Friday, May 11, 2007

You're a vegan. What do you eat?

We've all heard this question before. Meat-eaters don't realize that most vegans eat a more varied diet when they give up meat. It is eating meat and eggs and cheese and milk that is the restrictive diet. These are the ingredients that American meat-eaters feel they need in just about every meal. How does that open up a person to trying new foods? Perhaps, the meat-eater gets a little curious with sauces and side dishes, but that is nothing like the transformation that a vegan undergoes when removing herself from the exploitation and waste of animal agriculture. She has to learn how to eat all over again. It takes some time to learn what's out there and which products to avoid, but once that happens, a whole new adventure in eating opens up. My wife and I do not turn our noses up at foods we never had before. We venture right in with an open mind. We try to keep to the spirit of the Japanese saying about gaining months to our lives for every new food we try. We don't eat many processed foods and don't go out to eat very often. We cook a lot and use whole ingredients. We make a range of foods from Italian to Mexican to Thai to Japanese. There are a handful of staple dishes that we have. I usually make a stir fry with vegetables we get from the CSA. The dish varies according to what we are getting. Right now, it is beets, carrots, collard greens, onions and a few radishes. I'll make one of two sauces, a peanut butter-garlic miso or a ginger miso, and we'll eat it with either buckwheat soba noodles or brown rice. I usually pan fry some cubed tofu to go with it. I like making Pad Thai, and I'll occasionally make a marinara sauce from scratch. Reduced tomatoes with garlic, salt and pepper with olive oil on whole wheat noodles is simply fantastic. I also like making cabbage and sweet potato tacos with onions in a corn tortilla. "Yummo," as the most hated Rachel Ray would say. I like to make burritos with whole wheat tortillas and pinto beans, onions, garlic, spices and potatoes or bits of other leftover vegetables like zucchini or jicama. Anita likes to make our Friday night treat of sweet potato and potato French fries baked in the oven with some olive oil. It's great. She makes at least two great cold pastas, one Italian style, the other of an Asian bent. She uses lots of raw ingredients, and those ingredients actually get mellowed by the vinegars she uses. She makes an interesting taco salad that she invented that has an thousand island type of dressing. She makes several great Indian dishes that are quite spicy, and she'll make some wonderful weekend breakfasts of French toast (made with garbanzo bean flour) or buckwheat flour pancakes. The list goes on and on. When we feel like we've gotten in a rut, we'll get some inspiration and make a new dish or we'll pop out a cookbook and find something that we never had before. When I was a meat-eater, I was content in my limited diet, and I know other meat-eaters are the same way. Don't ask me what I eat. Look at your own plate before criticising mine.

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