Hard to Believe We’re Still Here in 2018

August 29, 2018

I am an avid listener of the NPR radio program 1A. Well, I was an avid listener, until last week.


I find the show and its host, Joshua Johnson to be intelligent, unbiased and open-minded to all sides of an argument or issue. Again, until last week.


I often go on record as saying that I’m “not that kind of vegan.” You know the ones, lecturing everyone, preaching, waggling their fingers in your face.


But I am an avowed vegan and have lived a compassionate, plant-passionate lifestyle for more than thirty years. And I have just about had it, people. My compassion is slowly waning and my patience is shot.


I am so tired of the jokes, barbs and trivializing scoffing that we veg eaters endure at the hands of carnivores. Joshua Johnson ended a program of his last week with a quick story about Finland’s army serving 2 vegetarian meals weekly in an attempt to slow the effects of climate change and to improve the health of their soldiers. To be fair, this is not a big leap or especially controversial move as the Finnish army has always been “friendly” to veg-eating soldiers with options suited to their choices.


The story in question came from the defense minister of Finland criticizing this formal move toward plant-based eating, saying he can’t see how “cauliflower shakes” will keep the soldiers strong. It’s a response I would expect from a defense minister; a big…strong…macho boy.


Back in the studio, Joshua Johnson and his guest panel had a field day with the story, yucking it up about their meat-centric diets and how simply awful it would be to live without meat.


I felt like I had been punched in the stomach.


Had I been transported back in time like Claire in Outlander? Had I left the enlightened year of 2018 where plant-passionate eating is the fastest growing food trend we know? The time when the World Health Organization issued a report suggesting that eating a plant-based diet is best for humanity and the planet? Had I been hurled back in time to the 1950’s when only girls on diets ate broccoli?


It was some of the most irritating 2-3 minutes of radio I can ever remember on NPR. Oh, yeah, this was on NPR!!!!! Not some conspiracy radio network; it was NPR.


And that brings me to the point of this writing. I have eaten as I do for 35 years and I have endured all the jokes, scrunched up noses, dissing by friends and family because of my food choices. As time went on and the rest of the world caught up with the idea that what we eat has a dramatic impact on our wellness and the planet, of course it turned out that the joke was on the rest of society with heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and obesity…and climate change all being linked to our worship at the altar of meat and poultry.


To hear it now, in 2018 on an intelligent show on NPR brought me up short. Is America as enlightened about food and its impact on wellness and the future of our planet as I think?


Then I read the stats. It seems we like to talk about making healthier choices; we like to talk about doing better for our personal wellness and the planet but we don’t do a thing about it. In a country of 325 million people, only 3% of Americans live what is described as a healthy lifestyle. According to the Washington Post, vegetarians still make up only a teeny tiny percentage of the population. Sure some people are choosing to eat less meat, but it seems we talk more than do more. Dismal.


So here we are, still enduring barbs and trivialization about making healthy choices. I ask myself what needs to happen to wake up and smell the toast? Nearly all of the “lifestyle diseases” that plague us are linked to the consumption of animal products (and processed foods).


I know the rep we vegans have. We don’t love food; we’re no fun; we only care about animals; we’re wusses. (Okay, some preachy vegans could stand to be a bit more fun, but still, they’re driven by a passion for compassion.)


Nothing could be further from the truth. Take Italy for instance: in a country of only 60 million people, 10% claim to be vegetarian or vegan. And would anyone, really anyone accuse Italians of not loving food or worse, not having fun? Or being sexy?


In our modern culture here in America, we seem to equate the good life with animal foods. I’m not so sure what’s so good about heart disease, gout, obesity, diabetes and cancer, but that’s me. All statistics and experts point to the good life being plant-passionate.


Much of the world is trending towards plant-based eating (with the US way behind  the curve) and this global shift could be here to stay.


Millennials are considered the drivers of this shift away from consuming animal products, but the plant-based movement is bigger than any one generation. Celebrities to athletes to entire companies including Google and Shared Space are supporting the movement to eat more plant-based foods and less meat.


Plant-passionate eating is becoming more accepted every day. And the trend is having far-reaching impacts.


According to a forecast report by restaurant consultancy group Baum & Whiteman in New York, “plant-based” will be the food trend of 2018. The report also anticipates that plant-based foods are poised to become the new organic.


International delivery service Just Eat named veganism as a top consumer trend in 2018, due to a 94% increase in “healthy food ordered.” According to data released by GrubHub, the top takeaway marketplace in the U.S., orders for plant-based food have reached a new high, with users choosing vegan food 19% more in the first half of 2017 than in the first half of 2016, which is interesting since only 1% of U.S. consumers claimed to be vegan in 2017. Someone’s eating all those veggies.


Mainstream health organizations are recommending a plant-based diet, including Kaiser Permanente, the largest healthcare organization in the U.S.; the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee; and the American Institute for Cancer Research.


There’s so much to living a plant-passionate lifestyle and none of it involves a cauliflower shake. The food is luscious, fresh, filled with life-giving nutrients and supportive of life on this planet.


So this goes out to you, Joshua Johnson from 1A. Invite me to join in on a panel one day about the impact of what we eat on climate change and human wellness. As the long-time host of Christina Cooks (on national public television since 1998), we’d be just two colleagues debating. It would be fun to talk about the facts versus the myths around vegetarian eating.


I might even bring you something to taste