Here at Northern Dish, I realize that people have varied values when it comes to their food. Some people value sustainability while others value sourcing or flavor complexity, and still others just want a reliable and delicious meal. Throughout the year we try to highlight these choices at the restaurants we cover, but this month is all for you veggie lovers.
Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or not, it’s likely you have seen these notations on a menu or at the grocery store, and there can be a little confusion as to what is the difference, so if you’ve ever wondered what qualifies as vegan, today is the day to learn! (To those of you who are vegan: I am not, so please forgive any mistakes I make herein as they are unintentional.)
We don’t have the space to explore every food philosophy in depth, or to really understand the nuances of why people make the choices they do. In short, the way people eat is both deeply personal and highly variable, but to quote American culinary pioneer James Beard, “Food is our common ground.” Let’s explore that together.
Simply put, vegetarians eat vegetables. Now, of course there are other foods like nuts and seeds, fruit, and legumes (depending on if you categorize legumes as protein or vegetable), but the biggest differentiation between vegetarians and omnivores is that vegetarians do not eat meat. Vegetarians often look to tofu, tempeh, nuts, beans, and quinoa for sources of protein, as well as animal-based sources such as eggs, cottage cheese, and yogurt.
People choose a vegetarian lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Some make the choice for ethical reasons like the treatment of animals or the environmental impact of modern farming practices, while others choose vegetarianism for religious or health reasons. The World Cancer Research Fund International has noted that vegetarian diets have been connected with lower cancer risk, though no reliable study has proven that a vegetarian diet protects against any specific kind of cancer. There are a wide variety of potential health benefits for increasing the plant-based foods in the diet.
Veganism is sometimes referred to as “total vegetarianism.” Vegans have an exclusively plant-based diet and do not consume any animal products. Foods like honey, eggs, and dairy would be off the menu for vegans. Yeasted breads are still vegan, as yeast is a fungus and is categorized alongside mushrooms.
Like vegetarians, vegans tend to choose this food philosophy for varied reasons. A vegan diet can help lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease. Philosophically, vegans sometimes believe that the use of animal products is unethical because it exploits the animals who produce it.
These descriptions are in no way exhaustive or conclusive, and purposefully ignore the nuances of pescatarian or ovo- and lacto-vegetarians, among others, as a deep dive into these topics would take up this entire issue. But I do hope that this brief discussion serves as a primer for those of you who had questions, and can raise awareness of the validity and reasoning behind vegetarianism and veganism.
Consistently throughout North Shore Dish, you will find mention of restaurants that have vegetarian and vegan offerings, as well as when a business prioritizes local and sustainable sourcing, as these are aspects of food choices that readers feel strongly about, but this month is focused on delicious places with a plant-based focus. In Duluth, we are looking at Juice Pharm, and in Thunder Bay, let’s explore The Taste of India.
Juice Pharm, Duluth
Juice Pharm is located in the bustling heart of downtown Duluth. Owned by a pair of longtime friends, the love and care for food and community is palpable. Everything at Juice Pharm is gluten-free and vegan (they seem to have removed honey from their menu in 2022) and strives for a global menu that incorporates all sorts of flavors. The Juice Pharm menu changes to meet the needs of the season and their customers, but they maintain staples like the Warrior Smoothie and their hand-made tortilla breakfast tacos.
Juice Pharm prides itself on providing complex and unique flavors. Flavor profiles include curry, shawarma seasoned chickpeas, Mexicali tacos as well as wraps, avocado toast, and acai bowls. Flavor is no stranger at Juice Pharm, and they have much more to offer than their name implies, but if juice is what you’re looking for, look no further.
The Taste of India, Thunder Bay
The Taste of India is closely associated with the Vedic Cultural Centre in Thunder Bay, a nonprofit whose mission is to serve and grow the Vedic tradition in the community of Thunder Bay. One way in which they do this is to offer vegetarian and vegan meals (upon request) both for take-out or delivery, and group catering. Taste of India also seeks to source their ingredients locally whenever possible to maintain freshness and support local businesses.
The menu at The Taste of India changes daily, but it includes meals like today’s roti, daal, and rice and vegetable curry. Roti is a round flatbread, and daal (or dahl) is a dish made of lentils or other legumes and spices. They also offer a variety of snacks and appetizers like the veggie filled pastry samosa, or extra bowls of curry and daal.
The Taste of India is also available for catering, offering a variety of dishes for your choosing. Their mains include masala, curry, or sabji, and they offer delicious salads, roti, rice, and desserts as well.
You don’t have to be vegan or vegetarian to appreciate the unique and complex flavor profiles that these meals offer us. The legendary James Beard believed that not only does food unite us, but that “too many simple green salads suffer from a lack of imagination.” Such is not the case at Juice Pharm and The Taste of India. These, as well as other vegan and vegetarian restaurants, seek to provide creative and delicious plant-based offerings that both please your taste buds and your belly, without bruising your conscience. I think you’ll find “if you have never tasted a braised vegetable, you’ll find it is a revelation.”—James Beard