Sunday, February 6, 2011

Oprah & Dinner Peace, Part IV

In an effort to help the vegan neophytes adjust to their new eating style, Kathy Freston took Oprah’s Senior Supervising Producer, Jill, grocery shopping at Whole Foods. A brief interview with Jill’s family showed that they were not too enthusiastic about forgoing all animals products, even for 1 week. Her son, Luke, said that he expected to eat apples every day. This is an excellent example of one common misconception about a vegan diet, how limited it is. When you tell people that they can no longer eat animal based foods, they envision restriction, lack, and dissatisfaction. In reality, Americans eat less than 0.25% of the Earth’s known edible food. The minor restriction of veganism inspires a necessary culinary creativity that encourages us to eat vegetables, greens, grains, and proteins we never would have tried otherwise. My vegan experience has introduced me to so many wonderful foods that I was ignorant of before.

In order to help Jill and her family “lean into” the vegan diet, Kathy asked Jill what kinds of food her family eats. Jill reported pizza, spaghetti, and tacos, three things I have written about repeatedly on my blog. Kathy, rather than thinking outside the omnivorous box in order to find delicious, vegan reimaginings of these classic American foods, proposed one-to-one substitutions; vegan sausage for Italian sausage in the spaghetti sauce; textured vegetable protein for ground beef in the tacos; non-dairy cheese for regular cheese on the pizza. I found these food suggestions incredibly disappointing, because non-dairy cheese doesn’t taste like mozzarella, and “soysage” doesn’t taste like sausage, and TVP doesn’t taste like ground beef, which inevitably leads to dissatisfaction. This kind of cooking does not encourage people to stay vegan, because they are shallow reproductions of foods that rely on animal products.

If you peruse my blog, you will find hardly any vegan meat products, and non-dairy cheezes. That is because real food always tastes better than fake food. Being vegan does not automatically equate to being healthy. It’s easy to be a vegan who subsists on potato chips, french fries, Oreos, and chick’n nuggets. Being healthy means eating whole, real foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and grains. Instead of TVP tacos, I would encourage Jill to try roasted vegetable tacos with peanut salsa, or grilled pizzas with cashew cream, or perciatelli with roasted tomato and almond pesto. These are foods that will delight your tongue, nourish your body, and make you forget all about their animal based counterparts!

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