I remember a time not so long ago when declaring yourself a vegetarian, particularly in Europe and America, would have marked you as an oddity, a social aberration who perhaps hugged trees in your free time. Dining out was practically impossible. You were lucky if the menu included a side salad of limp, damp lettuce leaves with store-bought dressing.
These days, no one blinks when I say I’m vegetarian. If anything, I’m the new normal. Be it Whole Foods in New York, SuperNature in Singapore or Waitrose in London, supermarket shelves around the world are crammed with options that range from dairy-free yoghurt and almond milk to organic miso and bio-fermented turmeric.
“These days, no one blinks when I say I’m vegetarian. If anything, I’m the new normal”
In just over a decade, the vegan population in Britain, has jumped a whopping 361% to 542,000, and this number doesn’t include an existing vegetarian population of 1.14 million. But this isn’t so surprising. Health benefits aside, how could one resist the delicious plant-based offerings at restaurants all across the country? In London, these include roasted cauliflower steaks at Malibu Kitchen, as well as an exceptional “fish and chips” made of crispy battered tofu lined with nori at By Chloe.
It’s a trend repeated across the world, from high-street eateries to fancy restaurants. Beef & Liberty Burgers in Hong Kong just started serving up the Impossible Burger: a juicy stack made from plant proteins that looks and purportedly tastes like the real deal. Meanwhile, the legendary Le Bernardin restaurant in New York recently added a vegetarian tasting menu. And when even fast-food chains like Pizza Hut and McDonald’s offer vegan options, and Guinness announces it no longer uses fish bladders in its brewing process, you know vegetarianism is here to stay.
As with every major social revolution through the ages, writers and spiritual leaders have led the charge. The likes of the New York Times-bestselling food authors Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan, along with Vogue’s Jeffrey Steingarten, have explored the ecological and ethical dilemmas of eating meat. Meanwhile, Sadhguru and the Dalai Lama have expanded on the spiritual element.
Media platforms have also played a crucial role. Celebrity chefs Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver whip up meatless treats, and it’s impossible to keep up with the number of new cookbooks devoted to vegetables. Celebrities from Adele to Ellen DeGeneres declare themselves avowed vegetarians. I really could keep worse company.
My main takeaway? Consumers are more conscious of what they’re eating and why, and plant-based eating is here to stay.
This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine.