Burger? Salad? Maybe the Sustainably Raised Chicken?

I read a few months ago an editorial from Gourmet magazine’s editor in chief, Ruth Reichl, wherein she discussed the idea of “Occasional Vegitarianism.” “Isn’t it time we realized that eating vegetarian meals is neither penance nor virtue, but simply another mealtime option?”, she asks. As part of her case, Reichl pointed out that we now consume more meat than any other society in history, and that our grazing and feed production uses 30% of the surface of the planet.

Makes me wonder if she’s correct in her assumption that it’s not a penance nor virtue to consume wisely. It’s becoming just duty. This week, the NYT reported on the popularity of certain varieties of fish and its impact on sushi consumption; US consumers believe salmon and tuna rolls are the end all be all, and the rise in sushi’s popularity has placed a strain on these species. The article suggests that sushi lovers expand their orders into a wider range of sushi options.

When Americans sit down at a restaurant—from the sushi bar to Applebee’s—their method of evaluating menu choices has changed. We have become more conscientious of what we want to eat versus what we should be eating. We saw it in the tiny salad selection growing into an array of main dish options for patrons interested in a tasty dining experience without three days’ worth of fat and calories. Menus developed further with the proliferation of a rainbow of symbols to tell us exactly what made food healthy—low fat, low carbs, lactose-free. Today, as demonstrated in the Times, Americans are becoming more aware of their food’s origins—an organic farm locally grown, or from a sustainable resource? So should we be thinking one step beyond ourselves when we sit down at the diner, to consider what we should be consuming? And should restaurants be pushing this agenda by clearly labeling menus with a revised edition of the symbols to help customers make the right choice?