[A modified version of this article is in the March/April 2013 Edition of Velocity Magazine]
March marks the seventh anniversary of my little cafe. Our desire was to offer our neighbors a place to enjoy wholesome food that was better for the environment and optimal for our bodies. Data abounds about the benefits of eating locally grown, so we helped spearhead a local food revival that now has firm roots. It is not neighborly to serve carcinogenic food, so we opt for organic fare. The environmental, health and humane reasons for sticking with a vegetarian menu were too compelling to ignore, even though I hadn’t made the personal choice to become a vegetarian yet.
We have always considered ourselves a community cafe, first and foremost, and for that reason we rarely advertised ourselves as a vegetarian cafe. Instead, we opted to call ourselves veg-friendly because we knew that a majority of non-vegetarian diners would immediately dismiss coming to eat with us, and we would end up being an exclusive place where only vegetarians eat. Ours is an inclusive community – one where people of all dietary preferences are welcome to enjoy delicious food.
What we’ve discovered is that there is a new willingness in people of all stripes to adopt what I call a flexitarian approach to food. Having meat protein with every meal is actually very rigid if you think about it – based on conditioning and habits, but not rooted in knowledge of what is healthy for our bodies and our planet. There is now an abundance of documentaries, books and studies with irrefutable data all sharing the benefits of local, organic and plant based diets. This access to information is allowing folks to get informed and finding it more inviting to be veg-curious while recognizing that local and organic is not an elitist movement, it’s one that belongs to the people taking back their health from the corporations and Big Ag industries.
A flexitarian is a person who makes conscious consumption decisions and isn’t afraid to exam their habits to shift to more healthful choices. This usually entails a reduction in processed foods, meat and/or dairy consumption with an increase in whole foods, organics and local/seasonal ingredients.
While some people can go raw vegan overnight when they learn about the benefits, that might not be the most sustainable path into wholesome eating for everyone. Sensible flexibility can be a bridge to taking responsibility for any personal habits that may have contributed to dis-ease in our own bodies as well as environmental & social crisis.
By making deliberate decisions instead of falling back on brand loyalty and habits, people are changing their eating habits by losing addictions to sugar, unhealthy fats and reducing exposure to toxins, antibiotics and other harmful ingredients that have infiltrated our mass produced food system. Incorporating a trip to the local farmers market is a festive community event that makes us feel more connected to one another while also providing healthy food. My daughter can run around with other kids and dance to music while I shop for the week instead of crying to get out of the shopping cart and demanding I buy candy in the checkout lane.
I like this flexibility. It is without guilt, it is self-paced, it often involves merriment. When I know better, I do better. And I do better when I know where my edge is, and gently push myself to become a healthier individual.