Photo: Matt Nager
Dawn and Martin's Top 4 Tips for Embracing Meatless Meals
- Make over the familiar. "Take something you already like, and make it meat-free," Dawn says. "Lasagna is a really easy example of that since you can fill it with tons of great veggies." Other dishes that are easy to enjoy sans meat: casseroles, chili, tacos, and, of course, pizza. "I think reinventing dishes you already love is the easiest way to start," she says.
- Throw a meat-free dinner party. Dawn now helps organize once-a-month Meatless Monday community dinners. Everyone in town is invited, and the cost of admission is a meatless dish and copies of the recipe. "Eighty to 90% of the people who come aren't vegetarians. It's people who want to learn. These dinner parties offer support, and everyone can try many dishes and take a recipe of the things they like," she says.
- Make salads a staple. No matter the time of year, Martin says, you can enjoy salads. The key is working with whatever ingredients are in season: "I roast whatever I have—asparagus, English peas, zucchini, carrots—and add seasoning. I put the hot vegetables on my salad. In place of oil, I add a few slices of avocado or squeeze of lemon."
- Find a go-to dish, and riff away. Pick a basic structure that's easily adaptable so it keeps you from getting bored. Martin is a proponent of the tofu scramble: "For an Asian flavor, I use some light soy sauce, sesame seeds, and thinly sliced vegetables—say, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli." Dawn's favorite mix-it-up dish: rice and beans with avocado and corn salsa. "I'll change out an ingredient, use barley or other whole grains instead of rice, or add a different vegetable."
Twenty-seven years of opening, running, and working in restaurant kitchens left Martin Oswald exhausted and borderline obese. Realizing the unhealthy future he faced, Martin took time off in 2010 to turn things around. He adopted a plant-based diet, shed 35 pounds, and opened Pyramid Bistro, a nutrition-focused café inside Aspen, Colorado's beloved Explorer Bookstore.
Martin's restaurant provided the ideal lunch spot for Dawn Shepard, a personal trainer in Aspen, and the members of the Healthy Readers Book Club. "Two years ago, we had just finished reading The China Study [a 2005 book that looks at the relationship between eating animal-based foods and increased disease risk] and were talking about how nutrition is a big part of preventing the rise of illness," Dawn says. She then told the group about the Meatless Monday movement, which began about 10 years ago and continues to build. "I explained that it was aimed at getting people to reduce meat consumption by 15% for personal health and for the environment," Dawn says.
The group began writing letters and encouraging local organizations to adopt the meat-free-Monday idea. Martin jumped in and asked local chefs to provide at least one vegetarian entrée each Monday. Local schools and the hospital got on board, and before long, Dawn and Martin were able to have Aspen designated as the first Meatless Monday community by the Meatless Monday organization.
"It's a wonderful concept because it's an easy step to take to do something healthy and good for your body," Martin says.