While I rush to bury those AARP envelopes in the trash mere seconds after they arrive – okay, fine, I admit it, I’m in denial – a recent feature on the organization’s website caught my eye: AARP Magazine writer Joe Conason described the lunch he had with former President Bill Clinton, who’s “now a devoted vegan, meaning no meat, fish or dairy products.”
Conason initially figured he would be sacrificing flavor for conversation with the “gregarious, charismatic” Clinton. Instead, he found himself gawking at “a dazzling kaleidoscope of a dozen delicious dishes,” from spiced and herbed quinoa to shredded beets in vinaigrette to sliced melon and strawberries.
“The luncheon banquet gives a whole new meaning to the dreaded cliche ‘Eat your vegetables,’” he stated. “And this is exactly what Clinton, who is taking on America’s obesity epidemic with the same passionate commitment he brought to the presidency, wants.”
The former president, 66, gave up barbecued ribs, fried catfish and belly-busting burgers after frank words from his friend, renowned diet and heart disease expert Dean Ornish, M.D. Clinton had had quadruple-bypass surgery in 2004 and insertion of stents for a failed vein in 2010. When he tried to pass off his conditions as “fairly normal” at a press conference, Ornish sent him a blazing e-mail message.
“Yeah, it’s normal,” he wrote, “because fools like you don’t eat like you should.”
Fast forward to today, when a slimmed-down Clinton (like him or not, the dude looks good) maintains a busy schedule promoting causes of the Clinton Foundation. They include promoting healthier lifestyles and their benefits to the “nation’s finances, quality of life and even climate change, which is exacerbated by meat production,” Conason says.
Whether you embrace or scoff at vegan diets, eating “cleaner” is a cause we can all get behind. Give it a try with one of the tasty recipes, from the AARP website, that are fit for presidents and pork chop-eaters alike. If you’re in a hurry, used canned beans versus dried.
Gigante bean salad
- 1/2 cup dried gigante beans (or cannellini beans)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced onion
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced green bell pepper
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Place the beans in a bowl and cover with water. Let them stand overnight. Drain.
Place the beans in a medium pot and cover with 6 inches of water. Add the bay leaf and bring to a boil, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender. Season with the salt and cook an additional 5 minutes. Drain the beans and discard the bay leaf.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the bell peppers, lightly season with salt and black pepper, and stir frequently until the bell pepper mixture is tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and vinegar and cook for 1 minute.
Add the beans and parsley to the bell pepper mixture. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve chilled.
Nutrients per each of 4 servings: 211 calories, 5g protein, 16g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 14g fat (2g saturated fat), 0mg cholesterol, 595mg sodium