It's Monday, the grudging beginning of another work week, and the end of a weekend perhaps spent barbecuing or, if you were anywhere in the vicinity of Koreatown, consuming plenty of what others threw on the grill at the Korean BBQ Cook-Off, called, appropriately enough, “Let's Meat.” So if you hit critical mass in the meat department in the last few days, it might be time to observe Meatless Mondays.
Meatless Mondays is not some atavistic Church tradition but a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health. Its goal is to help reduce meat consumption by 15% by encouraging people to cut out meat from their diets for just one day a week. The idea is that such a reduction can help improve personal health, reduce our carbon footprint and thus help mitigate climate change. Lofty goals, but ones that the organization thinks possible simply by forgoing steaks, carne asada and kalbi — just for one day.
There is some precedent for this, of course. During both world wars, presidents Wilson, Truman and Roosevelt all variously called for voluntary renunciation of meat on Mondays. Why Mondays? Because Mondays are the beginning of the week, the day when most of us have, maybe, more resolve than at the end of the week or the during the brief carnival of the weekend. And if we've all spent the weekend eating as many Korean BBQ tacos as is humanly possible, it might be about time for a break anyway.
Meatless Mondays, which began in 2003 and provides recipes as well as nutritional information on its website, has been endorsed by 20 schools of public health. More resonantly, perhaps, it's been endorsed by Mario Batali, hardly a spokesman for outright vegetarianism. In May Batali instituted Meatless Mondays at all 14 of his restaurants, including Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza here in L.A. Yes, you can still order your lardo pizza, your fennel sausage pizza, your calf's brain ravioli, your maltagliati with wild boar ragu; but you can also order designated vegetarian dishes engineered specifically as Meatless Mondays options.
As The Washington Post pointed out recently, this movement has garnered enough grassroots attention to get a response from the meat industry, which has been lobbying to reverse the trend. Given our national infatuation with the carnivore diet, the industry may not have to worry too much. According to a recent AP-NBC Universal poll, more people said they'd be more likely to recycle bottles or bring their own bags to grocery stores than they'd be to give up meat, even sporadically. Okay, then. But one day of casual vegetarianism won't hurt you, and it might, both individually and collectively, do some good. It's not like the non-profit organization is asking you to give up handguns, even for a day.