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Meatless Mondays: veggie options in Montreal

The Meatless Mondays campaign is a worldwide bid to get people to have a smaller impact on the environment by eating less meat.

It officially launched in Quebec last week, but the organizers admit that for people used to eating “meat and two veg” it may be a difficult task.

But given the number of vegetarian restaurants and cooking classes, there really is no excuse.

Gigi Cohen and Jessica Watters are out to prove that meat can be eliminated from the menu without sacrificing nutrition or taste.

Cohen runs Café Harvard in NDG, where customers can order kosher vegetarian food or take one of her weekly cooking classes.

Down the street is Juicy Lotus, where Watters makes homemade vegetarian takeout.

The mother-daughter pair are bound by more than business interests.

Cohen started working at a health food store to learn how to feed her daughter.

“Jessica was born and she had severe allergies to all meat protein, and I had no clue what to do,” said Cohen.

28 years later, they’re both old pros.

“I don’t think that meat is bad, but it’s just that I was raised not eating it as a health point,” said Watters. “I learned how to make food around not eating meat.”

Watters says one key is to ensure variety.

“We didn’t want to do lettuce salads, we didn’t want to do lettuce, tomato and carrots so we started looking for different ingredients,” said Watters. “My Mom really raised me about wide variety and colour.”

When the duo aren’t cooking, they like to dine out at Aux Vivres in the Plateau, where Co-owner Michael Makhan is knocking down myths about vegetarian cuisine.

“I think people get it into their heads that all we have is beans and rice and lentils,” said Makhan. “It’s like they had one soup or one something bland and that’s it, it’s over for them.”

Chu Chai has been dishing out fragrant Thai cuisine for thirteen years, but this vegetarian restaurant has meat all over the menu.

The only catch: it’s fake! A reproduction of meat’s texture using only vegetarian ingredients.

“Soya, seitan,konyaku which is family of the potato in Japan, seaweed to reproduce the seafood taste,” said Patrick Michaud.

The restaurant owner says his customers include strict vegetarians, committed carnivores and people like him, who he calls flexitarians.

“It’s a meat eater who realize that he can enjoy eating vegetarian,” said Michaud.

Many more options for vegetarian cuisine than when Cohen started meat-free cooking.

“It’s our calling,” said Cohen.

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