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August 23, 2013

Washington Post Food Editor has Veggie Pride

New cookbook explores vegetarian cooking

  • Joe Yonan calls "Eat Your Vegetables" the "perfect book for anyone looking to expand their vegetarian and produce-based repertoire." Ten Speed Press

A former barbecue judge from Texas, Washington Post food and travel editor Joe Yonan once wrote that he was "just plain hard-wired" to eat meat. But in a March 2013 Post column entitled "A Former Omnivore Comes Out as Vegetarian," Yonan announced that his tastes had become rewired.

Published this month, Yonan’s "Eat Your Vegetables" cookbook highlights meat-free cuisine that will lead even the most ardent omnivore toward greener pastures. In this edited interview with HSUS public relations manager Anna West, Yonan discusses his evolution from king of the grill to promoter of the plant kingdom.

HSUS: How did you come to adopt a vegetarian diet?

Yonan: I grew up in west Texas and certainly ate a lot of heavy meats my whole life. But I ate less and less meat over the last several years. Some people go to the doctor and get a diagnosis or they have a heart attack and they decide right then that they’re going to make a radical shift, but for me it was more gradual. I think that when I was at home I was trying to make up for all the meat eating I was doing in restaurants by moving more toward a vegetarian strategy.

HSUS: Did you worry about the reaction from your Post fans?

Yonan: Yes, I did. I had been writing the "Cooking for One" column for about five years. Last year, I was saying in the column things like, "Now that I'm eating less and less meat," or "Now that I'm mostly vegetarian." I think subconsciously I was feeling out what kind of reaction I was going to get. Were people going to say, "I love this stuff, but why aren't you giving us any meat?" But none of that really happened. So when I was thinking about a new column, I thought "We don't have a vegetarian column in the paper. I should just admit to people that I'm a vegetarian and go for it."

HSUS: What inspired you to write "Eat Your Vegetables"?

Yonan: It started when I was promoting my last book, "Serve Yourself." One of the most common questions I was getting was, "How much of your book is vegetarian?" When I started thinking of ideas for the next book, the voices of all those vegetarians popped into my head.

HSUS: What advice do you have for people who want to reduce their meat consumption?

Yonan: Think about vegetables that you love. Then try to find the best possible iteration of vegetables that you can by shopping locally and in season at the farmers market. Find food writers whose aesthetics you appreciate. You can use meat to season rather than being a big hunk of protein in the middle of the plate. But if you have a hard time breaking out of that, then I would start by just designating certain meals as meatless.

One of our favorite recipes from "Eat Your Vegetables" is Creamy Green Gazpacho.

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