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"Mom, I'm hungry!"
In my experience, these are probably the three most uttered words in the English language. As a mother of children who seem to eat non-stop, I can tell you that a considerable amount of money, time, and planning goes into the food choices for our family of four. Particularly because we are vegan.
Was that a gasp I just heard? When being vegan comes up in conversation, I am used to curious omnivores asking, "So what do you eat?" The implication, of course, is that there's pretty much nothing left once you remove animals from the equation. (Vegans eat no animal products, including dairy.)
But being vegan hasn't had a limiting effect on our diet. It's actually expanded our culinary universe to include Thai, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Ethiopian, and Mexican foods, to name a few. Most of the world's cuisines are vegetable based, so making practically any type of meal vegan is pretty simple.
And vegan recipes can be full of flavor. The closer you eat to the earth, the better things taste. Taste buds that aren't muted by processed foods and artificial flavors can best appreciate fresh wholesome foods. I've found that I cannot provide enough fresh spinach, garlic, carrots, celery, kale, and hearty vegetables for my kids. It makes me want to be a farmer (a return to my childhood roots). I really believe that is one of the best gifts I can give my children -- the ability to taste food and truly understand its impact on their environment as well as themselves.
In addition to being healthy, there are elements of a vegan diet which inherently include compassion and awareness. I have seen this in my own children, in their awe at watching a Monarch butterfly pass by or the respect shown a majestic bird. They get our connection to the earth without being told, and tread lightly without having to think about it; that's a gift. Lucky for us, we live in Vermont, where the choices for farm-grown local and organic produce are always close by.
My husband and I fear (sometimes to our chagrin), that we have created two gourmands. They've never experienced slimy spinach from a can or anything even remotely related to fried chicken. (Anyone remember Shake-n-Bake? -- one of the standbys in my house growing up.) At times, this makes visiting relatives and traveling a challenge. We've gotten used to bringing our own favorites with us when we leave home, to avoid the "What can you eat?" discussion.
But hard as we try to avoid food confrontations, some people want to be offended by our choice to be vegan. At a recent party, I was confronted by a woman and questioned aggressively. "Do you have any of them that eat real food?" she asked, with a nod toward my children, who were happily munching on skewers of tofu and veggies. Wow. Somehow I found my happy place, took a deep breath and said, "I would never think of questioning you about your food choices, why do you care so much about mine?" With that, she stormed off. She might have been looking for a fight, but she left empty-handed. Upon reflection, I decided that she must have been more uncomfortable with her relationship to food than with mine.
Here's a vegan recipe we like a lot in our house:
Hearty Winter Roast
8 oz. cubed Tofu or Seitan
3 Bulbs whole fresh garlic, peeled
2 cups Fingerling (or small) new potatoes
1 cup Chopped Carrots (2 to 3 large carrots)
1 cup Green Beans, Chopped Kale, or Brussel sprouts
1/4 cup Tamari (or soy sauce)
Cover large roasting pan lightly with olive oil and sea salt, spread veggies evenly, place tofu or seitan in the middle.
Drizzle with more olive oil, tamari, and dried herbs such as dill, rosemary, and thyme. Toss lightly, cover with tin foil, and turn every 15 minutes for even roasting.
Roast for one hour. Serve with crusty bread.