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Vegetarians Do Thanksgiving on a High-Fad Diet

November 24, 1994|ELIZABETH GLAZNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

HUNTINGTON BEACH — Dana Diamond's family has resigned itself to the fact that she lives an "alternative lifestyle."

But in spite of certain aberrations, she'll be spending today celebrating Thanksgiving with them, dodging the discrimination inevitably forced upon those with her particular bent. Diamond is a vegetarian .

She came out about it two years ago when she began using "live food" like fruits and vegetables to nullify the long-term effects of an omnivorous upbringing .

"I remember some pretty gross things I used to eat, at fast-food restaurants," says Diamond, of Huntington Beach. "Every once in a while you'd find a bone in something. It was gross."

Diamond is like many of her peers who still wonder what constitutes a Cheeto and are haunted by macabre images of Ronald McDonald wielding a watering can in a hamburger patch.

"Being a vegetarian is a whole lifestyle," says Diamond, 20, a clerk at Mother's, a health food supermarket in Huntington Beach. And that lifestyle includes some pretty sophisticated, if esoteric, ingredients. Aromatherapy, iridology, homeopathy, colon therapy, body work--Diamond says they are all part of the holistic lifestyle she and her peers have adopted in retaliation to their upbringing, during the age of microwaveable convenience foods and the inauguration of the drive-through.

This Thanksgiving, Diamond will feast on latkes--Jewish potato pancakes--and vegetable quiche. She'll spend it with her mother and about 23 others, most of them feasting on turkey, prime rib and ham, stuffing (is that with or without sausage?) and gravy made from pan drippings (that's turkey fat). Pass the papaya enzymes, please.

"When the cavemen found something on the ground--like a carrot--they picked it up and just ate it. It was right there, and it was perfect," she says.

Today's youth are more sophisticated about food than their parents, many of whom relied on the then newly emerging convenience food market to make sure their kids got fed. Such foods were increasingly available in unprecedented variety, yet were generally loaded with preservatives and devoid of nutrients--remember Tater Tots, Fish Stix and frozen broccoli that smelled like weeds after you nuked it?

The variety of health foods was once extremely limited, and those who indulged were typically thought to be eccentrics who never wore shoes. Yet today, vitamins and herbal and natural food supplements are big business. We know more now about the diet and its effect on the quality of our lives.

A new wave of hippie individuals is going home this Thanksgiving to meet with yuppie parents who were once granola-snuffing hippies themselves, and who will greet them at the door wielding trays of baby vegetables to appease their squeamish palates.

Paul Costuros, 20, of Huntington Beach, was raised by vegetarian hippies. They eventually divorced. He'll be spending Thanksgiving with his mother, who now drives a BMW and lives in a house of perfect Southwest design, he says.

Though he says his parents have "sold out," Paul nonetheless maintains a complete vegan diet, which includes the package of non-dairy chocolate chip cookies he is purchasing at Mother's, where he just had dinner with his friend and fellow Golden West College student, Don Miller, 21.

While Paul plans on contributing spaghetti and tofu to his mother's menu, Don will cope with the holiday in his own rhetorical way. "I'll be feasting on stuffing, a dry martini and a cigarette," he says.

*

Studies show 12.4 million Americans consider themselves vegetarian, says Lige Weill, president of the Vegetarian Awareness Network, a national nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., established in 1980.

An Illinois-based group called Teen-age Resource Unlimited says a quarter of all American teen-agers are vegetarian, while the National Restaurant Assn. notes that at least 15% of college students lead a vegetarian lifestyle. "And it's definitely on the rise," Weill says.

Fewer than 10% of vegetarians say they are completely vegan-- exclusive of all animal and dairy products. Others generally consider themselves either ovo-lacto , meaning they eat eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products, or lacto --they eat some dairy, with the exception of eggs.

Of the 250 employees of the two Mother's stores (the other is in Costa Mesa), about 65% are vegetarian, most of them in their 20s, says Kelly Henry, who manages the Huntington Beach store. "That's usually the reason they come to work here." His store sold 150 free-range turkeys this Thanksgiving, as well as plenty of meatless turkey substitutes.

Toward the rear of the store, clerk Johnnie Renna is pointing out meat and dairy substitutes available to lure the omnivore: Rice Dream, Tuno, Wham, Soysage, Not Dogs, Sweet Nothings, Nyetnaise, Phoney Bologna, to name a few.

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