Today is Frances Moore Lappés birthday.
So just who is Frances Moore Lappé? Well, she wrote Diet for a Small Planet, the 1971 bestselling book presenting people becoming vegetarians as a way of addressing world hunger. According to Lappé, grains, beans, and vegetables produce five, ten, and fifteen times more protein per acre than livestock production, respectively. So by shifting production from meat to plant foods, much more food could be easily produced.
Back in 1971 when this book was written, Lappé figured her audience would be skeptical that a vegetarian diet could supply sufficient protein. Because of that, a lot of the book was devoted to introducing her theory of complementing proteins, also called protein combining, so that their combined amino acid pattern matched that of animal foods.
As it turned out, it was later shown that the combining of different vegetable proteins to simulate animal protein is unnecessary. Individual plant foods contain all the amino acids required by humans, in amounts which satisfy growth and maintenance.
In a later edition she included this new information that it is not necessary to worry about combining proteins with the exceptions of:
“diets very heavily dependent on fruit or on some tubers, such as sweet potatoes or cassava, or on junk food (refined flours, sugars, and fat). Fortunately, relatively few people in the world try to survive on diets in which these foods are virtually the sole source of calories. In all other diets, if people are getting enough calories, they are virtually certain of getting enough protein.”
Now there is a new 20th anniversary edition of this book available. It features simple rules for a healthy diet, a streamlined, easy-to-use format, protein-rich meals without meat, hundreds of recipes, and kitchen hints with a comprehensive reference guide for planning and preparing meals.
Now I’m not advocating everyone needs to think about instantly becoming vegetarians. However, having vegetarian meals at least once in a while is a good idea. Here in the U.S., we have a tendency to eat way too much red meat.
The 20th anniversary edition of Diet for a Small Planet is a good place to look for recipe ideas and information. It’s an updated version of a classic!