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May 4, 2010 09:02 PM

what does it mean for american eaters and restaurants when mario batali embraces "meatless mondays"?

"The fact is, most people in the U.S. eat way more meat than is good for them or the planet," maintains Batali. "Asking everyone to go vegetarian or vegan isn't a realistic or attainable goal. But we can focus on a more plant-based diet, and support the farmers who raise their animals humanely and sustainably. That's why I'm such a big believer in the Meatless Monday movement."

wow. big, thoughtful, and quite surprising statements from the guy who brought the term "lardo" into the american dining public's vernacular. . . ;-P

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  1. the lord of lardo is going green. gotta love it :) but i'm not really surprised - Batali was one of the first major players to stop serving bottled water in his restaurants, and he and Joe Bastianich have both slimmed down and started to take their own health more seriously.

    regardless of the reason, i think it's a good business move.

    3 Replies
    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

      It means that the lord of lardo (great name), having lost much weight after facing a likely health incident, turns a necessity into a [branding] virtue. Nothing big or surprising about the idea at all: it's a gimmick, as all these things are, in this case turning even more traditional Italian foodways (lentils and macaroni on Monday, beans and escarole on Wednesday, eggplant polpette in between, fresh fruit and cold sliced fennel anytime) into a business. Good for the Batali/Bastianich empire, but let's not rush to sainthood just yet. Why not expanded meatless offerings everyday? Why not just do it without the predictable and patronizing fuss?

      1. re: bob96

        "Why not expanded meatless offerings everyday? "
        my guess is that they'll eventually do that if the new dishes are popular - as i suspect they will be. at least this is a step in the right direction. but let's hope that if he does decide to expand it to other days, he'll dispense with the cutesy alliteration...Weight Watchers' Wednesdays and Fauna-free Fridays just don't have quite the same ring to 'em.

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

          On the contrary, I quite like the idea of Fauna-free Fridays--too funny!

    2. What's wrong with using his influence in the food community to encourage Americans to eat more healthfully (not to mention economically)? Imho, he's to be applauded.

      Red beans and rice have been a Monday tradition in New Orleans for ever. Not a new concept, even in US.

      7 Replies
      1. re: ChefJune

        Exactly! If Jamie Oliver can do why not Mario & Joe.
        Mondays have been macaroni days around here for as long as I can remember.
        Macaroni Monday....a thousand variations.

        1. re: ChefJune

          But red beans and rice were cooked because it was laundry day and didn't require much attention. And most good red beans and rice have meat of some sort in them.

          1. re: ChefJune

            Most red beans and rice are cooked with ham hocks, have ham in them and are served with andouille sausage. Not exactly meatless. Sure they can be, but not traditionally.

            1. re: gastrotect

              Meat is FAR from the most important ingredient in Red Beans and Rice. and in most homes they are NOT served with any meat on the side. Poor folks food, doncha know?

              1. re: ChefJune

                Funny, I never equated red beans and rice with the poor, just something we had every Monday at home and at school for lunch. And it always had meat, typically pickle meat since it was cheap. Most places in NOLA that serve red beans serve it with whatever meat is cooked with it and a slab of some other meat, typically a link or patty of hot sausage. While meat may not be the most important ingredient in the beans, it provides it with the most flavor.

                1. re: roro1831

                  what would red beans and rice taste like without pork flavor in there? blah.

            2. re: ChefJune

              I think he should be applauded too. Even growing up in Alabama, we ate red beans and rice on Monday. It always had a ham hock or some kind of side meat in it. Our our wash day was on Saturday, not Monday. But for us, red beans and rice fit the Meatless Monday tradition because of the history of Meatless Monday from WWI when meat was rationed. There were wheatless days as well. My great grandparents and grand parents lived through that era so I guess it was Meatless Monday passed it down to us from them.

              Our Fridays were (and still are) meatless as well - even though we're not Catholic.

            3. From the comments on the HuffPo:

              "That is my problem with Meatless Mondays. It creates an oversimplified binary polemic, 'meat bad, vegetables good,' which conflates factory armed CAFO meat with sustainable, humanely raised grassfed meat. Nature is a system of complex relationships, not simple binary polemics. It is polemical thinking that caused most of the imbalances that we have with nature in the first place. We need to teach people to think less polemically, and more systemically.

              For people in many areas, there is no reason to stop eating sustainably raised meat on Monday or any other day. Many of the vegetable foods that people eat, such as the typical soy burger, which is chemically processed and shipped long distances, are far less healthy and sustainable than grassfed meat.

              If we want to have a positive impact on health and the environment, we need to adopt a more systemic approach, and avoid mechanistic, oversimplified polemical approaches. In fact, the single most powerful thing that you can do to combat the ills of factory farmed meat is to support sustainably raised meat by purchasing it. Abstaining from meat does absolutely nothing to encourage CAFO's to change their ways. Eating sustainably raised meat does."

