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A Meatless Life Is Satisfying For Many

Think of them as compassionate cooks hungry for better health - even a healthier planet. Vegetarians - and particularly vegans, who avoid eating all animal-based products -- may be motivated to go meatless to help prevent animal cruelty. 

"We don't eat anything with a face," explains vegan Phil Allamong, founder of the Lancaster Vegetarian Society, which recently sponsored a sold-out Vegan Night Out buffet, at Stauffers of Kissel Hill, 301 Roherstown Road, Lancaster. The menu included everything from vegan eggplant Parmesan to vegan chocolate cake. But beyond respecting animal rights, a plant-based diet can deter disease, Allamong says. Both Allamong's wife Sherry and Doris Yoder, who helped start a monthly vegan meeting/potluck dinner in Elizabethtown, say they believe their diets aided them in defeating cancer. Yoder, in fact, relied heavily on healthy food as a natural treatment, totally avoiding radiation or chemotherapy. 

In 1996, the American Dietetic Association reported that properly managed vegan and vegetarian diets can significantly reduce the risk of contracting heart disease, colon and lung cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, obesity and a number of other debilitating conditions. Vegan foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans, are low in fat, contain no cholesterol and are rich in fiber and nutrients. And going vegetarian/vegan may even help save the planet, Allamong says.According to Allamong, studies reveal there are more emissions from cattle than all the cars in the world. 

"The single best thing you can do for the environment (is to stop eating meat)." And by all indications, the move toward meatlessness is up and coming. "It's definitely growing," says Jeannie McStay, outreach coordinator for the Baltimore-based Vegetarian Resource Group - particularly among people under 30 who are especially concerned about animal rights. The nonprofit Vegetarian Resource Group conducts polls every three years to determine the numbers of vegetarians nationwide. In 2006, the group estimated that roughly 5 million claimed to be vegetarian - 2.5 millon vegan - more than double the number reported in the mid-1990s. In the past decade, area groups - including the Raw Food Potluck & Support Group (nothing prepared above 105 degrees), which meets monthly in Kinzers - have continued to sprout, largely to provide support for those who have either embraced the vegetarian lifestyle or are considering it. "We are here to provide encouragement and support," Yoder says of her potluck group, which includes speakers and recipe-sharing. Seven years ago, she turned to veganism because she learned she was at risk for developing diabetes. Shortly thereafter, she discovered she had cancer. Groups are also geared toward providing education. "There are a lot of variations (in vegetarianism and veganism)," Yoder says. "Not all those who are vegetarian or vegan are actually eating healthy. We try to help people do that." Call Phil Allamong a prophet for plant-based foods. At the Vegan Night Out, he maneuvers among attendees, passing out educational materials about the society and upcoming events. The night out originally attracted more than 100, but Allamong says registration was limited to 100.

"There's no place to have vegetarian food in this town," says attendee Connie Pierce, who identifies herself as a natural-health consultant. "Look at the response." Some attending, like Lois Heisey, are longtime vegans. "I read a lot," she says. "You read all about these meat recalls and how they treat animals." While Terry Brown isn't strictly vegan, she would consider making the change if she had more alternatives and choices. For the Allamongs, who own the SGMC emporium (Solanco General Merchandise Co., Solanco Glass & Mirror Co. and Solanco Gentle Massage), Quarryville, the gradual move to veganism dates back to 1994. "It was an evolution," Mrs. Allamong says. "Now our menus are more varied than ever." The Allamongs started the Lancaster Vegetarian Society about five years ago, to help connect with other vegans and vegetarians and promote the lifestyle. On the group's Web site, www.lancastervegetariansociety.org, Allamong provides a calendar of events from area groups. The couple's dietary shift paid off with weight loss, better attitude and good numbers at the doctor, Allamong says. "But the good thing is (with healthy eating), you don't have (to go to the doctor)," he says. "Hippocrates said, 'Food is medicine.' " 

Here are two recipes prepared by Robert "Chef Bob" Miller, executive chef of Stauffers of Kissel Hill, Rohrerstown, for the Vegan Night Out. 

  • 2 medium eggplants 
  • Soy-based milk, for breading 
  • Panko-style bread crumbs, for breading 
  • 1 (8-ounce) jar hot roasted pepper and eggplant spread 
  • 1 (8-ounce) block vegan mozzarella, shredded (freeze before shredding) 
  • 1 pint marinara sauce 

Cut 1 eggplant into thin slices. Bread cut eggplant with milk and bread crumbs. Roast second eggplant. Poke holes in it, and remove skin and pulp. Bake breaded eggplant at 350 degrees, until crispy. Combine spread, cheese, sauce and eggplant pulp. Place 1 layer of crispy eggplant in 11-by-9-inch baking pan. Cover with cheese-and-sauce mix. Repeat until pan is full. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. 

Makes 8 servings. 

For cake: 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar 
  • 1 cup water 

For topping: 

  • 6 tablespoons margarine 
  • 3 ounces corn syrup 
  • 9 tablespoons cocoa powder 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For cake: Sift dry ingredients together. Add oil, vanilla, vinegar and water. Mix until smooth. Pour into lightly greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, and bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. For topping: Melt margarine in pan. Add corn syrup, stirring to combine. Add cocoa powder, and stir. Bring almost to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Let cool to spreading consistency, then spread over cake. 

Makes 6 to 8 servings. 

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