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October is Vegetarian Awareness Month

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Restaurant and Foodservice

If you’ve been thinking about adding some meat-free dishes to the menu, October might be the right time to do it. Vegetarian Awareness Month kicks off Saturday with World Vegetarian Day, created in 1977 to honor the lifestyle and educate others about the benefits of a vegetarian diet. Organizations nationwide, including in San Francisco and Baltimore, will celebrate with festivals devoted to meat-free eating.

Early advocates of vegetarianism opened the country’s first meat-free eatery in the 1895 in New York City, going against the meat-heavy traditions of the day and espousing the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet, according to the blog Restaurant-ing Through History. High meat prices early in the 20th century, through World War I, led to a boom, which didn’t repeat until the 1970s.

Making sure your meat-free meal is really vegetarian

It’s probably not a big deal when omnivores out for a meatless meal inadvertently end up eating fish sauce, beans with a bit of pork or meatless soup made with chicken stock, but it’s a different story for vegetarians. Washington Post food editor Joe Yonan penned a blog post recently that explores whether it’s up to the restaurant to make it obvious that certain dishes aren’t strictly vegetarian or whether the consumer bears the responsibility of knowing what is being eaten.

The topic was sparked after Yonan, an omnivore, opted for a vegetarian meal at Chipotle Mexican Grill founder Steve Ells’ new eatery ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. Yonan later heard from a Twitter follower that the curry he ordered contained fish sauce. The restaurant has since clarified on the menu and the website, Yonan reported in a follow-up post, but the question of whether it’s ultimately up to the eatery or the diner to determine whether a meal meets dietary requirements isn’t so simple to answer.

Another reason for vegetarians to celebrate in October

On Saturday, vegetarian foodies who rarely have a reason to watch TV cooking shows will finally have a show to call their own. PBS stations nationwide will start airing “The Jazzy Vegetarian,” with host Laura Theodore. In an interview with Vegetarian Times, Theodore said for her, the key to creating tasty vegetarian meals that please everyone typically means making vegan versions of familiar favorites such as lasagna.

Will your restaurant commemorate Vegetarian Awareness Month? Tell us how in the comments.