              I agree that Batali's just following the trend.

              9 Replies
              1. re: MandalayVA

                Some people have FAR too much time on their hands. This is not an issue that needs dissecting.

                1. re: ChefJune

                  It makes a valid (if wordy) point--meat's not the enemy, the way the majority of it's raised is. It's trendy to bash meat these days and stuff like this from a guy who Joe Schmoe knows from TV reinforces it. And poor people eat meat, just not in nice neat recognizable cuts. Neck bones and trotters for the win!

                  1. re: MandalayVA

                    "Poor" is an amorphous term that is frequently redefined for political expediency, but more objectively it is tweaked to identify 20% of the world's most misbegotten, about 1.3 billion people, who eat little meat in any form.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      Doesn't the fact that 1.3 billion are too poor to get good nutrition give anyone a clue that maybe it's not meat eating that's "destroying the planet" but the fact that there's just too many people on it and it's the grains that are grown in a futile attempt to feed them that are perpetrating the destruction? It's better to promote some feel-good stuff like "Meatless Mondays" rather than face reality for some people, it seems.

                      1. re: MandalayVA

                        I completely agree. If planet Earth were a night club, a fire marshal would have posted an occupancy limit of some small fraction of the number of us dancing our way to doom in uncomfortably close quarters and with a marginal abiltiy to feed, water, and power ourselves in a healthy and dignified manner. Unfortunately, every economic model ever devised is dependent on an ever-increasing human population. And vital resources are not where the people are. Birth rates worldwide are reacting to these realities, but at a glacial pace.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          If planet Earth were a night club, a fire marshal would have posted an occupancy limit of some small fraction of the number of us dancing our way to doom in uncomfortably close quarters and with a marginal abiltiy to feed, water, and power ourselves in a healthy and dignified manner.

                          Very well said, Veggo, altho you mis-spelled ability.

                          Has anyone read "Heat"??

                    2. re: MandalayVA

                      Neckbones and trotters are no longer inexpensive since they have become trendy. 8-(

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        In New York perhaps but down here in Virginia they're still pretty cheap, even if you go the pastured route.

                    3. re: ChefJune

                      To Chef June post: Then this site wouldn't exist. Have you visited the 'Not about Food' Board? Geesh. 300 posts about who brought what to a BBQ, what constitutes a hostess gift, who should/shouldn't wash dishes?

                  2. Monday Night Football alpha males eschewing meat lovers pizza and wings? "Yo, Joey, pass the tofu, and quit Bogarting the carrot sticks" ??
                    And Susanna Hoffs rounding up the other Bangles to do a remake called "Just another Meatless Monday"?
                    I don't see it catching on.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Veggo

                      Get Paula Deen to concoct Monday Night Football Deep Fried Veggies; lethal veggies, the irony, Iove it. May even qualify for a Darwin Award!

                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                        I shudder to think what Paula Deen would come up with for Meatless Monday.

                        "Look y'all, I've come up with some fabulous dips to spice up those boring Monday vegetables. All y'all need is a quart of heavy duty mayo, sour cream and if nobody is looking, sneak in a pound of butter. Get your hands in there and mix. MMMM-MMMM... Finger licking good. BTW, has anyone seen my ring?"

                      2. re: Veggo

                        Growing up, we called that Friday. ;-)

                        But, I think consciousness raising is always good, as long as people don't just jump on the band-wagon because it's trendy without understanding why it might make sense and what they are trying to accomplish. That's just pointless.

                        It reminds me though of something I read the Sierra Club was doing awhile back called "Sustainable Tuesdays." The idea was one day a week you tried to make the best choices you could for the planet. You'd take public transit on that day. On that day, you'd drink tap water instead of bottled water. You'd make careful food choices, such as eating locally and in season, etc.


                        I tried to do it for awhile and it wasn't as easy to stick to as I thought. It's just one day a week! But, every once in awhile, I try to get back to it. For instance, it's easier for me to do in summer than in winter.




                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Good point DQ! Lenten Fridays - mac and cheese or salmon patties!

                      3. OK, i was too tired when i read the piece last night, and now that i've revisited it i'm not nearly as impressed. they're definitely falling short on the execution here. adding a couple of vegetarian entrees to the menu hardly classifies that night's dinner service as "meatless." and Batali needs to get his message straight - saying he wants to "support the farmers who raise their animals humanely and sustainably" isn't exactly the wisest or most sensible selling point for this particular venture. how are you *supporting* the animal farmers by celebrating MEATLESS dishes?? it should be common practice for *all* restaurants to offer vegetarian options on their menus all the time. it's better for the planet, and it's better for their business...hardly rocket science. but vegetarian and sustainable don't go hand-in-hand, and in the case of a meat-loving restaurateur with such a high profile and widespread influence, Batali would be doing society a much better service by sticking to promoting the sustainability angle. and yes, i *know* this is just as much about money as it is about doing something good for society and the planet - i'm not naive :)