Home Book publication The author who catapulted vegetarianism to speak at the Common Ground Fair

The author who catapulted vegetarianism to speak at the Common Ground Fair


An original 1971 edition of Frances Moore Lappé’s “Diet for a Small Planet” sits atop a 20th anniversary edition and a 50th anniversary edition of the bestselling book, surrounded by some of the ingredients used in the book , which launched vegetarian food into the American mainstream. Culture. Photo by Avery Yale Kamila

Named “Godmother of Plant Life” by The New York Times last year, bestselling author Frances Moore Lappé is a household name to many because she ushered in the modern vegetarian era with the 1971 publication of “ Diet for a Small Planet”. rapidly throwing soy beans and veggie burgers into American kitchens and inserting the excessive land and water use of animal-based foods into the national conversation.

Since its publication 51 years ago, the landmark book has sold more than 3 million copies and has been reprinted and reissued many times, including a 50th anniversary edition last year. Next weekend, Lappé is giving the Saturday keynote address at the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity.

When I contacted Lappé (who goes by the name Frankie) at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by phone, she told me she was looking forward to speaking at the Vegetarian Fair, hosted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners. Association, which founded the same year, “Diet for a Small Planet” was published. This year’s fair marks Common Ground’s return after being dark for two years due to the pandemic.

Best-selling author Frances Moore Lappé will deliver the keynote address Saturday at the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity. Photo by Michael Piazza

“It brings back so many memories of the whole trip,” said Lappé, who was just 26 when his book was published. “The 1970s were the era of questions, and so many questions about our relationship to the Earth and to consumption. It was the perfect time to become an adult. People felt empowered to change their lives. They questioned each other positively.

In the foreword to the original edition, Lappé began by telling readers, “This book is about PROTEIN – how we as a nation are caught in a pattern that wastes it” and that “our culture strongly centered on meat is at the very heart of our waste of the land’s productivity.The book provides detailed information – with considerable updates for the 50th anniversary edition – on the problems created by animal agriculture as well as the proposed solution to eating plant-based protein. It concludes with over 120 practical pages of vegetarian and vegan recipes and menu ideas, updated for the most recent edition with submissions from food heavyweights, including Bryant Terry, Alice Waters and Mark Bittman.

“Diet for a Small Planet” was a major part of the 1970s zeitgeist, and it started a wave of vegetarian events, including the 1972 publication of “The Vegetarian Epicure” by Anna Thomas and “The George Bernard Shaw Vegetarian Cookbook” by the playwright’s housekeeper, Alice Laden. In 1973, Lappé’s publisher published “Recipes for a Small Planet” by Ellen Buchman Ewald, which introduced Lappé to vegetarian cooking and helped create the recipes for Lappé’s book.

I was born in 1973, and while growing up in Litchfield, Maine, a copy of Lappé’s book was ubiquitous in my non-vegetarian childhood kitchen. The same year I was born, the iconic Moosewood Restaurant opened in Ithaca, New York, and the following year it self-published the now classic “Moosewood Cookbook.”

At first, the Moosewood Restaurant served fish alongside vegetarian and vegan dishes, but later switched to an all-vegetarian and heavily vegan menu. Today the restaurant continues under the new ownership of Danica Wilcox, daughter of one of the co-founders.

In Maine, the influential Hollow Reed opened in Portland’s Old Port in 1974, and the following year, Town Farm Restaurant opened in Bar Harbor. Both relatively short-lived establishments were widely considered vegetarian restaurants. However, each served aquatic animals, meaning the restaurants were pescatarian but not actually vegetarian (although the Town Farm Restaurant published an all-vegetarian cookbook in 1979). In 1975, a major vegetarian event was the first-ever United States World Vegetarian Congress, held at the University of Maine at Orono.

All of these efforts were bolstered by the popularity of “Diet for a Small Planet”. Even so, few expected that what began as a one-page document distributed by Lappé in the late 1960s would enjoy instant success and lasting cultural impact.

“I thought maybe my book would appeal to a few hundred people in the Greater Bay Area (of San Francisco) when I wrote it,” Lappé said. “It was a big shock when he started selling and selling.”

In “Diet for a Small Planet”, Lappé shows how food is wasted by turning mountains of grain into much smaller amounts of animal flesh. Each edition has advocated for people to eat plant-centered meals, both as a way to protect the environment and feed the hungry. Soon, Lappé would add better democracy, increased social justice, and a fairer community economy to the benefits of a plant-based food system.

“Democracy is the root of all solutions,” Lappé told me. “We the people don’t make these decisions because there’s so much big corporate agribusiness corruption in food policy.”

Realizing how much the American food system has been shaped by the influence of money in politics, Lappé worked to improve American democracy in the years after the book’s initial publication. She co-founded the Center for Living Democracy and has published numerous books on the subject, including the most recent “Daring Democracy” with Adam Eichen.

During our conversation, Lappé spoke about the erosion of political rights and civil liberties in the United States over the past decade. She pointed to the annual Freedom in the World Index, which measured the United States’ shift from ranking alongside top democracies in 2010 to ranking alongside emerging democracies by 2020. Freedom House, which maintains the index , argues that American democracy is under threat and has suffered because of inequalities created by racism, money in politics, and extremism fueled by partisan polarization.

Lappe’s message of freedom, democracy and simple plant-based living is sure to resonate at the Common Ground Fair. As I wrote last year, MOFGA has been known for its vegetarian-friendly vibe since the organization’s founding in 1971. Fair trade vendors serve many vegan and vegetarian dishes.

“Diet for a Small Planet” was instrumental in cultivating this plant culture at MOFGA, according to Abbie McMillen, one of MOFGA’s early organizers and first editor of its journal, and Roberta Bailey, who wrote the Harvest Kitchen recipe column in MOFGA. diary since 1984. Both told me last year that Lappé’s book shaped their thinking about food.

Lappé, herself a vegetarian who is trying to switch to oat milk in her morning coffee, acknowledges the long list of problems facing humanity. Still, she remains hopeful. She told me she was not optimistic, but “possibilistic”.

“The theme song of my life,” Lappé said, “is that the more choices we make that align us with the world we want for ourselves and others, the more that world is built. Food is a link with everything.

Frankie’s Feijoada

6 servings

This recipe was a favorite from the first edition, with updates from a Brazilian friend for the 20th anniversary edition. – Excerpt from “Diet for a Small Planet”

1/4 cup oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions (white and light green parts), chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tomato, chopped
3 cups cooked black beans, or two 15-ounce cans, rinsed and drained
2 cups of vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 sweet potato, diced (optional)
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
Chopped fresh cilantro and 1 sliced ​​orange, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion, garlic, green onions, green pepper and tomato until the onion is translucent. Add beans, broth, bay leaf, vinegar, celery, sweet potato and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Mash some beans in the pan to thicken the mixture and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and garnish the stew with chopped cilantro and orange slices. To be enjoyed with rice and green vegetables.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at: [email protected]
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