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Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc.
38 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, New York 12572 USA -  845-876-2626
Vegetarian - Vegan - Animal Rights - Health - Nutrition - Environment

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.

Articles - Letters - and More
Article Published in "About Town" Fall 2002 Issue

"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.

Three-Pronged Reasons
According to Roberta Schiff, current president of MHVS, "the basic reasons for 'going veggie' (or better yet vegan) are three pronged: health, ethics, and the environment." Robbie became a vegetarian in 1993 after being encouraged by her oldest daughter who was a vegetarian. "I then read the book Judaism and Vegetarianism by Roberta Kaleochefsky, which influenced me strongly," she says. Another book that has influenced many people is Diet for a New America by John Robbins, the son of Baskin Robbins ice cream magnate. In fact MHVS's consulting chef Lauren Klatsky became a vegetarian after seeing the video Diet for a New America and reading the book while she was a physics major at MIT. Lauren is also a recent Culinary Institute of American graduate and chef at Omega Institute. "My main concerns were health and the environment," she said. "After I read Robbin's book, I became aware of the environmental degradation from animal agriculture and the health risks of a meat-based diet."

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
And if you ever had any question about what a feast it is, just try a visit to the multiplicity of vegetarian restaurants in the area. Besides Luna 61 and its new branch in Hudson, there's the fabulous Rosendale Cafe in Rosendale (Zagat rated "Best Vegetarian Restaurant"), the new Vagabond Cafe in New Paltz (which is 100% vegetarian--or "vegan"), and the recently opened Phoenix Cafe in Chatham.

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
There are also many health or natural foods stores in the area where you can buy already prepared vegetarian or vegan foods canned, dried, or frozen--or bulk grains and nuts, and other fixings as well as soy desserts and ice creams--not to mention getting advice about healthful eating. These stores include Rhinebeck Health Foods, Nature's Pavilion in Kingston, Mother Earth's Storehouse at King's Mall in Kingston and the Colonial Plaza in Hyde Park, Red Hook Natural Foods, Kaaterskill in Hudson, Branch Health Food Center in Pleasant Valley, KJs Health Foods in Amenia, Sunflower in Woodstock, and Hawthorne Valley Farms in Harlemville, where they make great veggie burgers. Some of these, like Rhinebeck Health Foods, Mother Earth's and KJs, also have tables or a luncheon bar, and today even the local supermarkets sell different brands of soy milk, grades of tofu, packaged vegetarian foods, and other meat and chicken analogues.

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 robbie@mhvs.org. "You do not have to be vegetarian to join," says Roberta Schiff, "Just eat like one at their potlucks and other events."

We look forward to hearing from you

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