Whenever someone hears about a vegetarian diet, the common question is, “But what can you eat if you don’t eat meat, fish, or eggs?” How sad it is to see what advertising has done to us, particularly our young folk! They grow up with the vast majority of food commercials on TV showing them the benefits of deep-fried chicken, fast-food hamburgers, “lite” beer, and the like. Rarely is there mention of the grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits that for centuries have made up the staple diet of most people around the world. So, all too often youngsters end up thinking “food” means “meat”.
The slaughterhouse, factory farming, and mass merchandising are pretty much unique to this century. Refrigerators are a relatively recent invention. Many societies around the world still subsist on a very simple, basic vegetarian diet. People in the Western world seldom die of starvation, but rather the opposite — over-indulgence.
But, there is infinite variety in a vegetarian diet. Let’s look at the international nature of the culinary world. If you study the various ethnic foods (Italian, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, etc.), they were all vegetarian-based diets. It was only after certain individuals or societies became more affluent that they added meat. Do you really think that the original lasagna or chowmein or tortillas had any meat in them? First of all, people couldn’t afford it, and secondly, it wasn’t something that was attractive or economically sound.