Sunday, July 18, 2010

Eating in the abscence of animal products

The other day, I received a comment from one of the other people living here at Myrtle Glen that made me stop and think. I had made dinner that night, just a smattering of beans, salsa, and veggies thrown together in something resembling enchiladas. This person is a man attached to the grill. Several times a week, it gets fired up and off it comes chicken, pork, whatever. He makes potato salad with mayo. He doesn't handle spicy things very well.

What he said to me was that he was usually skeptical of vegan/vegetarian food, and that it wasn't very good. But that after a few weeks of my cooking, he had changed his opinion, as he enjoyed every dish that I've made (even some of the spicy ones!). This, to me, was a great compliment, and points to exactly what I want to show people though vegan cooking. It's about making seemingly benign things like legumes and grains into colorful, flavorful, and satisfying dishes and of themselves. Specifically, by not trying to substitute in animal-based dishes, but making things that don't include animal products in the first place. Mixing spices and herbs and using tons of vegetables and experimenting with what's available at any given time rather than sticking only to what you already know.

Of course, this applies to cooking with animal products too (especially in a farm setting where it's more sustainable to use the dairy and eggs you have than buying silly things like vegan cheese). But the fact that I was able to help open someone's mind and show that you don't need a meat main dish for it to be a real meal made my day a little brighter.

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