Although vegetarianism has a reputation for only appealing to crunchy granola types, I’ve always found a surprising range of fellow vegetarians to share recipes with. The local food movement, along with concerns about health and climate change, seems to have inspired even more people to start exploring vegetarian food.
I knew that something was different this year when I walked up to the Reggie Lewis Athletic Center in Roxbury, where the annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival is held, and saw a crowd lined up at a vegan frozen dessert truck, waiting for their soft serve. The company, which calls itself Like No Udder , was doing boffo business. It was cold out, so I was able to resist temptation.
Inside, the festival was just as crowded. The diversity of products and people was truly impressive. From vegan shoes to coconut milk ice cream, the 15th annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival—now expanded to two days—had it all.
For inspiration, I went to see Tracye Lynn McQuirter speak. McQuirter, author of By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat, has been a vegan for over twenty years. She’s a great advertisement for plant-based diets. A nutritionist, she’s a beautiful black woman who bursts with excitement about eating raw kale. She swears her kale recipe is the most popular one in the book.
McQuirter explains, “I’m targeting black women because we are in a health crisis – 85 percent of us are overweight. But everyone in this country can benefit from eating plant-based food.”
When my sister Louise and I went to hear her speak at the Chicago Green Festival this spring, the crowd was much less diverse, and McQuirter was much preachier. This time, she focused on her personal story of how hearing 60’s comedian, civil rights activist, and vegetarian Dick Gregory speak when she was a student at Amherst College inspired her to go vegan.
She encouraged everyone to take their health and eating habits to the next level. For example, she suggested that non-vegetarians visit the Meatless Monday web site and go meatless once a week.
Although, of course, I want everyone to eat healthier food and reduce the amount of meat they eat, I’m particularly eager to have the people I know and love in the black community change their diets, so they will live long and prosper. I was glad to see how many black people were in the audience for McQuirter’s talk, because I think she’s very persuasive, especially now she’s toned down the lecturing.
I bought her book at the Green Fest, but immediately gave it to my mother-in-law, Doris, so I haven’t had a chance to try any of her recipes yet. I bought another copy today and am eager to see if she can change my attitude—which is bad—about kale. As far as I’m concerned, kale is just not necessary. If McQuirter can persuade me to love it, there’s hope for all of us.