Jacqui Sinclair is known as the JuicyChef. She was chosen by the Meatless Monday organization four years ago to be a spokesperson and has partnered with Nucleus Creative to officially launch the Jamaican arm of the movement in 2015. A food writer and co-director of culinary lifestyle brand Kingston Kitchen, she wrote a popular weekly food column in the Jamaica Observer from 2007-2013. o-access JAMAICA had a little chit chat with the JuicyChef to find out some more about Jamaica’s newest food movement, Meatless Monday.
OAJ: What’s at the root of the vegan movement? What’s wrong with meat?
JS: Well, it’s a general misconception that Meatless Monday is a vegan movement. People from all walks of life participate in Meatless Monday internationally. Vegans and vegetarians eat meat free daily, so Meatless Monday is targeted to the average meat eater. The whole premise is to eat less meat. We are certainly not “demonizing” livestock farmers because inherently, there is nothing wrong with eating meat. Consuming too much is the issue.
According to Mz. Jacqui Sinclair, the message of Meatless Monday is simple: “One Day A Week, Cut Out Meat.” There are many lifestyle diseases attributed to the way people eat such as certain forms of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Increasing our fruit and vegetable intake and going meat free once per week helps to lower our risk of potentially suffering these diseases. The Meatless Monday message in essence encourages individuals to become more personally responsible.
OAJ: Have you had requests for more vegan/vegetarian meals on your menus?
JS: Locally, consumers are now requesting more healthy options. Jamaicans are becoming much more health conscious and are looking for new ways to eat well. Meatless Monday Jamaica will be targeting restaurants both traditional and vegetarian, asking them to create special meat free menus or at the very least a vegetarian option of the day at a discount on a Monday to help support those who wish to practice this lifestyle.
On their website www.meatlessmondayja.org, there will be recipes from vegetarian and vegan JuicyChef, and from various personalities, from homemakers to financiers. Restaurants abroad are experiencing success stories with their patrons after implementing Meatless Monday. Ultimately, the website hopes to offer a directory of meatless options for anyone needing vegan.
OAJ: Give us some surprisingly succulent vegan dishes. What won’t make us carnivores miss meat?
JS: I have experienced delicious vegan meals from raw food pizzas to diary free chocolate mousse. I make a mean veggie burger with all the fixings and my beef loving friends, especially men, go for seconds. The first rule of thumb I tell my friends and family is to season their vegetables as they would meat. I think meat-eaters balk at the notion of vegetarian food as they expect it to be bland or lacking in texture, but as with every other food, it’s all in the preparation. One can get creative with tofu, salads, pastas, stir fries, noodles, soups etc using a combination of vegetables,nuts, whole grains, legumes, spices and sauces for a tasty and satisfying dish.
OAJ: Isn’t eating vegan more expensive? How deeply will we have to dip in our pockets to enjoy a Meatless Monday?
JS: I always like to counter questions such as these by saying, wouldn’t you prefer to spend on preventative healthy food than costly medications? But I do realize we live in a developing country under austerity from the IMF. Poverty is a real issue for many and sometimes choices are made on what is cheaper versus what is more healthy. I completely understand. And this is why “eat what we grow” is not just a catchphrase but something we ought to do. It is important for us to support local produce farmers to reduce the cost of our import bill and drive down the cost of food.
OAJ: Do you think this is another fad or will Meatless Monday become part of our cuisine lifestyle?
JS: Meatless Monday is not a fad. It is one of the fastest growing food movements in the world. Meatless Monday liases with the United Nations, international health authorities, scientists, agriculturalists and non profit organisations to protect food security, preserve human health and the environment. It began in 2003 and is currently present in over 36 countries and counting. Meatless Monday is here to stay. Here in Jamaica, we hope to educate and spread the message that healthy eating is an option for all regardless of class and budget. We know this can be accomplished over time with strategic partnerships with professionals in the education, health and agriculture fields. We hope that we can receive funding assistance as we are a not for profit organisation to facilitate our long term vision in getting Jamaicans more familiar with this lifestyle. The beauty of Meatless Monday is that anyone can do it and together we can make a positive change. A healthy nation is a happy nation.
Jacqui Sinclair was the host of the culinary segment of the former Air Jamaica’s Island Style and was a food contributor to the in-flight magazine Skywritings. She has appeared on Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods Jamaica episode with Andrew Zimmern and has been featured in local and international press such as Saveur, Eating Well, The Jewish Post, Florida Sun Sentinel and the Huffington Post.