It’s no surprise that for overfed Americans, eating less meat is a good idea. But a new book goes further and shows how simply lessening our consumption of animal products can drastically improve our bodies, minds, and the planet we inhabit.
Food systems expert Brian Kateman had essentially given up meat – except on occasions when he indulged. One Thanksgiving as he reached for a turkey drumstick, his sister quipped, “I thought you were a vegetarian.” He tried to explain that the goal was improvement, not perfection. Admitting his own defensiveness, he decided to adopt more positive language that would recognize the value of even small, incremental changes. He co-founded the Reducetarian Foundation and serves as its president.
Kateman gathered a compelling collection of more than 70 essays from some of the most respected thought leaders, and the result is “The Reducetarian Solution: How the Surprisingly Simple Act of Reducing the Amount of Meat in Your Diet Can Transform Your Health and the Planet.”
Mark Bekoff makes a visceral argument for “Going ‘Cold Tofu.” Daniella Martin expounds on her experiments with guests she invited to sample “Insects. They’re What’s For Dinner.” Joan Dye Gussow explains exactly why “It’s About Much More than Meat.”
It’s a hard-hitting and surprisingly readable compilation. Most essays are no more than three pages long, a digestible length for anyone. Contributor Pat Crocker authored a section titled “The Reducetarian Toolbox” and a 50-page-plus section of vegetarian-adaptable recipes, including a beautiful, ruby-red Roasted Beet Soup (recipe below).
With a goal of encouraging “healthy, sustainable, and compassionate food choices,” the group’s website offers tools, including a “pledge page” that gauges and explains the impact of our decisions. For example: Click an icon of a plate to indicate how many times a day you eat meat. Once: You eat more than 82 percent of the people on Earth. Twice: More than 96 percent. Three times: A staggering 99.5 percent. That’s more than a simple snapshot of bodily or economic excess; it points to the enormous global challenges that encompass everything from animal and human health to greenhouse gases and climate change.
Kateman doesn’t advocate for an all-or-nothing solution. He recognizes the value of “Meatless Mondays” and other methods to reduce our reliance on animal products. He states: “Meat consumption, like any behavior, is a spectrum, and often changes gradually, not overnight; in other words, every plant-based meal is one worth celebrating.”
Roasted Beet Soup (v, gf)
Roasting all vegetables, but especially beets, is one of the tastiest ways to cook them. To prepare beets for cooking, scrub well using a vegetable brush. Trim away the top and bottom and, using a vegetable peeler, remove the top one third of the rough skin.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
4 medium beets, prepared (see recipe introduction) and quartered
2 carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 onion, quartered
1 parsnip, cut into 1-inch chunks
6 unpeeled cloves garlic
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 can (28-oz) chopped tomatoes and juices
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup shredded cabbage
¾ cup sour cream, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Toss the beets, carrots, onion, parsnip, garlic, and oil in a large bowl until combined. Spread the vegetables in one layer on one or two rimmed baking sheets. Roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and dill.
2. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes, their juices, and the broth in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is soft, about 12 minutes. Squeeze the roasted garlic into the tomato mixture, discarding the skins. Stir in the roasted vegetables.
3. Remove the pan from the heat. Using an immersion blender, purée the vegetables until smooth, or, working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender container or food processor bowl and process until smooth. Return the soup to the pan and heat through. Garnish each serving with 2 tablespoons of sour cream if desired.
Excerpted with permission from THE REDUCETARIAN SOLUTION: How The Surprisingly Simple Act of Reducing The Amount of Meat in Your Diet Can Transform Your Health and The Planet, edited by Brian Kateman, recipe by Pat Crocker. © 2017 by Reducetarian Foundation, Inc. TarcherPerigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Recipe photo by Ashleigh Amoroso. Please note that The Reducetarian Solution do not include recipe photos.