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June 5, 2011
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Take Monday off - from meat

ASPEN - Attendees at Monday afternoon's event at The Aspen Club might notice something is missing. The get-together - free and open to the public - launches the local Meatless Mondays movement, part of a national initiative, as well as a campaign to de-emphasize meat from our diets. So you can guess what won't be served.Then again, partygoers might not be aware of anything being absent from the menu. The bash, Monday from 5-7 p.m., will feature mushroom crostini, bok choy in a ginger-soy mousse, veggie nori rolls and other appetizers prepared by Martin Oswald, chef-owner of Pyramid Bistro, and Randy Placeres of Nutrition Caf. The snacks are designed not only to be nutritious - Oswald identifies all the dishes as cancer-fighting, loaded with greens, mushrooms, nuts and seeds - but also to be filling, satisfying and yummy.Monday's event offers a taste of what Meatless Mondays aims to do: introduce people to meat-free dining in a manner that is easy to swallow. The organizers of the local movement aren't looking to bully diners into vegetarianism; they are just asking them to go without meat one day a week."No one is saying you should go vegetarian," Oswald, whose Pyramid Bistro is heavy on veggies and grains - but also includes a chicken dish and a daily fish special. "But once a week, and you're cutting out 15 percent of saturated fat, 15 percent of the cholesterol, cutting out a huge amount out of the water needs. Once a week, it's a reminder of what you can do for your body, and what a huge impact you can have on the environment.""The movement isn't about being a vegetarian. It's about one day a week," added Dawn Shepard, a fitness trainer who became a vegetarian four years ago to address cholesterol issues, and is heading the local Meatless Mondays movement.To sweeten the deal, Shepard and Oswald have approached numerous area restaurants, asking them to spotlight, or even add, a no-meat item on their menu each Monday. The response has been unanimously positive: every eatery they have approached, from Pions to the Grateful Deli, has agreed to participate. Tom Fritz, of Syzygy, plans to introduce a vegetarian tasting menu on Mondays. Also on board are organizations including Aspen Valley Hospital, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and Aspen Elementary School, which had been going meatless on Mondays for several years.Oswald, though, noted that the movement doesn't begin with the restaurants. Meatless Mondays is intended to be a grassroots effort that starts with diners."It's about having individuals ask restaurant owners, managers, waiters if they have a vegetarian option," he said. "It won't really happen unless individuals come and ask. It's for individuals on Monday to make that choice. We want everybody to participate - and restaurants will give their customers what they ask for."Meatless Mondays came out of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2003. Shepard - who reports that she's noticed no ill effects from cutting meat out her diet entirely - and Oswald - who eats meat once or twice a week - pile up the reasons to go meatless. On the environmental side, they say that, if everybody went meatless for one day a week, it would have the same reduction in carbon emissions as taking 25 million cars off the road for a year. On health, Oswald, the former chef at Syzygy and Ute City Bar & Grill who has a deep background in Austrian spa cuisine, said, "You cannot outrun cholesterol. Just exercise isn't going to do it. You've got to include the diet for optimal health."They added that reducing meat is also good for the pocketbook. Schools that have gone meatless for a day have been pleased to find it helped them balance their budgets.Oswald and Shepard recognize that the best way to have Meatless Mondays succeed is to make sure there is food available that won't leave diners wondering why they had ordered steamed veggies and rice instead of a burger and fries. But Oswald says the response to Pyramid has been "fantastic." And Shepard has found that going vegetarian doesn't feel like much of a culinary compromise."People think it's bland - tofu, brown rice, steam vegetables," she said. "But it can be such a beautiful cuisine on its own. A restaurant can offer great food and just happen to be vegetarian. "Being satisfied is not a problem. I'm never hungry. Just incorporate more whole grains and legumes, which are super high in fiber and will fill you up."stewart@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Jun 5, 2011 08:47AM Published Jun 5, 2011 01:48AM Copyright 2011 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.