I was planning to make lamb-stuffed baby eggplants for dinner last night, but I’m halfway through Michael Pollan’s sobering In Defense of Food, and then I read Mark Bittman’s grim Sunday New York Times piece about meat overconsumption. I went out and bought a pound of tofu. 

Bittman references a 2006 study by University of Chicago geophysicist Pamela Martin and her colleague Gidon Eshel. [“Diet, Energy, and Global Warming,”] quoth Bittman, “calculated that if Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 20 percent it would be as if we all switched from a standard sedan — a Camry, say — to the ultra-efficient Prius.”

I e-mailed Martin about her dietary preferences before she began her study, and whether it had any effect on them. She obligingly replied that she was, and remains, mostly vegan (she occasionally indulges in M&Ms and pastries from Bonjour Bakery). Before that she was somewhat less strict: 

“I did make a dietary adjustment around the time of the study: fish,” she wrote. “I used to eat more fish; now, I eat it only very rarely (with the exception of sardines and anchovies, energetically efficient fish, that I eat more routinely — once a week or so). And, I did cut out the fish after learning about how energetically inefficient they can be.”

“There have been stretches were I have been totally vegan — when I had access to vegan pastries, it wasn’t too bad. My path towards veganism started with eliminating beef, then other land meats . . . mostly for environmental reasons. I then eliminated most cheese for health reasons (noticing that vegetarian options that simply replace meat with cheese are not so healthy). As I became more aware of both environmental and health issues, the cheese wasn’t too hard to cut out. I do miss stinky cheese.”

You can read Martin and Eshel’s work here.

And before you think I’m giving Dee Dee a pass, here’s Pollan, who also recommends decreasing meat consumption, in “The Vegan Utopia” chapter of The Omnivore’s Dilemma: “The world is full of places where the best, if not the only, way to obtain food from the land is by grazing (and hunting) animals on it–especially ruminants, which alone can transform grass into protein.”