i'm sitting here in the kitchen, finishing a simple dinner of roasted purple potatoes and oyster mushrooms with sun dried tomato & parsley pesto, and a nice big side salad. the radio is playing softly in the background, but i'm not paying much attention. maybe it was the long, heated discussion i had with my friend carrie earlier today about food and american culture, but i'm feeling a little sentimental tonight.
how things have changed since i swore off meat in 1996. that the words vegetarian, vegan, raw, gluten free, and locavore are even present in the mainstream vernacular is something spectacular. at the dawn of my vegetarianism, the only people publicly meat-free that i knew of were my fellow politicized punks and hardcore kids, hippies, and people motivated by religious doctrines. foods that are now relatively easy to find in regular groceries (tofu, organic produce, ancient grains, carob, etc.) were only available in my hometown's small natural foods co-op, which smelled funny and was certainly not a place for one-stop-shopping. this was before whole foods moved east, before isa had cookbooks for sale on amazon, before farmer's markets were in every public park on saturdays. it's weird to say this, but they really were different times - barely 15 years ago! i'm not sure exactly who to thank (i'm sure an accurate list would include tens of thousands of names), but the foodscape i face now as a vegetarian is a million percent more accommodating then when i first embarked on this personal culinary journey.
this was driven home even more while i was walking around reading terminal market on monday, killing a bit of time before meeting mom and sis at the philadelphia flower show. while cruising the many stalls hawking both edible and non-food wares in this most excellent philadelphia institution, i veered off into a cook book store. while browsing, i came across a sight that made my heart swell:
this was only about 1/2 the shelf, too!
an entire shelf dedicated to vegan cookbooks! the vegetarian and produce-centric books took up almost another two shelves, as well. even in this snapshot, there are vegan tomes for every taste: the calorie conscious (i.e. "skinny bitch"...i want to hate it but must ask - is it better than nothing?), the time-strapped ("fresh & fast vegan"), the conscious parent ("vegan lunch box"), and the post-punk warrior ("veganomicon," i will never tire of thee).
and so while the world is still riddled with problems, and most americans' diets are somehow worse than ever, there is a silver lining. many people who used to have no clue, at least know what veganism means, however vaguely. businesses and stores that specialize in vegan, vegetarian, and natural products are flourishing. it's becoming normalized to spend time thinking and talking about how our diets affect agriculture, animal cruelty, the environment, the economy, and of course, our health. for sure, i could go on about this for many more paragraphs, but i'll just leave it at this: there are so many things about the current state of our world that scare me shitless. thankfully, one thing that bolsters me and helps me feel brave is knowing that, as far as personal diet choices go, i am less alone than ever before.