IFBC 2014: Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plant-Based Diets

Reflections on #IFBC Seattle and the foundations of our food.

Marinated Veg

Marinated Veggie Salad Jars (click through for the recipe!)


As predicted and expected, we had a grand time at IFBC in Seattle last weekend. The surroundings, the conversation, the company, the food samplings, and yes, the swag. I always walk away from a conference recharged and refreshed, and this was no exception.

Out of many thought-provoking and entertaining sessions, one of the most engaging was the first, with Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg,  two of today’s most renowned food writers who shared their inspiring story with warmth, wisdom and humor. I’ve been a fan for many years, and started using the seasoning guidelines tucked away in the back of my dog-eared, stained and scribbled-upon copy of Culinary Artistry long before they came out with the gloriously exponential expansion of that idea, The Flavor Bible. (Forgive me for sounding like a bit of a hipster.  How did the hipster burn his tongue? He drank his coffee before it was cool.)

Page has just come out with the Vegetarian Flavor Bible, the ebook of which was generously given to attendees to peruse (I can totally vouch for its excellence), and the last part of their presentation was devoted to talking about the potential health benefits of a plant-based diet, with emphasis on veganism – and certainly many have found great results from this approach. Being people who are passionate about all kinds of food and many approaches to health, including those for whom a vegan diet might be detrimental to their health, there was of course some online conversation among attendees; for just a moment, you could sense the #ifbc Twitter stream shifting uncomfortably in its seat.

And then we headed into the beef butchering demo. #ironyorjustuncannyjuxtaposition #thingsyoucantmakeup  

Later in the conference, the always wonderful Shauna Ahern spoke to the overall concept of healthful eating not being one-size-fits-all, as Tweeted by Kristin Price:

Yet the Plant-Based Diet as a beacon of nutritional virtue remains pervasive in our cultural conversations about diet. It’s worth unpacking the term: What exactly do we mean by “plant-based”? Does everyone hear the same thing when they encounter it? Do we all mean plant-ONLY?   Some interpret the term as synonymous with veganism, period. Others allow for ovo-lacto vegetarianism at the very least. Others still, omnivores like myself, can still find value in the term if we see it as meaning plants are the foundation of our diets, if not the exclusive be-all end-all.

I spent 15 years of my life as a vegetarian, and indeed, the two cookbooks I’ve been lucky to co-author with my amazingly kitchen-gifted mom and coblogger are “101 Things To Do With Tofu” and last year’s “Virgin Vegan: Everyday Recipes”. Since my daughter was born, I had the experience of going gluten-free on her behalf and finding bonus benefits for myself, and presently keep to a mostly paleo diet (exceptions soon to abound with the upcoming holidays, naturally), yet I still draw from recipes in those books, and the vegetarian and vegan books that inspired and informed us, because PLANTS.

The one thing all nutritional approaches to health and fitness have in common? MORE. VEGETABLES. Whether you’re pairing those more-vegetables with tofu and tempeh, or with grains and cheese, or with grass-fed beef and backyard-hen eggs, you cannot go wrong with vegetables taking up a significant portion of your overall volume. No matter what else you’re omitting or adding, VEGETABLES.  It’s the reason that even now as a mostly-paleo omnivore, I have no problem supporting and participating in Meatless Monday. Even then, people will tweak plants-as-foundation for their own needs, as some may have inflammatory issues with nightshades or others may need to reduce or omit starchier vegetables, but the foundation of flora remains.

I thought Dr. Jean Layton, the Gluten-Free Doctor, summed it up well in this Tweet during the Page and Dornenberg session:

There is is, just as Michael Pollan has so succinctly put it, Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. I think that goes for us all, vegan and vegetarian, paleo and primal, traditional foods, low carb, gluten-free, or just plain food-eating food lovers.

P.S. Really, do check out The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. Truly a worthwhile addition to your cookshelf.

 — posted by Anne




  1. says

    My take on it was similar, I was heartened to see so much emphasis on a vegetarian diet (or the more modern and inclusive term ‘plant-based.’ I too have both Culinary Artistry and Flavor Bible on my bookshelf and was a vegetarian for many years. But when were we given the ebook of the Vegetarian Flavor Bible? I must have missed that and I’m really interested.

    • says

      Remember those little laminated cards on the tables in the room where Page and Dornenberg spoke? If you flipped it over, it had a code on the back to download via Amazon. Maybe you can connect with someone who got got an extra or won’t be using theirs? Try the IFBC Facebook group!

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