Life, Death and and What to Eat For Breakfast
I recently gave a public talk on Living Green, Eating Green, which I fashioned to be a sort of meatlessness’ greatest hits— how being meatless is cool— Bill Clinton and Oprah are doing it, and it’s cool in terms of carbon output. It’s good for our health —even the USDA’s new dietary guidelines say so. It might even dig us out of the deficit, as Mark Bittman argues. I threw in a stanza from D H Lawrence’s erotic poem “Figs” to get the audience revved up about the connection between produce and pleasure.
People nodded, I felt like it was going well, I ended big — change what you eat, then change your life, then change the world. Applause. Then I opened it up to questions.
A guy in the third row asked, “What do I eat for breakfast?”
Excellent question. Because you can’t change the world when you can’t even figure out what to eat. And it reminds me while I think only the choir is listening, sometimes I can actually connect with mainstream folks who want to change but need some boots on the ground basics.
Great news, I said. Many of the foods you already eat are plant-based. Let’s start with breakfast. You eat oatmeal? Granola?
“I don’t like cereal.”
How about fruit?
Okay. So what do you like? What do you usually eat for breakfast?
“Bacon and eggs.”
If you eat and enjoy eggs and bacon, even if you want to give them up, there’s a primal fear of deprivation. You imagine a great big zero on your plate where the foods you loved used to be. Well, that sucks.
Heart disease doesn’t have much going for it, either. I worry for people’s health. Something you should know about eggs, I tell him. I’m not a big fan of steak, but one egg yolk has more cholesterol than an 8-ounce steak. That doesn’t mean you should eat steak, though.
I glossed over the worst bits of environmental impact and animal cruelty — this group wasn’t ready to go there. I’d rather woo people about the benefits of a plant-based diet then terrify and terrorize them. don’t want to alienate, I want to entice. And I’m a slut, I came with a bribe — fig and walnut bread, wholesome and homemade, organic and totally vegan. The crowd wolfed it down (know your audience). My goal is to be the vegan who invites everyone to the table.
So while Egg Man and the others munched, I took the opportunity to offer as many other morning meatless options as I could think of. Coffee is plant-based (hallelujah), so is fruit juice. Faux bacon and sausage offer great plant-based meat options for meat lovers looking to make a change. While you’re changing, go wild — just because it’s breakfast doesn’t mean you have to eat traditional breakfast food. Nothing wrong with peanut butter on whole wheat toast. Or leftover veggie pizza. In Asia, the word for breakfast is asagohan — literally, morning rice. I thought of telling Egg Man about tofu scramble, which I love for any meal of the day. But I shied away from mentioning it. Because while tofu is widely available and accepted and even on a lot of restaurant menus, to a certain sector, say, those who eat eggs for breakfast every day, it’s still out there.
You could argue that compared to the news of recent weeks — the death of Osama bin Laden, the devastation wrought by tsunamis, tornadoes and floods — what to eat for breakfast is pretty insignificant. I’d argue there’s nothing more important. Eating meatless may not bring about global peace or but I think it’s a start and it’s one instance where a single action affects all of us on many levels.
There is no up side to being more vegan than thou. We are each on our own journey. And we all deserve great eats along the way. So, Egg Man, if you’re out there — and I know you are — be in touch. Let’s do breakfast.
- Follow this link to Ellen’s recipe for Tofu Scramble with Jalapeño and Cilantro
- … and Vegan Fig and Walnut Bread.
- See more of Ellen’s Meatless Monday Musings on VegKitchen.
Ellen Kanner is the Huffington Post’s Meatless Monday blogger, the syndicated columnist The Edgy Veggie, and contributor to publications including Culinate, Bon Appetit, and Every Day With Rachael Ray as well as her own blog.