Vegan Cooking for the Unenthusiastic Omnivore

PanDogNote: This post contains discussion of meat, dairy, and eggs. If you don’t want to read that material, stop now.
Simply view this unrelated but excellent image of a dog in a panda hat (taken by Ms.TheVeganAsanaJr2, aka Emmie) and then go off on your merry way!

I’ve written before about the challenges of cooking for a multivore family, and that continues to be something that I get asked about frequently and that occupies my own attention, with a family that has vegans, vegetarians, and very committed omnivores. Luckily for me, my family has always been supportive of my vegetarian and vegan journey; however, I think that is partly because I’ve always treated it as my journey, not as a forced march. In this post, I offer some additional tips and thoughts on how to be the primary cook as a vegan in a household where other members are omnivores.

1. Recognize that your choice is about you.

When you first become vegan or vegetarian, you may find that you suddenly know things about factory farms or animal husbandry or meat processing that you never realized. You may begin to feel that if everyone knew these things, of course they would be vegan. That’s wrong and not really fair. Lecturing family members (or anyone, really) about a vegan diet is no different than lecturing others about why they should convert to your religion. People don’t appreciate it and it likely won’t go well. You are the person that you have authority over. Choosing a vegan/vegetarian diet for you is a choice for you, unless the others in your house voluntarily go along (or you have children that you feel are too young to make a good choice).

2. Everyone has their limits. Know theirs. Know yours.

With six children in TheAsana house, we couldn’t afford (literally or metaphorically) for everyone to want a different dinner. So, that just doesn’t happen. But, everyone got a short list of three items that they just could not stomach in any form (we made an exception such that “meat” became a category that someone could say no to). Some people only had one item (i.e. the dreaded mushroom), while others used all three. But, this gave me, as the cook, a clear list of things that I needed to make substitutions for when they were a main ingredient, so that the naysayer had something to eat.

Similarly, if you have not always been a vegan/vegetarian in your current family, you may not be able to stop having meals with meat in the house entirely (particularly in a family that includes children). So, it is important to establish what your absolute limits are. Many vegans can eat at the same table as someone having a meal containing meat. Many can cook meat for others, as needed, but not consume it themselves. In my house, while I will still cook meals containing meat, I will not (can not) cook the “big dead bird” type of meals and limit meat preparation that requires extensive handling. I also can’t do it every day.

3. Be willing to negotiate. 

You probably have full stop no-can-do items (see #2), but after that, there is room for negotiation. If you can’t stand the idea of making hamburger patties, could you cook them if someone else made them or you buy them prepared? Is there someone else in the house who can do some meat prep on the weekends for ease later in the week? Can you establish some compromises on how often meat will be included in a meal? It may seem silly to actually hash it all out, but it really can be helpful in establishing expectations.

4. Get creative!

My grandmother told me that you can catch more flies with honey (or agave) than you can with vinegar. You can also win over more people to the idea of eating vegan food once you show them that vegan food tastes good. This can happen pretty easily if you start with foods where the meat/dairy/egg isn’t the focus and play to the strengths of a vegan diet. Vegan pancakes are lovely, and no one needs to even know until they finish eating. Spaghetti with marinara sauce, maybe even with some TVP thrown in, is a delicious and filling meal. Nachos with refried beans are a fan favorite in a lot of houses, as are bean burritos. And who doesn’t like biscuits and gravy (if it’s you, don’t tell me)? You can also make vegan items that have meat and cheese on the side for adding to the plates of people who eat them (ground beef and cheddar for nachos, sausage with the pancakes, meatballs for the pasta).

Basically, the goal should be that people don’t feel punished or shamed for not having made the choice that you made, and begin to see vegan food as a normal choice, not as an unattractive and overly health option that is primarily berries and leaves.

At the end of the day, there is one person whose eating habits you really get to control, and it’s you. You may be able to draw a line in the sand of not having meat served in your house or not cooking it, but you can’t make others be ok with that choice, any more than they can make you be ok with a non-vegan diet.

Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi – Review and Giveaway

Recently, I was asked to review the newest book by Brian Leaf, Misadventures of a Parenting YogiI have previously reviewed his other book, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, on this site. Brian nicely sent me a copy to review. It took only one afternoon to read and was an enjoyable, light, summer read. My review, and a chance to own this copy follow the break.

If you are looking for a book that takes a theoretical approach to examining how yoga impacts parenting, this is not it. There are mentions of meditation, yoga practice, and the occasional connection made between parenting and yoga, but they are particularly brief.

If you are looking for a book that will help you to parent across the span of childhood (including preteen and teen years), this is not it. While it does include some parenting advice, it’s fairly restricted to a certain stance and is limited in scope, due to the young ages of the author’s children. For a parent with older children or one who has not always chosen the paths suggested here (or someone with training in family research), this could be sometimes frustrating.

If you are looking for light, easy, funny reading to do in small bits (some chapters are 2 pages), this could be the perfect thing. While there isn’t really anything in the intro to tell you that the book is somewhat tongue in cheek, and I think there should have been, it is. It’s an enjoyable read on one dad’s experience with pregnancy and early childhood.

The book is available on Amazon.com (see link above) for a reasonable price, but you could get it free! While I enjoyed reading the book, I don’t anticipate reading it again and like to pass on my free for review items to readers. So, I shall!

Enter the giveaway by posting 1 comment below regarding connections you see between yoga and parenting. A winner will be drawn on June 15th. Please be sure to either be sure you commenting profile is linked to an email address or check back after that date to see if you won and get me a mailing address.

Hairy Days Are(n’t) Here Again

1 week in

In January of this year, I decided to grow my hair. This might seem like a minor decision if you don’t know me personally, but I’ve been bald, or near bald, for 15 years.

During that time, I’ve been mostly happy with having no hair. However, last fall, I started feeling the weight of expectations of others about how I “should look” at my age, and in my position, and for my sex. So, with that as my underlying motivation, I decided to see about growing my hair.

The decision was rather fraught. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to start what I knew would be a period of funky looking hair. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to let go of my trademark bald head. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give in to what I felt like I should do, after so long of not doing it. I wasn’t sure if all of that was wrapped up with a useless clinging and refusal to change (abhinivesha), or fear, or vanity. I felt guilty for the amount of time I was spending considering my self in this way (a little asmita, anyone?). I ended up deciding that I would just take it 1 week at a time, record my process with pictures, and see how it went.

5 weeks

After a few weeks, my hair was longer and I was getting less happy about it all. I couldn’t tell if my unhappiness was just because of the awkward stage the hair was in, how slow it seemed to be growing, or that I felt less like me. But, I wasn’t digging it.

An interesting social phenomenon was happening by that time, however. People who had never said a peep about my bald head suddenly had all sorts of questions – and I don’t mean from family and friends that I was deliberately engaging about the process, but people I wasn’t saying a thing to regarding what I was doing – about why I was bald before, what was making me grow my hair, and which option they thought looked better. Some I told about my reasons for baldness and for growing my hair. Some I didn’t. But, by about 10 weeks in, I really really was not interested in discussing my hair with people I don’t know that well on a personal basis. I had had it with explaining myself and was tired of feeling like both my justification for being bald and for growing my hair sounded silly in my own ears. And (AND), I just didn’t understand why everyone cared so much about the whole situation.

Just after week 13 hit, I was trimming the sides to keep them from looking funky when I got too close in one area and created an awkward set of bald patches. I was quite annoyed by this (very very) and complained about it for the whole evening to Mr. VeganAsana and a couple of my friends. The next day, I was even more annoyed, and by noon, I had decided that I was just done.

At the end of that day, I came home and pulled out my trusty clippers. I set them on the lowest setting and started cutting. The very first swipe made me smile. By the time I had my head half done, I was feeling so relieved and much more comfortable in my own skin.

So, now I’m back to being the bald me. Who knows if I’ll ever try again, but it almost certainly won’t be soon. I am comfortable with my bald self. I know that some other people would prefer that I cut it out (see what I did there?) but it’s not my job to make everyone else happy all the time. It is my job to feel ok with who I am. And, right now, who I am doesn’t have hair.