The increasing popularity of vegetarianism

JAN BILTON
Last updated 13:19 21/11/2013
vegetarian

MOUTH-WATERING: These days vegetarian options are far from boring.

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Becoming a vegetarian is an increasingly popular option. Some make the choice for health reasons, others to support animal welfare or sustainability of the planet.

Research at Stanford University in the United States found that a produce-driven diet directly helps the health of the planet in more ways than one. Growing produce generates fewer carbon emissions and uses less water than raising livestock resulting in less of an environmental toll.

Vegetarianism is not new. Records indicate that it was common in 6th century BC India, Greece and Southern Italy. In most cases it was associated with the desire not to harm animals. In India it was common among religious people and philosophers.

Later in Europe, with the introduction of Christianity, vegetarianism lost popularity. Even though many orders of monks in medieval Europe may have banned meat consumption as a sign of personal sacrifice, they still enjoyed fish.

It wasn't until the 19th century that vegetarianism enjoyed a resurgence when, in 1847, the Vegetarian Society was formed in England. Similar societies soon followed in Germany and other parts of Europe. Today the popularity of produce-based meals has encouraged top restaurant chefs the world over to reinvent their menus to showcase vegetarian options.

There are several types of vegetarian diets. Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products, but no eggs. Most also consume honey. Ovo-vegetarians consume eggs (and most, honey), but no dairy. Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume eggs, dairy and honey. Vegans consume plant-based foods only - that is, their menus are dairy, egg and honey-free.

Arguments for the benefits of vegetarianism are weight loss, better cholesterol levels, longevity and a lower risk of developing cancer.

However, I like vegetarian meals because they're attractive, tasty and economical, as well as being healthy. What more could you ask for?

 

TURKISH EGGPLANT SALAD

If garlic-infused oil is unavailable add 2 cloves of crushed garlic to the tomatoes. Great served with a crisp green salad and crusty bread or as a side with barbecue fare.

1 large eggplant, cubed
1/2 cup garlic-infused oil
1 onion, diced
400g can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
Pinch each: Ground cayenne, ground cloves
1/2 tsp each: Ground cinnamon, allspice, cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Optional toppings: Plain yoghurt, crumbled feta cheese and/or pumpkin seeds, lemon juice, chopped parsley or coriander

NEED TO KNOW

Main ingredient Tomatoes
Type of dish Salad
Course Side dish
Cooking time <30 min
Serves/makes 4-6
Special options Vegetarian

1. Heat a little oil in a wok or frying pan. Sauté the eggplant in batches until golden, adding extra oil with each batch. Place aside.

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2. Sauté the onion in a little more oil, until softened. Add the tomatoes, water, spices and eggplant. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in the parsley.

3. Serve warm or cold. Great served with a mixture of the toppings.

- The Marlborough Express

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