Believe, try, create: what my (non-vegan) parents taught me

Every once in a while, my veganism elicits sympathy.

Sorry you can’t have this!

You’re vegan?  It must be so hard …

Don’t you miss (insert favourite food here)?

Not so much.  I’m not lonely for lack of meat, eggs, or dairy.  Take my vegan dinner at a local restaurant last week: zucchini tarragon crepes stuffed with cauliflower and cashews, green bean, artichoke, and roasted tomato salad with red pepper polenta cake, with coconut tomato coulis.  And summer berry cake with strawberry cream.  Yeah.  Poor me.

Granted, I don’t eat like that daily; still, I’ve never felt gypped.  I view veganism as an affirmation of my beliefs, a chance to try new foods, and an opportunity to stretch my kitchen creativity.

And I learned those principles from my non-vegan parents.

Action-based beliefs

Church potluck, circa 2003.  Then vegetarian, I’m offered beef lasagna.  The cook insists I try some, and suggests “You could pick the meat out.”

Growing up, we attended a church that preaches kosher/clean and unclean meats.  That extended to no pastry with lard.  Or snack mixes with dried shrimp crackers.  Or sauce with octopus ink.  Long before I was vegan, I was used to declining foods—not because they didn’t look or smell yummy, but because they contradicted our beliefs.

I saw Mummy turn down marshmallows made with pork gelatin.  I heard Daddy ask if a restaurant’s dish contained seafood or salt pork, and order differently if it did.  As an adult, it’s only logical—even imperative—that I eat foods I believe are acceptable.

Now, that’s tied to issues of animal treatment, factory farm conditions, use of hormones and force-feeding, and the environmental inefficiency of using precious farm land to grow animal feed and raise low-yield animals for food.  So I choose not to support the meat, egg, and dairy industry at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

That foundation of making food choices based on beliefs, not baseline aesthetics, is rooted in what my parents taught me, through religion.  I’m thankful for that.  Even if a church member still occasionally invites me to pick the mayo out of the potato salad.

Something new …

Family dinner with the fella.  We arrive with Indian takeout (both vegan and non-vegan options) for everyone to share.  And find a teenage relation, elbow-deep in a Happy Meal.

Growing up, Mummy made meals well outside the realm of Typical Bahamian Fare.  Spinach rolls.  Roti.  Fettuccine.  Stuffed plantain rounds.  Something other than peas and rice five times a week.

Consequently, it’s been easy to experiment with strange new foods.  Quinoa salad.  Stir fry with sweet potato vermicelli.  Bean curd skins.  Millet cakes.  I’m not shy to give a new-to-me ingredient a shot, and my diet’s richer for it.  Barbecued chickpeas?  Amazing.  Green curry lentils?  Love ’em.  Mung beans baked with herbs?  Mmm hmm.

The well-stocked foodstore is full of interesting ingredients.  Google guides me on how to use them.  I’m never bored, and I’m thankful for openmindedness.  Without it, I would have never tried hummus.

Creativity

In our family of six, Mummy made: she sewed, knitted, baked, cooked.  She created what would have cost twice or thrice as much to buy.

I’m not quite such a trooper (scared of breadmaking after the cinnamon roll fail of 2007; not a confident seamstress…yet!), but I value home-preparation and creativity.

When I became vegan eight years ago, it was less widespread, less trendy.  If I wanted vegan baked goods, I could travel far, spend a lot, endure substandard products, or make it myself.  I made it myself.

Brownies?  Flax seed for eggs, oil instead of butter, and bam: a pan full of goodness.  I’ve made vegan pound cake, rum cake, guava duff, cheesecake.  Many a potluck attendee enjoyed whole grain, flax-riddled dessert and was none the wiser for it.  Partly, it’s research.  Mostly, it’s taking a mindset of empowered creativity.  Thanks, Mummy!

My parents and I won’t ever have the same diet, but I’m thankful to them for gifting me with tools that have made for an easy, inspired vegan journey.  I know it’s worth choosing food according to my beliefs.  I’m allowed—and inspired—to try ingredients and dishes  foreign to me.  I value creativity in the kitchen; if I want to east something, I make it.  If it falls flat, I try it again (cinnamon rolls pending).  I’ve never seen veganism as restriction and deprivation.  It’s a chance to live what I believe, learn about food more deeply, and create what I crave.  Thanks, Mummy and Daddy.

 

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