The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

February 16, 2014

Vegetarians form own group for meals

DECATUR — In 1990 when Sue Weinstein wanted to eat out, dinner usually meant a salad and a baked potato.

“It’s easier than it used to be,” the 20-year vegetarian-turned-vegan said. “But it’s still pretty tough.”

That’s part of the reason she’s a co-organizer for the Decatur Vegetarian Meetup group. Meetup is an online forum where people can form clubs open to anyone and create events for those with similar interests.

Last Thursday, the group met at the newly opened Taproot restaurant in downtown Decatur. Weinstein contacted Executive Chef John Redden several weeks before to discuss menu options. Redden saw it as a challenge.

“It forces you as a cook to be more creative,” Redden said.

With popular documentaries such as “Forks over Knives” and “Food Inc.” increasing public awareness of the food industry and the benefits of eating less processed food, Redden said they often get dietary requests for vegetarian, vegan, or more recently, gluten-free foods.

He and his right-hand man, sous chef Paul Maisel, worked to make creative and tasty menu options for the group.

“Just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you have to eat bland food or suffer with your house salad while everyone else at the table eats a steak,” Maisel said. “I can’t imagine what’s that would be like on a day-to-day basis.”

It’s not as hard as you might think though. Weinstein became a vegetarian in 1990 out of ethical concerns and went vegan five years ago.

She enjoys cooking meals at home, especially ones such as Vegan Mac and Cheese, but struggles at restaurants.

“It’s so hard for vegans and vegetarians to eat out,” she said.

That difficulty in finding tasty veggie meals on a menu inspired the group’s creation. The idea was that if vegetarians and vegans went as a group, they could get restaurants to put together menu items specifically for them.

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