Monday, April 26, 2010

Meatless Monday in Oz

The Meatless Monday movement is going global.

Along with the U.S., 7 other countries are participating in the campaign that promotes going without meat the first day of each week, Monday.

Those countries are Britain, Taiwan, Holland, Brazil, Finland, Canada, and Australia, which is where I am this week and next.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Australians are big meat-eaters. For the average Aussie, eliminating meat from their diet, even one day a week, would require an enormous shift in their perception of what constitutes a complete meal.

The main meal of the day is typically in the evening here and generally the focus of that meal is good quality, locally grown, pasture-raised (versus factory farmed), highly flavorful meat.

I asked about, and no one I spoke with on Phillip Island had heard of Meatless Monday, certainly not the blokes at the small, specialty butcher, where I've made several purchases, nor members of my family, of all whom enjoy a varied diet, but one that does include, on most days, meat.

However, it was only a couple of months ago that I became familiar with Meatless Monday, despite having written often about the budgetary and health benefits of minimal-meat meals on this blog.

So it could be that Meatless Monday Australia has yet to catch on. According to their website, it appears the campaign only began in earnest in Australia in December, 2009.

Four months isn't enough time for an obvious change to have occurred, particularly one intended to encourage Australians, who strongly identify with their cattle- and lamb-farming heritage, to consider doing away with the food that this country's economy was built on, even for one day a week.

Sounds like heavy stuff, but to many Australians, meat, especially beef and lamb, is very much part of our cultural identity and quiche is not.

Yet out and about browsing the menus of the local Phillip Island cafes (there are many, since this is a popular tourist and weekend getaway spot), quiche is, in fact, a staple.

You can get big fluffy pieces of egg-y quiche with a couple of sides of salad for around $8 (pic left). Not bad for a substantial and nutritious meatless meal.

Of course, there's often bacon in the quiche.

That said, vegetarian quiche is not completely unheard of after all, even though meat is big, Australians aren't descendants of club-wielding, mammoth-binging Neanderthals -- well, my family isn't, as far as I know.

The eggs that go in those light fluffy quiches are unbelievably rich in color. As you can see in the pic to left, the yolks verge on bright orange.

With minimal research, I discovered that because Australians like their eggs with dark yolks, commercial egg producers add a synthetic carotenoid to enhance the color of egg yolks.

Apparently there is currently a food-labeling review underway in Australia that would require all egg producers to clearly identify on their labels whether they use feed additives to enhance the color of their egg yolks.

As far as I was aware, the box of "free range eggs," from which the above boiled egg originated, did not contain labeling indicating food additives had been feed to the laying hens.

To start my Meatless Monday, I had a simple breakfast, one that's is not uncommon in Australia: egg on buttered toast with Vegemite. Though I didn't have toast, so as you can see in the pic at top, I had a rice cracker instead.

Because Vegemite is savory, salty spread, it's great on buttered crackers or toast and to have with eggs. Certainly, if you're into healthy colorful food, as I am, the combination of dark brown under white and bright orange hard-boiled egg is a spectacular way to begin the day!

In all seriousness, Australians do enjoy Vegemite and toast for breakfast, and with an egg or two on the side it's a sugar-free breakfast that's high in B vitamins (Vegemite) and rich in Omega 3's (the eggs).

The cafe where I had the quiche and salad, is right by father's nursing home, where I'll be visiting again around lunchtime today. Rather than have quiche, and thus more eggs for lunch, I noticed on the cafe menu a vegetarian Mediterranean Plate. I think I'll make that my second meal on this Meatless Monday.

Dinner will be tricky.

I'm sharing it with my sister's family this evening, and perhaps you saw the 3-lamb cutlet meal she cooked the other day. So my guess is when I mention Meatless Monday, she'll look harried and propose that if I don't want lamb chops (again), then bad luck, because that's what we're having!

Oh well, when in Rome ...


Simply Life said...

I love the meatless monday idea and hope it continues to spread!

Louise Ross said...

Terrific! It is a great idea because it reminds us to be more conscious of our meat consumption, and thus our health, and hopefully too more conscious of where our meat is coming from, for eg. traditional farms where animals are farmed humanely or factory farms where animals are farmed with the help of antibiotics and hormones.