Meatless Monday: Woodstock Eating

09/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Ellen Kanner Author and syndicated columnist, the Edgy Veggie

We are stardust
We are golden
We are billion year-old carbon
And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden

Woodstock, Joni Mitchell

What sounded magical in 1969, the Summer of Love, sounds ominous today, in the Summer of Lipitor. Bits of divine stardust we may be, but mostly, we're big, clunking hunks of carbon and we know what we're doing to the planet in ways we didn't 40 years ago. Climate change is affecting every aspect of life on earth, from rising sea levels to vanishing species. In the parlance of Woodstock, bummer, man.

We've learned more about a lot of things since 1969, including what we eat, both in terms of nutrition and pleasure. Woodstock-era vegetarian dishes were healthful, but most inclined towards heaviness and flavor-deficiency -- brown rice, steamed veggies, plain tofu, not a spice to save your soul. Not Food Network-worthy.

On the other hand, the meatless meals of Woodstock days were small-produced, responsibly sourced and lavish with nutrients, love and integrity. They were, though we didn't have language for it at the time, green. Today, much of what we eat is processed. You can see what it's doing to us. Check out the Woodstock footage -- we weren't toned, but we were skinny. Not anymore. Despite national awareness of an obesity epidemic jeopardizing our health, productivity and income, we're only getting bigger.

We've traded afros and alfalfa sprouts for iPods and ibuprofen, but we've that whole Gandhiesque sense of being the change we want to see in the world. That's how Woodstock happened in the first place.

We've still got the stardust in us to make things happen. Concerts are great, but if you really want to change the world, change the way you eat. A meatless life or even a meatless Monday benefits us and the environment, too. lThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has confirmed a "nonvegetarian diet exacts a higher cost on the environment relative to a vegetarian diet. From an environmental perspective, what a person chooses to eat makes a difference."

To use that other hippie phrase, you're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem. Forty years on, getting back to the garden matters more than ever.

Back to the Garden Gazpacho

You can get a big bang for a little tomato in these blighted times. The hippies embraced gazpacho, that Spanish classic, and we should, too. It's garden-fresh, red in color but green in sensibility and perfect for summer. It requires no cooking at all, but should marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight to reach its optimal gazpachoness. Serve with crusty whole grain bread and cheese or that other hippie fave, hummus (not traditionally paired with gazpacho, but hey, we were born to be wild).

a big handful of fresh herbs, including chives, tarragon, parsley, cilantro, basil, in any combination -- your choice, as long as they're green and fresh
1 garlic clove
1 red pepper
2 tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups tomato juice (fresh or bottled -- the canned produces a tinny taste)
juice of 2 lemons (about 2 tablespoons)
3 scallions
1/2 cucumber, peeled
3 tablespoons dried bread crumbs
sea salt and pepper

Chop herbs and garlic fine. Dice pepper and tomatoes. Scoop chopped herbs and vegetables into a blender or large bowl. Stir in olive oil in a slow stream. Stir to incorporate, then stir in tomato juice and lemon juice. Give mix a quick zap in the blender, or use an immersion blender. Sans gadgetry? A few vigorous stirs should do the trick. The goal is not a smooth puree or a chunky salsa, but something in between -- a thickish vegetable soup base with vegetable bits in it.

Mince scallions and dice cucumber. Add to soup. Stir in bread crumbs, salt and pepper to taste and chill at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.

Serves 4. Recipe doubles easily. Keeps refrigerated for two days.