Having grown up in the post depression years, I was taught to eat what was set before me. Money was scarce, and my parents struggled to put food on the table for their 4 children. We learned to eat “variety meats” such as hearts, liver, and kidneys. I still have a fondness for those meats, even though I wouldn’t dare serve them to anyone in my family. But, the times, they are a changing. Vegans are sprouting up everywhere, from ages 9 to 90. What should you do when they come to dinner? How to please a vegan?
First, you will have to find out what type of vegetarian you’re talking about. Strict vegans eat nothing that comes from a mother—including butter, honey and cheese. Those are the toughest to cook for if you don’t understand that basic rule. Easier to please vegans are those who will eat eggs, cheese and fish. It’s important to know what their diet allows.
If you’re cooking for a strict vegan who lives with you, it means you’re going for the long term. You will have to find ways of providing plenty of good protein for growth and maintenance of body tissues. These will come from grains, nuts and legumes.
Now, what should we old folks do about all of this? Our own parents would have been horrified at the idea of indulging a vegan child , grandchild., or even a friend coming to dinner. But as a dietitian, I can’t adopt that attitude. I know that a vegan diet is a healthy choice, which will lead to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It won’t necessarily keep your weight down since vegan diets include lots of carbohydrates in the form of fruits, breads, etc. But I respect a vegan’s choices. After all, they are taking responsibility for their own health..
I went on a vegan diet a few years ago, after visiting a cattle feed lot in Nebraska. When I saw a cow lying dead from heat exhaustion, I was nauseated with the thought of eating an animal. It was months before I could stand the sight of beef on my plate. But then, my old meat addiction kicked in, and I started ordering steak at restaurants once again. However, that experience gave me a new understanding of the vegetarian mindset.
I served this easy recipe at a family gathering that included just one strict vegan. But guess what? Everyone at the table had seconds!
Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad
1 (15 1/2 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (8.75 oz) can whole kernel sweet corn
1 medium avocado, chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cup chopped onion
juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. each salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a medium size bowl. (The lime juice helps keep the avocado from turning brown) Refrigerate for 2 hours and serve.