If you thought veganism – eating a diet free from animal products – was a modern-day fad, think again. For the past two millennia, humans have experimented with different ways to avoid eating meat, eggs or dairy products, and they’re only getting more creative in modern times, devising vegan recipes for baked goods, omelets and even burgers. Because Sunday is World Vegan Day, here are key facts to know about the vegan diet and its history, along with recipes and vegan restaurants in New York City to celebrate.
The first World Vegan Day was marked Nov. 1, 1994, to commemorate the founding of the Vegan Society in November 1944, according to DaysOfTheYear.com. “Vegan Day is an opportunity to promote the benefits of a vegan diet and veganism in general,” the site explains. The word vegan is derived from vegetarian, by combining the first and last few letters of the word.
According to the Vegan Society, the Greek mathematician Pythagoras, who lived around 600 BC, followed a vegetarian diet. Jainism, a religion that originated between the seventh and fifth centuries BC in eastern India, also advocates for vegetarianism, although some of its adherents are strict vegans.
Unlike a vegetarian diet, veganism excludes all animal products or foods that contain animal products. That means no meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. Some vegans may choose not to eat honey on the basis that honey is produced by bees for bees, not humans, according to the Vegan Society.
— Pincho Factory® (@PinchoFactory) October 26, 2015
Whether vegan diets are healthier than being a vegetarian or omnivore can be a matter of hot debate; most experts say that it depends on what you eat. Eating only potato chips would technically constitute a vegan diet, for instance, but that would hardly be healthy. Some studies have shown that although vegans have lower levels of cholesterol and are generally skinnier than non-vegans, they can sometimes suffer nutritional deficiencies such as insufficient calcium, iron and vitamin D.
Contrary to some strains of popular belief, vegan recipes are not gross concoctions of mashed up vegetables. Many delicious recipes, from brownies to soups to vegetable burgers, can be entirely free from animal products. Here are three recipes to back that up:
1. Spiced lentils with mushrooms and greens from Food and Wine: Protein and iron-packed, this recipe is both fragrant and flavorful, made with cumin, coriander and turmeric, among other spices. It’s also incredibly healthy.
2. The best vegan burger, from Jamie Oliver: Made with a base of chickpeas and corn, this burger promises both texture and flavor.
3. Mexican chocolate brownie, from Food52: This brownie packs a punch, thanks to a sprinkling of hot pepper to give it that extra bite. Its author swears that it’s the best brownie she’s ever made.
— Nutrition Studies (@TColinCampbellF) October 28, 2015
For New Yorkers who don’t feel like cooking their own vegan recipes but want to sample some, here’s a brief list of the top-rated vegan restaurants, including a food truck, in New York City:
1. The food truck The Cinnamon Snail is a roving restaurant that has garnered rave reviews on Yelp. Offerings include fresh fig pancakes, smoked Portobello mushroom carpaccio, a burger with onions simmered in beer and much more.
2. Chloe, on Bleeker Street, has received major props for its Guac burger, shiitake bacon and a whiskey barbecue sandwich. It also offers dairy-free ice cream.
3. Siggy’s Good Food promises “organic, locally sourced ingredients” in its “home-style, comfort food” with plenty of options for vegetarians and vegans.