By Alan Miles
In my childhood household, vegetable prep began by finding the can opener. But when I went to college, I dated a number of women who were really good cooks. Under their culinary influence, I developed a whole new way of looking at food — its taste, nutrition and politics.
I eventually married the best cook I had ever dated (coincidentally, of course) — a vegetarian all her adult life. I became mostly vegetarian, eating her cooking and never putting meat in the limited fare I prepared (mostly pizza, stir fries and salads). But I ate meat without hesitation when it was offered and would even order it when we were out.
Our four kids grew up in that environment. We ended up with three daughters, who as adults are a vegetarian, a vegan/vegetarian, a committed vegan; and a son — a protein-hungry, meat-eating med student/personal trainer. We also added a couple sons-in-law with grills on their decks. (You can get tofu pups and veggie burgers, but they’re special order.)
Our youngest, Emma, the committed vegan, has had a major influence on what our family eats. She’s not preachy, but she is up on the many arguments for veganism — animal rights, the environment, health and world hunger.
Emma got her boyfriend, her mother and one sister on board as at least part-time vegans and revolutionized our family’s eating habits. Family meals, including holiday ones, that Emma attends have vegan dishes that often rival the vegetarian ones in popularity. Emma’s homemade vegan Christmas candies were the best treats of the season last year, and my wife crafts vegan chocolate birthday cakes as good as their milk and eggs counterpart.
No matter what their food philosophy, every member of the family now knows that the “sacrifice” of eating a vegan diet is a lot less than they thought. I’m still an omnivore, but great vegan dishes meal after meal broke down my resistance to veganism.
Still, as any vegan (or vegetarian) can tell you, that resistance has a strong foothold in our society. Recently, Emma ordered a pretend pizza from her three-year-old nephew when they were playing “restaurant.” She asked for “vegan crust, vegetables and Daiya cheese, please.” He fiddled a bit with his back to her and then turned and handed her the imaginary order. “Pizza with cheese and pomperomies,” he declared.
Miles Family Vegan Resources:
• The Joy of Vegan Baking
• Vegan with a Vengeance
• Spork-Fed (a favorite Spork-Fed recipe: Corn Cakes with a Smoky Paprika Sauce)
• Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love