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FOOD REVIEW

The Essential Vegetarian

By Katie Jeffreys

Features Editor

Last week I began a discussion of the book The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams. Since then I have done reading for a class in Environmental History which has illuminated the subject a little more. Adams suggests that eating meat is inherently masculine, most likely because men traditionally did the hunting while women were gatherers. Europeans cultures developed another view, however.

As William Cronon describes in his book Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, hunting to the English settlers was a leisure activity, not work. To the English, native men who hunted but did not raise domesticated animals were considered lazy. Additionally, one of the considerations as to whether someone owned a parcel of land was whether they owned animals which grazed upon it. This shift in attitudes away from the idea of subsistence and shared resources towards the commercialization of natural products is one of the reasons why vegetarianism is so vital in our society today.

I think that hunting animals for sport rather than as a viable food source is ethically wrong. However, raising them domestically leads to great environmental damage -- which has been recognized since the 1400s -- including deforestation and fertile topsoil loss due to erosion. Natives, by the late 1400s, had established a pattern of living that, while impacting the landscape around them, did not impose upon other humans. Today a farmer who raises a large amount of livestock is responsible for the feed they consume as well as the gases and solid waste they produce.

In addition American, and increasingly worldwide, consumption of excessive amounts of meat is startling. The natives often went without food for several weeks in the winter, meat or vegetable. We are fortunate to have refrigeration, preservative, and rapid transportation so that American hunger is restricted to those without the means to purchase the food. Yet this is not an excuse to consume as much as we do. When people were responsible for acquiring every calorie they consumed, I think they developed an appreciation for the process of procuring food which we have lost. Therefore the issues of pollution, animal rights, etc., are foreign to us.

The average urban dweller is not concerned about having to move a farm when the land runs out of nutrients. We do not have wood shortages limiting our heat. It is easy to forget that we have exchanged a fertile earth for Swanson frozen dinners.

A vegetarian “holiday” is coming up: the Great American Meat-Out is on March 20, 2000. The Social Justice Cooperative has been covering the campus with posters citing such facts as “If Americans reduce their meat intake by just 10 percent, there would be enough resources to feed 100 million people.” In the weeks surrounding the event several campus groups will be sponsoring events and speakers to discuss vegetarian issues.

I was introduced to a fantastic vegetarian web site: <http://www.nomeat.com.> The site promotes soy products which have the taste, texture, or uses of meat. Visitors can purchase a huge array of soy products online, learn about vegetarianism, and soon find recipes at this attractively designed site.

Finally, as usual, a recipe for you to try. This week is Chinese Spinach ravioli. Enjoy, and please e-mail comments or questions to <veggie@the-tech.mit.edu.>

Spinach Ravioli

1 cup tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 small onion, oven roasted

1 cup mushrooms, minced

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

1/2 pound spinach leaves, blanched, chopped

1/4 cup nonfat cottage cheese

3/4 cup tofu, mashed

2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

freshly ground black pepper

salt, to taste

48 eggless pot sticker skins

In a large saucepan, combine the tomatoes, onion, mushrooms and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the liquid from the mushrooms completely evaporates and the mixture is somewhat dry. Be careful not to burn it. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the tomato mixture, spinach, cottage cheese, tofu, and basil. Season to taste with pepper and salt.

On a cutting board, lay out a single layer of pot-sticker skins. Using a pastry brush, moisten the edges with water. Place 1 tablespoon of the spinach mixture onto the center of each skin. Cover with a second potsticker skin and press the edges together with the tines of a fork to seal.

Cook the ravioli in boiling water or vegetable stock for 3 minutes, or until the potsticker skin is al dente. Serve hot. Serves 6. Preparation time about 45 minutes.