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Meatless Monday: Invitation to a Bean Feast

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MEATLESS MONDAY
Ellen Kanner

In America, we call it the rubber chicken dinner -- that big company dinner when we gather to celebrate or because we have to. In Brit slang, it's called a bean feast. I'm inviting you to a bean feast, to the dinner party of a lifetime. As I say in my new book, "Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner," the fate of the whole world depends on you, including what you eat for dinner. I'm not talking about chicken, rubber or otherwise. Our focus on a meat-based diet is chipping away at the place we call home.

I'm as fond of denial as the next guy, but as President Obama said in last week's inaugural address, we can no longer afford to be. We have woken up to the fact the climate has changed from its former friendly, familiar ways. The hurricanes, scorching droughts and off-the-charts heat waves that plagued and shocked us last year are not going away.

We are badly worn by what has become of our environment, our food system, ourselves. The thing is, we're still here, we're still in the game. So what are we going to do? Change ourselves. Change the world. We can do it, too, but we're going to need some sustenance before we begin.

Nourishing ourselves is one of the most loving things we can do. It feeds our hunger and opens up those clutchy, mean places in us just the wee-est bit. We are more alike than we are different. At the very least, we all hunger. We all need to eat. Nothing brings us together like food. And changing the world is going to take all of us.

As the nonprofit Food Tank reminds us, we have a billion people suffering with obesity and obesity-related illness, another billion suffering from lack of food, we've lost up to 75% of crop diversity in a century and we waste up to half our food. These stats do not add up to a sustainable world. We need to cook and eat and talk together. Reaching across the aisle is easier when we can reach across the table. I'm vegan by choice and by passion. I am also human. So are you, whatever you eat. I care about that point of connection. I'm a vegan who's inviting everyone to the table.

We can start at the top. My answer to saving the world is to take all the big heads of state, take away their military budgets and weapons, put them in the kitchen together and have them make dinner. The leaders of the world will have to focus on creating, not destruction, and they'll have to work together if they want to eat at all. Stripped of their arsenal, they'll be unable to harm each other -- or us.

It doesn't take much of a leap in logic to say no one should be harmed. Including animals. Including the planet. The most revolutionary thing we can do is to consider taking meat -- and chicken -- off the menu.

No one goes to rubber chicken dinners for the food. But have a bean feast and you've got a low-cost, low-carbon banquet that feeds everyone. Beans, nature's little powerhouses of plant-based protein, are cheap, sustainable and sustaining. They don't take a toll on the environment like meat production does and are among our first crops -- we've been living on beans from the dawn of civilization. Let's carry the feast forward. Do it to celebrate. Do it because we must. Our future depends on us. And what we eat for dinner.


Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are.

-- Brillat Savarin

What do you eat? What do you want out of life? What's the deal with organics? What do you do with kale and kohlrabI? You've got questions, HuffPost's Meatless Monday blogger Ellen Kanner has vegetables. And answers. Please submit questions by emailing huffpost-community@huffingtonpost.com.

All questions carefully and respectfully read, but only a few are chosen to appear on Kanner's blog post. If you would like to remain anonymous, please specify the pseudonym you would like your question to be attributed to, along with your hometown and state.

Red Lentil Soup with Indian Spices

From "Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life Faith and What to Eat for Dinner"

Rather than your basic brown lentils, which are serviceable but drab, this recipe uses red lentils. They cook in minutes and with the tomatoes, give the soup a rosy, hopeful tint. The spicing is gentle and reminds you things will not always be so hard. The greens add signs of life, not to mention calcium, vitamin C, and tryptophan, the amino acid that promotes a sense of well-being. Can't have too much of that.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1- 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 large onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-size piece fresh ginger, minced
1- 1/2 cups red lentils
5 cups or other vegetable broth
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
Juice of 1 lemon
2 handfuls fresh spinach or kale, chopped -- add another handful if you're a greens freak like me
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a generous-size soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until the oil darkens and spices turn fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and turn translucent, a few minutes.

Add the lentils and cook, stirring, for a few minutes more, until the lentils deepen in color and glisten with the spiced oil.

Add the broth and the tomatoes and their juice, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer until the lentils are tender and have become one with the soup, about 30 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.

If you want the soup to be silky and smooth, you may purée with an immersion blender, but really, it's not necessary. The lentils are small, soft, and have coalesced into the soup.

Gently stir in the spinach and cilantro. They will wilt into the soup. Season with salt and pepper.
The soup keeps several days in the fridge.

Serves 6.


Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are.

-- Brillat Savarin

What do you eat? What do you want out of life? What's the deal with organics? What do you do with kale and kohlrabI? You've got questions, HuffPost's Meatless Monday blogger Ellen Kanner has vegetables. And answers. Please submit questions by emailing huffpost-community@huffingtonpost.com.

All questions carefully and respectfully read, but only a few are chosen to appear on Kanner's blog post. If you would like to remain anonymous, please specify the pseudonym you would like your question to be attributed to, along with your hometown and state.

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