Cashing in on another 10 year cycle: Taking vegan food, trendiness and sustainability seriously

On my most recent trip to Costa Rica, I got a surprise at an organic farm in the San José Valley. Twenty+ people were gathered in the middle of the night in a desert,…

On my most recent trip to Costa Rica, I got a surprise at an organic farm in the San José Valley. Twenty+ people were gathered in the middle of the night in a desert, gathering rainwater. A man was giving a talk about how farming, using diversity, brings harmony and beauty to the world. I heard ecologist Peter Mumford talk about how it feels to go toward things that matter by living close to nature. I also heard about a group of young entrepreneurs who were using their passion for hip hop and movement to fight inequality, racism, and social injustice. The tour guide told us he’d been to Haiti and called the place “paradise.” My ideas about the country and what I wanted to see were blown away. This trip stirred me on so many levels. The “hustle” and creativity that defined trips in the 1970s, before cellular phones, tablets, social media, and the internet made travel by the numbers rather than the experience.

I went to New York City this weekend to see the Broadway debut of the musical “The Miseducation of Cameron Post,” about a teenager who learns to embrace her sexuality and who wants to go to college after being forced to take an exorcism-like course because of her family. I saw an interesting dichotomy in the play. The “queer conversion” religion of the title, which teaches kids that homosexuality is an abomination, was portrayed in a way that could have been comical. The attitudes of the churchgoers toward the young, confused person were not funny. One priest actually stood up and started quoting scripture to the audience. The show is about finding acceptance and truth and the absolute desirability of being yourself no matter who you are. But the reality is often that people are very uncomfortable if the people around them aren’t quite aligned with their views and beliefs. And this is true for adults and kids alike.

In spite of that, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” still is an exciting show with great performances and music. Of course it’s meant to be entertaining. But the message is much more meaningful.

On top of all that, there are not a lot of our kids that see this happen. There is not a lot of our kids that know someone that is gay.

Still, there are restaurants like The Capital Grille that do offer vegan/vegetarian menu options, and there are new vegan “meatloaf” options being introduced to restaurants. But not much more than that. For too long, I don’t think people were as eager to embrace a vegan/vegetarian diet as they are now. It took many people a lifetime to mature to that point, and it still takes us at least a generation to expand out of our comfort zones. But it’s happening now.

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When I was a kid, my meal choices were made for me by my parents. It’s not any harder these days. But I think I wouldn’t be able to eat such meals without a lot of help. There are more restaurants that offer vegan/vegetarian fare than there were ten years ago. But the meal and the place still has to be handled in such a way that I feel comfortable, like a stranger, at that restaurant. I would be not happy if I had to pay more for something I felt like I might be uncomfortable eating. And we really need to be even more brave and unafraid. The food doesn’t have to be necessarily vegan/vegetarian, but restaurants and people who work in the industry should think about being humane and offering meals that aren’t as tough for the nutritionist and the chef to create.

There are a lot of transitions happening right now. There are people out there who are making really big statements about the types of restaurants they work in. Restaurants are starting to cater to a wider and wider range of tastes, from their menus to their staff and menu. It is not easy to do it, but it’s good and it is necessary. It isn’t only who we want to cook for; it’s who we want to eat too. It’s a big difference.

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