Vegan by Day, Glutton by Night? Thinking About VB6

One quick note: After ten years one week of three-a-week newsletters, we’re cutting back to two. This is for two reasons: One, a bunch of you have said that three is too much for you. And two, we’ve realized that, for the moment, three is too much for us—quality is important, after all. So we’re going to do twice-weekly and see what happens. Thanks for your advice, stay tuned, and, as always, please let us know your thoughts. Now: on to today.

It’s gratifying to get asked—and many of you have done so in the last week—“What’s happening with VB6?” One short answer is that, like other schemes to shift the balance of how we eat, VB6 has gained popularity. But on the ground, not all that much has changed in the eleven-plus years since I developed it.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about here, VB6 is the plan I developed (not alone, but with my colleague Kerri Conan) in which you eat like a super-devoted, extreme vegan until 6pm (VB6 means “Vegan Until 6"). So you eat vegetables, seeds, fruits, nuts, whole grains only; no white food, and no fries or sugar-sweetened beverages or alcohol (all of which are vegan). And no cheating (except everyone, including me, cheats, so that’s ok). And then you do whatever the hell you want for dinner, from t-bone steaks to a bottle of rye. I wrote a book about it, which debuted at number one on the Times bestseller list and stayed there for a New York minute. And a cookbook, too, which is both comprehensive and, modesty aside, pretty good.

VB6 works: Almost everyone I know who’s tried it and stuck with it for a couple of months has lost weight and seen their blood numbers move in the right direction. In other words, they got healthier. And yes, I recognize this isn’t science. But it makes sense and mostly it works.

But VB6 was never intended to be dogma: It is, as I said from the outset, one of a number of possible strategies to do what most of us need to do: move down an imaginary spectrum(1), which on one end has the Morgan Spurlock diet and on the other that guy you hear about who only eats celery and carrots and the occasional almond. Eating on the Super Size Me end is bad for you, us, and the environment. Eating on the other end is better but also extreme and far from ideal. Even though most of us are way too close to eating on the wrong end, we don’t need to go to the better extreme: We need to emphasize plants, we need to mostly avoid junk food, we need to abhor the nightmare of industrially produced meat—which is evil—but we don’t need to “go vegan.”

In the ten years since VB6 was published, there’s been some kind of vague consensus that “going vegan” is somehow the goal. It isn’t, and it never was. What I said then, what I say now, what I said when I first wrote How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (which Kerri and I began working on around 1999) is that “the writing is on the wall about the future of our diet, and that future is going to be way more plant-based than it is now.” Junk food, for the most part, is killing us. Industrially produced meat is bad for health, the environment, and our souls, and, to the extent we eat it, we’re dooming billions of sentient creatures to lives of misery and pain.

But that doesn’t mean eating all animal products is “bad”; well-treated animals have a traditional and sensible role in agriculture and diet. (And it certainly doesn’t mean, as some vegans appear to insist, that using bees to fertilize vegetable crops puts those crops off-limits for human consumption because the bees are unfairly treated.)

You can be vegan if you want to, and I’ll support you in that decision (though if you proselytize, I might argue about that). But the goal for most of us isn’t “going vegan”: It’s learning to stick with a sensible diet—again, little or no junk food, way fewer animal products (and better ones at that), and more plants.

That’s what VB6 has taught me over more than ten years: That you can throw the rules out the window once your diet is more plants than anything else (assuming you keep it that way). VB6 both helped me get to that place and helps me stay there; I still think it’s a damned good idea.

Having said all of that, it would be remiss of me not to share some of my favorite all-plant recipes. These will hopefully keep you entertained (and well-fed) for a bit, and, since many of you have been asking for lots of vegan and vegetarian recipes, we’ll be giving you a steady diet of their like in the weeks and months to come.

— Mark


(1) Dean Ornish’s book of that title (The Spectrum) is akin to VB6 and IMHO really smart.


Photo: Burcu Avsar & Zach DeSart
Creamy soups are equally good without cream. Coconut milk, Southeast Asian flavors, and a little heat are an unbeatable combination in this pureed carrot soup.

CARROT-COCONUT SOUP


Photo: Burcu Avsar & Zach DeSart
Salads using this vegetable-roasting technique wind up with crisp-tender vegetables with vibrant color. Use a rimmed baking sheet, go a little easy on the oil so the dressing won’t make everything soggy, and crank up the heat. A nutty dressing finishes things off deliciously; add a spoonful or two of beans and you can call this dinner.

ROASTED BROCCOLI WITH TAHINI


Photo: Burcu Avsar & Zach DeSart
A party dish that you can make in large quantities ahead of time and will taste even better the next day. Serve with lots of rice, warm tortillas, and some coleslaw.

BAKED BRAZILIAN BLACK BEANS


Talk To Me, Goose!

Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.