Monday, May 20, 2013

Rest Day Reading: Mark Bittman's VB6

On the second Giro rest day, some food for thought. Earlier this month I attended a breakfast at Boulette's Larder at the Ferry Building in San Francisco to promote the publication of  Mark Bittman's new book VB6

The menu: Extra large picture so you can read the type
Porridge toppings
Assorted breads and chocolate crisps

The Turkish breakfast plate

Behind the Ferry Building on a Tuesday morning
What, you may ask, is VB6? A new vitamin? A distant cousin of R2-D2 or C3PO? A hot new restaurant? No, no and no. Instead it stands for Vegan Before Six. As the book's cover says "Eat Vegan Before 6:00: To Lose Weight and Restore Your Health. . .For Good. The Flexible Diet you can really stick to, With More Than 60 Easy, Delicious Recipes." 

That is a lot of text for a book cover, but the idea is simple enough: spend your daytime hours eating fruit, vegetable, grains and other vegan (no-meat, no-dairy) options. After 6 pm, eat what you would like, though in moderation. Bittman embarked on the plan after being told by his doctor that he try a vegan diet or go on medication for health issues. VB6 came about as an effort to balance these very real medical concerns, with his career as a food writer and his love of food and good eating.

The point of Bittman's plan is not deprivation but to increase the plant-based, non-processed foods in all of our diets. Indeed, at breakfast his first question was:
"Can we skip out on this whole vegan thing and get milk in our coffee?"
His reasoning: " We're not aiming for perfection here. I don't want to start the day deprived. I can think of 1,000 vegan breakfasts I like, but I can't think of any substitute for coffee with cream and sugar."
The meal was wonderful, but a bit more elaborate than I am likely to do on a regular morning.  As he said: "I wish I could have breakfast like this every morning, but it would take me two years to cook it. Or a week, at least."
Instead, his book suggests easier to prepare meals, with recipes.

A typical day might looks like:
Breakfast: Hot or cold oatmeal or grain cereals with non-dairy milks, toast with apple butter or Hoecakes, based on traditional New England Johnnycakes. (Personally, I'm a big fan of avocado with a sprinkle of salt on toast.)
Lunch: Green salad with nuts and fruit, a lentil salad, vegetable soup or a vegetarian pasta.  
Dinner: Skillet Sweet Potatoes with Steak, Fisherman's Stew or Zucchini Frittata with or without bacon.
Snacks: Tortilla Crisps, Vegan Creamsicles or edamame 

Would I eat a VB6 diet regularly? Fully vegan before 6 pm? Probably not. After all, at my favorite butcher shop, they know not only my name, but K's as well. I like eggs sometimes for breakfast, leftover meatloaf in a sandwich for lunch or cottage cheese with rhubarb compote as a snack. I do also eat a lot of fruit and vegetables already, courtesy of my Mariquita Mystery Box and weekly farmers markets visits.
Could I benefit from being more conscious of the food choices I make? Sure, and the recipes and ideas of VB6 can only help with that. After all, as Bittman said at breakfast: "We are not after perfection, we are about doing better."

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