Updated: Nov 17, 2022
What can the rich food history of cultures across the world teach us about plant-based food systems? Hear some perspectives from Plant Futures’ Latine team members:
If you know my son, you know his favorite meal is (and always has been) rice and beans. He helps me harvest and clean the beans, make the sofrito and sazón, and has the final word on whether or not more salt is needed before serving. During the cooking process, we talk about our family, where they come from, how we got here, and the loved ones who made the dish for me when I was his age. I love these conversations. Not only is he learning about his ancestors, but he’s now a keeper of the recipes so he can enjoy them when I’m no longer around. The challenge: my son decided as a three-year-old that he no longer wanted to eat meat because he didn’t want to hurt animals. How could I pass our culinary history down to him when SO MANY of the recipes I grew up eating contained meat or other animal products?
We never pressured him to change his mind. On the contrary, his father and I followed his lead and started eliminating meat and dairy from our diets. We assumed that we could never learn to live without the boulette, guisado, and lechon alongside the starches and legumes, but I worked on replicating those flavors and sauces with plant-based ingredients, and now we just don’t miss it. In fact, it’s nice to enjoy those familiar flavors without feeling the ill effects of a meat-based diet. And it makes me happy that my son can enjoy the same flavors without having to compromise his values in the name of tradition.
Now that I am living in Mexico, the convergence of my Mexican heritage & vegan identity becomes clearer every day. Mexico is a plant-based haven. Not only is it the vegan capital of the world (the plant-based scene is absolutely booming!) but finds roots in the native Mexican diet and staples which are primarily plant-centric. Some of the most delicious and nutritious plant-based staples originate in Mexico - everything from huitlacoche to mangoes to avocados to chia seeds - you name it. Access to plant-based food is a huge part of the reason I am so drawn and attached to this land. Every bite and every meal is a spiritual experience for me. The palettes, flavors, smells, all of it - Mexico’s cuisine is the best in the world and I’ll never be convinced otherwise (sorry, France, you come in close second ;) Eating plant based food isn't just fun, exhilarating, and an excuse to go out with friends every night - it’s the single most powerful way we can reclaim our health from colonial imposed health conditions. Did you know the Aztecs (who ate a largely plant based diet) had a longer lifespan (by 10+ years) before the Spanish arrived in Mexico? The animal products introduced by Spain wreaked havoc on the health of Mexico’s native population, but now, we have a chance to take our health back - next time you decide what to eat - ask yourself which option is best for you, for your community, the animals, the planet, and for your spirit - is your meal aligned with your values? In plants we trust!
I was an MBA student in the first Symposium and Challenge Lab for Plant Futures at UC Berkeley. I was so inspired by all of the speakers, my classmates, and my Challenge Lab mentor that I decided to stay involved to recruit the challenge lab partners for the Spring & Fall 2022 and now Spring 2023.
I am from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and I was so glad to be able to merge my passion in the Food & Ag sectors with my personal background through the project I worked on during the Challenge Lab. In partnership with Blue Horizon, I researched and developed a strategic roadmap for potential opportunities for plant-based food companies to expand in the Mexican market. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about the different preferences and trends in the Mexican market versus in the U.S. as it relates to plant-based diets. Since this class, I have personally changed my own diet to be vegetarian during the week and less strict on my diet over the weekends. I have become a true flexitarian!
I was born in Mexico City in the late 80s, around the time of the introduction of processed foods and fast food franchises that aimed to maximize the availability and shelf-life of products. This transformation has brought harmful consequences I’ve witnessed: Mexican people have a growing epidemic of obesity-related non-communicable diseases like diabetes.
Faced with these odds, and by having the privilege of higher education and the internet, I’ve had the opportunity to experience first-hand that a meaningful change in habits can have an incredible effect on our health, and for my family it's the conscious effort of eating a plant-centric diet.
In my lived experience so far, that felt impossible to say a couple of years ago, but there's been a boom of plant-centric food options opening in Mexico City, and I've also become much more knowledgeable and grateful for all the traditional options that were staples of Pre Columbian cuisine, like dozens of salsa recipes, huitlacoche mushrooms quesadillas, and flor de calabaza (squash blossom) just to name a few. I hope to help grow the adoption of the ethical and sustanability aspects of this centuries-old diet. I’m hopeful that there are better days coming for our people and our planet.