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A healthy - and delicious - alternative to meat

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Carolyn James first tried the vegetarian lifestyle while growing up on tiny Union Island, off St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean.

Then age 12, she had to hold her nose to drink soy milk. It was that terrible.

These days things have evolved considerably. Soy milk now comes in different flavours, and many other vegetarian options such as meatless hamburgers have also improved in taste and texture.

“The food is delicious,” said Mrs James. Carnivores can find out for themselves on Sunday.

The Vegetarian Society of Bermuda has organised Meat-Out Day, during which carnivores are encouraged to give up meat for the 24-hour period.

It's an annual campaign in the United States, organised by the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM). This year their hopes is that 20,000 people around the world will try vegan food.

One of the places you can try it in Bermuda is the Eden Café, a tiny restaurant operated out of the Seventh-day Adventist Church bookstore on King Street. Mrs James is the manager. One of their most popular dishes is the haystack lunch offered every Wednesday.

“The haystack is one of the most popular dishes in the Seventh-day Adventist culture,” she said.

“The first ingredient is corn chips. Some people will differ over where the corn chips fall. I put them at the bottom. The salad goes on top which is lettuce, tomato, onions, and olives. You can put in any other type of vegetable that you like to eat. Then you put your chili on top. On top of that you put vegetarian cheese and guacamole. When it is avocado season I use fresh avocado.”

The term haystack refers to the way vegetables are stacked on top of one another. The grated vegetarian cheese on top resembles straw. Vegetarian cheese can be made from soy or nuts, such as almonds and cashews.

“It can be an acquired taste,” Mrs James said. “But most people love it. People come back again and again for it. They never thought that vegetarian cheese and food in general could be so great tasting. They are amazed that this is actually a vegetarian meal. You would be surprised by the pre-orders we get on Wednesday. And a lot of non-vegetarians love to come in for the haystack.”

She said they had a few secret ingredients for the chili, which she could not divulge.

The Eden Café opened last August to meet a strong need in the community for more vegetarian and vegan foods.

“People would come in and ask whether we could open something where they could eat vegetarian food. It didn't have to be anything heavy. The main focus of the Eden Café is smoothies.”

She said one advantage for the cafe, was that vegetarian food doesn't need the same amount of preparation that meat-based foods do.

Although the Eden Café expected to see some new faces for Meat-Out Day, they usually see a lot of new people just after New Year's Day.

“What happens is that a lot of people decide to go meatless in the first quarter of the year,” she said. “So they will come and have their meals here because they can guarantee it is meatless. People make the decision for health reasons, generally.”

Mrs James first became a vegetarian as a child, after reading about it in a book.

“I was the only one in my household,” she said. “My family were accepting of it because they were Seventh-day Adventists so they knew the benefits. They started preparing more meals that had less meat in them so that I could be a part of it.”

She had six siblings, and her family often ate with extended family members, so sometimes there would be ten or 12 people at the dinner table.

“The food at home was delicious,” she said. “I went back to eating meat and I got really sick so I started going vegetarian again. I try to be mostly vegan, but when eating out it is difficult to have food that is just vegan so I sometimes have some vegetarian options that include dairy.”

She said the Seventh-day Adventist Bookstore sells numerous vegetarian cookbooks, but really, she doesn't need one anymore.

“I am so used to it I can create a dish without referring to a cookbook because I know how to use the products,” she said. “Because I am working full-time I cook a lot on a Friday or on Sunday so that I have food to last the rest of the week.”

Mrs James said she did not worry about protein because vegetables are a complete source of protein, especially beans.

However, some dieticians warn that vegetable protein is poor quality compared to protein in meat. This problem can be addressed by combing vegetables together, such as a vegetable curry with rice or naan bread.Vegetable protein lacks certain essential amino acids, but these are present in the rice and bread, thus forming a meal with a complete protein source.

Useful websites: www.weightlossforall.com/protein-vegetable.htm, www.dietaryfiberfood.com/food-protein-sources.php.

The Vegetarian Society of Bermuda will be holding a special potluck and cooking demonstration in support of Meat-Out Day on Sunday at the Seventh-day Adventist Church Hall on Roberts Avenue at 2pm. The cost is $2 for adults. Children are free. All lacto-ovo, vegan, raw vegan and fruitarian dishes are welcome. Cutlery, napkins, plates and cups will be provided by the Vegetarian Society. Feel free to bring a non-alcoholic beverage to share. For more information visit www.meatout.org or email vsbda1[AT]yahoo.com .

Carolyn James manager of the Eden Cafe with a haystack.
Vegetarian dish haystack
Try this

Guacamole Recipe

Ingredients

2 or 3 ripe avocados

salsa to taste

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

¼ tsp garlic powder

Method: Mash the avocado with a fork and then combine with other ingredients. Do not store as it does not keep well.

Easy vegetarian chiliIngredients:

1 large can of black beans, drained

1 large can kidney beans, drained

Half an onion, diced

Three garlic cloves

1 red bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

1 medium size can of diced tomatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

¼ cup vegetable broth

2 tbsp chili powder

Salt and pepper to taste.

Cayenne and red pepper optional.

Method:Saute the vegetables up to the peppers. Add the tomatoes, broth and seasonings and stir. Cook for 20 minutes. Feel free to increase cook time for better flavour. If you like to spice things up, add extra seasoning. This makes enough for six people.

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Published March 18, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated March 18, 2011 at 9:53 am)

A healthy - and delicious - alternative to meat

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