The mission of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc. is to promote the vegetarian ethic in the Mid-Hudson (New York) region, educate the community and aid anyone in the pursuit of a totally vegetarian (vegan) cruelty-free and healthful lifestyle.
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"Going Veggie" in the Hudson Valley
By Constance Young
Like a gentle giant with outstretched arms, vegetarianism is spreading its influence throughout the Hudson Valley. For example, just three years ago the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc. (MHVS), with over 100 members, had only one chapter--and now there are two: the Rhinebeck home base and the Columbia-Greene Chapter out of Chatham. "Vegetarianism is the next great social movement," says Rae Schlecht, founder and past president of MHVS. More proof: Luna 61, Red Hook's preeminent organic vegetarian restaurant, rated the best vegetarian restaurant in the Hudson Valley by readers of Hudson Valley Magazine, will soon be joined by another strictly vegetarian restaurant in Hudson, says owner and chef Peter Maisel. His wife, Debra owns the Paradox Cafe and Bakery in Tivoli, which has many vegetarian items on the menu.
Vegetarians eat no meat, fish or poultry. In contrast, vegans eat no animal products or byproducts: so in addition to not eating meat they don't eat milk, cheese, butter or eggs. Moreover a vegan lifestyle encompasses more than not eating certain food--it means treading lightly on the earth to minimize environmental damage and living so that no animal has to suffer to provide food, entertainment, or clothing.
My own greatest influence was the book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, published in the early 1970s. I had been doing some dog and cat rescue at the time--but after reading this book and joining a few organizations I connected the dots: there was no logic to rescuing certain animals and eating others.
Every time a major article appears on vegetarianism, like a recent Time magazine lead article, or when a new book on vegetarianism or animal use and abuse gets published, more people call or show up at vegetarian society meetings. Just ask Frank and Mary Hoffman, who host the well trafficked website www.all-creatures.org which is "dedicated to cruelty-free living through a vegetarian-vegan lifestyle according to Judeo-Christian ethics."
Perhaps the most passionate reason for becoming a vegetarian has been expressed by Joan Zacharias, head of the Columbia-Greene MHVS: "I love food and I love to cook. I love it even more now that I am a vegan and don't have to be a co-conspirator in the killing of a living being to provide it. I love feasting from the garden, not picking up body parts from the slaughterhouse."
More Vegetarian and Vegetarian-Friendly Eateries
Besides these explicitly vegetarian restaurants, many other "straight" restaurants either have one or more tasty vegetarian (or vegan) specials or are willing to whip up something grand and delightful at your bidding. Manna Dew in Millerton is largely vegetarian and has several vegan specials. The more formal Stissing House in Pine Plains emphasizes meat, poultry, and fish and there was not a single vegan dish when I visited in July--yet when I asked for a vegan entree I was served a scrumptious dish that my meat-eating dinner companion eyed jealously: a Vegetarian Gratin (without cheese), in a bed of choice gourmet vegetables which was prepared and seasoned deliciously. Upper Red Hook's Julia and Isabella restaurant is also not vegetarian although the owner Meri Puccio is vegetarian-friendly. She makes a wonderful curry tofu dish and a fried plantain appetizer, and she once arranged a special vegan dinner for the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian society.
Other favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurants include Earth Foods in Hudson, China Rose in Rhinecliff, Panda in Rhinebeck, Santa Fe in Tivoli, Little Bear (a Chinese restaurant) in Bearsville, and New World Home Cooking in Saugerties--but I must confess that I haven't tried all of the finer restaurants that have interesting-sounding vegetarian specials on their menu. Add to this what everyone knows--that just about every good Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, or Thai restaurant has a few great tasting vegetarian or vegan dishes on the menu.
Health Food Stores
Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society is a wonderful source of information and networking for anyone who is either already a vegetarian and wants to meet others, or someone who is just thinking about "going veggie." Kingston's Rae Schlecht founded MHVS in 1996. Rae became vegetarian about ten years earlier because she wanted more energy for bicycle riding, now, however, she finds the ethical reasons for "going veggie" paramount.
For more information or to join MHVS visit www.mhvs.org, or call 845-876-2626 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. "You do not have to be vegetarian to join," says Roberta Schiff, "Just eat like one at their potlucks and other events."
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The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation