No crispy bacon and pancakes soaked in buttery maple syrup. No lox and cream cheese on a warm and chewy Montreal-style bagel, with red onions and capers. No blue cheese folded into a tender baby spinach salad.
Nope. To vegans — and the author of The Observer’s recent article “Are Vegan’s Right” — these succulent masterpieces of fat, salt and soul-satisfying umami do not taste as good as simply saying no to the cultural drug of eating animal products. How radical! And yet, as David Macfarlane points out, not eating a hot dog (or a locally smoked venison sausage with sauerkraut and Dijon, say) is probably not as ethically “extreme” as choosing to support the cruelty inherent in our industrial meat and dairy and fish industries.
So if you’re not up for a nose-to-tail-dive into veganism, but are among the 30 percent of folk who are at least trying to eat less meat, here are five eating regimes that fall somewhere between Tofurkey and all-you-can-eat ribs. 1. Vegetarianism
Don’t eat meat or fish, but other animal products are on the table. Say yes to eggs but no to back bacon; yes to fresh mozzarella on your Margherita pizza but no to salami and capicola on your “meat lovers deluxe;” and yes to the cheddar and mayo but no to the beefy burger patty. Read this: Diet for a Small Planet
, by Frances Moore Lappe. This 1971 visionary classic has its own research institute attached now, and a richly resourced website. 2. Flexitarianism
You’re basically a vegetarian, but you’re at your daughter’s house for dinner and there’s a roast on the table. What do you do? If you’re flexitarian, you smile, eat the roast and even enjoy it. There’s a reason the American Dialect Society named “flexitarian” the “most useful word of 2003.” It allows you to engage comfortably in the social act of eating in an overwhelmingly pro-meat culture while acting on your ethics as a general rule. Read this: The Flexitarian Table: Inspired, Flexible Meals for Vegetarians, Meat-lovers, and Everyone in Between.
Essentially, it’s a cookbook that helps you to negotiate homes with conflicting diets. 3. Wild-i-tarian
Alright. You caught me. This isn’t a real word. But as far as I can tell, there isn’t one yet for this very real and growing ethical eating trend: consuming only meat that has been humanely and sustainably wild-harvested. Venison. Ruffed grouse. Moose. Bear. Quebec chef Martin Picard popularized this on his Food Network show Wild Chef. Read this: The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance
. It’s longtime vegan Toval Cerulli’s tale of craving meat and finding an ethical balance by learning to hunt — and eat — wild game. 4. Pescatarian
No meat, but yes to seafood. Looking into the eyes of a halibut, it’s a stretch to see the same soul-resonance as one might when looking into the eyes of a sheep (it helps, too, that sheep’s eyes point forwards, like humans, whereas halibuts’ eyes are separated onto the top and bottom of their slimy bodies. Oysters and clams: even harder). Doubtless, as Macfarlane described, fish likely don’t enjoy suffocating on the deck of a ship. But unless they’re farmed, they’ve enjoyed a wild, natural life up until the moment of their passing. Read this: Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood
, by Montreal writer Taras Grescoe. Even after investigating grim fisheries all over the world, Grescoe continues to eat fish as long as it is ethically procured. 5. Locavorism
As a conscious-eating practice, it’s hard to beat locavores’ regime. Only eat what is produced close to home. Container-shipped mangoes and coffee (even if they’re fairly traded) from equatorial regions to North America is madness. Farmers markets, CSAs and other devices help to make this a simpler proposition for urbanites. And with the environmental consciousness that comes with locavorism, vegetarianism and veganism are often not far behind. Read this: The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating
, Vancouver authors Alisa Smith and JB MacKinnon’s locavore manifesto.