Food, water and shelter. These are the basics all animals, such as we, need to live. What sets us apart from the other animals–besides opposable thumbs and bipedal ambulation–is the superego, also known as the conscience. Our consciences are compasses, directing each individual in the direction of least soul-wrenching resistance. While Jungians may dispute the point, we each have different big-picture understandings of how the world works: if God exists, why we’re here, if people are generally bad, good or ugly. How your singularly human conscience deals with the very animal aspect of fulfilling that basic need for sustenance is cause for much debate in our society.

Instead of exploring the ethical and political implications behind the question, “to meat, or not to meat,” we wanted to explore the yummy gastronomy of vegetarian and non-vegetarian eating. We all eat, and regardless of our waistlines, many of us see eating as a recreational activity–something we do for enjoyment. The fact that food intake keeps us alive often seems to be relatively beside the point.

Simply put, this issue of Dish will focus on the delicious glories of both vegetarianism and carnivorism–what and why people are eating, not what and why they’re not eating.

Addressing the myth that vegetarians live in a culture of self-denial, Clancy Nolan speaks with the president of the Triangle Vegetarian Society about the breadth of the vegetarian culinary experience. Kate Dobbs Ariail waxes rhapsodic over our local access to organic veggies and quality meats. On the same balanced note, Edward Holm discovers most restaurants have had to find a happy medium as customers try to find theirs. And then there are those who are not confused in the least about food preferences, as we discovered when we put Indy classifieds manager, Robby Robbins, on a meat-free diet for a week. Then, Remy Bergin digs in her meat-fed heels, preaching about the misunderstood importance of meat.

Regardless of your eating preference–strict carnivore, ovo-lacto vegetarian, raw foodist–we’ll celebrate all the wonderful ways in which folks feed themselves in this issue of Dish.