Wednesday, July 30, 2014

But What DO Vegans Eat?

I was once at this breastfeeding support group, and this woman started talking to me and my veganism came up (I know what you are thinking, I probably introduced myself that way).  I only do that when I'm on the news though, usually.
Okay, that time I lead with "I'm a vegan!"  But it got me on the news...

Anyway, this other mom says to me, "But how do you get your daughter to eat vegetables?  Like if I make chicken, with potatoes and broccoli, my son will just eat the chicken and maybe a little broccoli."  I kind of thought she was joking, but she wasn't.

"Well, since I don't serve chicken, she eats the potatoes and broccoli...  My meal would be mostly potatoes and broccoli, so she might fill up a bit on potatoes, but she eats the broccoli too."

I realized she couldn't imagine the plate I was eating.  She was still somehow imagining that I had a plate of chicken, potatoes and broccoli.

This is how you would make a vegan version of that:
See?  That meal on the right is more like what a vegan would serve.

I hear it again and again, though.  Many omnivores want to know how you replace the meat in a meal, and sometimes we use analogs ("fake meat") to fill in a gap in one of our favorite meals from when we were younger and less vegan, but often, the plate is just different.  

It's not about putting a piece of tofu in place of the steak in your favorite steak and potatoes meal, it's about changing that meal (while sometimes maintaining a look or flavor profile) so that it's centered around vibrant, fresh, seasonal vegetables and wholesome whole grains.

You might keep the look of baked potato, vegetable, and protein source, but you might mix it up and make crazy loaded baked potatoes.

When we found out we were pregnant with my son, we called my in-laws and said how happy we were and that this was cause for celebration.  My mother-in-law asked, "Are you going to have a potato?"

We were a bit flabbergasted and it took a while before my husband finally said, over an hour later.  "It's shaped like a ham!"
"What are you talking about?!"
"A potato is round and shaped sort of like a ham.  My mom always serves a ham for big celebrations, and she was trying to think of what would look like a ham for us to celebrate with.  It's because it looks like a ham."

I'm not going to lie, we had some pretty boisterous laughter about this, but it's true!  Roasting and stuffing a big winter squash for Thanksgiving is because we grew up eating a food filled with stuffing on Thanksgiving.  It's okay to want familiarity in looks and flavor of the things you are used to eating.  It's okay to make a portobello steaks and and filet of tofu and eggplant burgers.  No judgement.

I'm just saying that when you start focusing on how to replace meat in your meals, your diet becomes about what you don't eat, rather than what you do eat, and then it feels restrictive.  

So here are two meals we make all the time.  They are both inspired by the idea of food we ate before being vegan, but without trying to exactly replicate it, we've created something way better!

Sushi.  We don't try to recreate fish, we work on flavors and use LOTS of veggies and sea vegetables and seasonings.  Vegan sushi is a favorite of everyone in our house and every guest who has tried it.

Creamy Peanut Noodles.  While we enjoy and use the endless vegan mac n cheese recipes out there, this instead touches on the magical rich creaminess with noodles inherent with mac n cheese, but doesn't even try to mimic the flavor.  Instead, I use a can of coconut milk mixed with 2-4 tablespoons of Thai Kitchen Peanut Satay sauce and reduce it until creamy and toss with cooked udon noodles.  Again, there is never any left over and we all love it.

I hope you have some ideas about what vegans eat, and I encourage you to search through vegan recipes on Pinterest (this is a link to my Pinterest board of favorite recipes.  Some are not vegan but I liked the idea and felt I could easily make them vegan), in great vegan cookbooks, and on vegan food blogs.  There's so much variety out there, and so much creativity, that you don't have to worry about what you will eat instead of the steak, just think about all the amazing things you will eat!

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