibiotics ever made go into the animals we eat and we only ingest the additional 30%.  Those same antibiotics will destroy our immune systems.  And what’s with Pink Slime?

Maybe you don’t want that steak after all.  Here are a few fun ways to create vegetarian dishes in your life.  First, don’t forget all of the non-meat dishes you ate growing up.  Spinach lasagna, pasta primavera,  vegetable soup, portabella burgers, vegetarian burritos, eggplant parmesan,  falafel, vegetable sir fry, mac and cheese, breakfast frittatas, crepes, ratatouille, veggie pizza, veggie quesadillas, kugal, and the list goes on.  Next, utilize cookbooks and the web.  I am a classically trained chef and you would not believe how much time I have spent on foodgawker.com just browsing the pictures and simple recipes.  Warning:  you may drool when entering the Food Gawker website.  Go to the farmers market or subscribe to a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, which is a farm subscription that will drop of food weekly to your doorstep.  CSA’s can create drastic support to local farmers and that food just happened to have been harvested the week before most likely and your food will be fresher and MUCH MORE flavorful, period.  Try out ethnic food; chances are you will find some bright and flavorful dishes you will love from around the world such as Southeast Asian cuisine, Israeli and Middle Eastern dishes, Indian food, and more.  I worked as a cook at Green Zebra restaurant in Chicago and found that vegetarian food can be fun to create and is basically the same food that we eat every day; you just swap out the meat for some veggies.   Finally, have a garden.  You can create dishes from the vegetables from your back yard; it does not get fresher than that folks.  Who can argue that a tomato picked from the vine tastes as good as a tomato shipped from South America in the middle of December.  Temple Sholom has created a beautiful edible landscape with the Gan Emunah, Garden of Faith.

While we had a delicious vegetarian feast at the Sukkot potluck you can find beautiful veggie dishes all the time. It is important to remember that you are paying more than high prices when eating meat on a regular basis.  You are making an impact on hurting the earth, your health, and your pocketbook.  So Go Veg!  Good luck and good eating.

Want to know more about vegetarian dishes or eating vegetarian?  Check out these resources.


Lis David is the general manager at Green Zebra restaurant in Chicago.  After attending Kendall College to classically train as a chef she found herself managing. She teaches canning and food preservation workshops and her lifes work its to teach sustainable & local eating.