Sunday, November 7, 2010

be careful! that's vegan!

Vegans eat such weird food.  It's no wonder people get so worked up over what to feed a vegan.  I mean, seriously - what if the supermarket runs out of vegetables?  What if the pasta market dries up? 

I've mentioned before how differently people can react to the "challenge" of feeding freaks like me.  Some of my more magnificent tales include creative chefs at all levels of cuisine not only accommodating my diet, but also welcoming the opportunity to branch out and flex their utensil-wielding wings.  Other people wring their hands and don't quite know what to do, so they make their best effort and hope it's good enough.  I have a pretty firm stand on showing genuine gratitude for all such efforts, so it is, in fact, always good enough.  Worst case scenario?  There's always a Luna bar or something similar hiding in my purse somewhere.

Bless my mother's heart - she has made countless efforts over the past 8 years to learn how to expand her cooking repertoire to make my holiday dinners as tasty as theirs.  Today wasn't any holiday (although, I did accidentally trick Mister into thinking it was until we were on the train), but we headed out to my hometown for a little friends-n-family time.

First, we stopped in at a Starbucks next to a train station on the way to my parents' home to spend a little time catching up with old friends.  I had a delightful, dairy-free Americano, but I couldn't help being distracted by my friend's peppermint tea - it smelled so good!  It is always amazing to me how some people are able to click so quickly it's as though little to no time has passed since the last meeting and you can all just launch into fun and ridiculous stories and conversation.  This was really the first opportunity Mister and I have had to sit down and get to know my friend's husband, but it was disarmingly easy to talk to him as though we'd all been close friends for years.

After we had all drained our happy red cups, my friends dropped us off at my parents' house on their way to the next adventure in their day.  After spending some time playing with cellphones (examining Dad's, since I plan to replace mine next month and showing Mom how to use some special features on her new phone), my cousins arrived and the food consumption began.  There was an enticing spread of olives, hummus, and bready things upon which to spread the hummus.  This kept our mouths occupied until dinner was ready.  My mother prepared a generous dinner of salad, fresh bread, baked ziti, and then she went to the trouble of making a vegan stew.  It was tasty and full of winter-warming veggies like yams and chickpeas.  Okay, chickpeas aren't a vegetable, but they are tasty!

She sent the leftovers home with us, so I shouldn't have trouble with WorkLunch for a few days (other than finding time to eat it)!  Sorry the stew is still in the tupperware - I wasn't interested in washing another dish just to make a pretty picture.

I really appreciate that she did that after I hesitantly expressed my disinterest in her nice, cheesey baked ziti.  She doesn't get me sometimes, but she sure does try to work with me and she did a great job.

This isn't completely related, but I figured I might never have a better segue to my post on omni-vegan foods than that, so let's move over to that subject.

I always laugh a little when people look agog and wonder (with big eyes) what on earth I eat.  Apparently, they've never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Clearly, spaghetti with marinara sauce is completely outside of their culinary worldview.  I'm not completely sure how they've lived this long without eating rice, but I suppose it's possible.  Our culture (America) is so focused on putting meat and/or a dairy product on everything we eat, it is positively mind-blowing to someone to suggest it is not only possible, but relatively easy to NOT eat those things.  People can't even fathom eating a meal that does not include a chunk of Dead Bird or Fried Cow.

Want to know something ironic?  I've never eaten so good as I have since giving up meat, and then eschewing dairy and eggs.  Eating what everyone else was eating was so safe that I never bothered branching out and trying new things.  I had my "safe" edible animal dishes and had no interest in learning what a non-canned yam tasted like.  Eggplant?  Why would I put that in my mouth?  Pumpkins are for carving, not for eating.  Zucchini was only worthwhile when soaked in tomato sauce and sprinkled liberally with Kraft Parmesan cheese[stuff]. 

My ability to cook, as well as the pleasure I find in doing so, are completely rooted in becoming a vegetarian.  Let me tell you about the first meal I ever made for Mister while we were dating.  It was the last meal I made for Mister for about two or three years, by the way.  I made my three favorite things (I think they might have been the only things I knew how to make): breaded Tyson chicken nuggets, white Minute Rice, and Campbell's Chunky Potato soup.  I look back now and understand why Mister was horrified and wouldn't let me cook for another few years (until his mother, a great cook, had given me at least five cookbooks).  I don't know if I would have learned to cook if I hadn't changed my diet.  Why would I when I had become so skilled at making Velveeta Shells 'n' Cheese?

Yes, I'm pretty sure that one of the reasons I lost about 20 lbs when I went veg was partially due to giving up my crown as the Processed Foods Queen.

Anyway, whenever people get themselves all worked up about what on earth vegans eat, I want to make a list of all the things they probably eat on a fairly regular basis that are vegan.  Hopefully, this list will help omnivores realize that they won't actually melt or implode if they eat definitively vegan food (like seitan or tofu), since their systems are already used to things like:

Apples and other fruit
Bread (most brands sold in grocery stores are vegan)
Dolmas (okay, most Americans probably don't eat these frequently, but it's a great thing to point out to my half-greek family)
Energy Bars like Clif and Luna bars
French Fries (except McDonald's)
Grape Jelly
I'm not really going to go through the alphabet, but I'm sure I could if I tried because there are a ton of things in even the most limited supermarket that vegans can eat.  Sure, it might take a little creativity, but we're good at that and happy to help you!  Even the most meat-oriented omni has surely eaten salads, PB&J, pasta pomodoro, oatmeal, soup, toast, pasta salad, etc.

Something I've always gotten a kick out of (as well as used as a resource) is PETA's list of vegan foods you might not expect to be vegan.  VegNews recently published an article on vegan candies.  I just made a list that went all the way to H, but seriously - the more you think about it, the more surprisingly vegan foods you will uncover.  The reason no one knows what vegans eat is because they aren't used to thinking about the food they already eat as vegan, because they are not vegan.

Speaking of not being vegan, my mother gave me a picture she had unearthed from my younger years (when I was definitely not vegan). 

The quality is pretty crappy, but hey - it's a picture of a photograph (do you remember, back when you used film and someone else had to make that into pictures you actually held in your hands?).  That was me (on the right) with my best friend when I was around 15.  I was wearing my then-boyfriend's football jacket and feeling pretty teenaged.  A plaid flannel shirt is sticking out from under it because that was pretty "in" back then, with the whole grunge scene being hot.  They're also warm and comfy, and appear to be back in style - I love how trends's so green of them.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post. Being vegan has totally expanded my knowledge (and appreciation!) of food beyond the "normal" repertoire of American cooking. Heck, I feel pity for people who never experience the delight of cooking with blends of multiple spices or trying cuisines from totally different cultures!

    ...and it totally blows my mind when people say like, "...but you can't eat pizza!" with a look of horror in their eyes. Really? You mean my big round circle of dough topped with with tomato sauce and vegetables isn't pizza?! News to me! :P