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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

The Deprivation Myth

“Vegan food is bland and boring.”

Sometimes people will have a lackluster experience at a vegan restaurant and leave thinking that plant-based cuisine can’t be out-of-this-world delicious. Or they go to a coffee shop, order a vegan brownie that turns out to be dry and not that flavorful, and they say “Vegan baked goods are terrible.”

 

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Obviously you have never tried my cupcakes.

 

But let’s be honest: you could say “bland and boring” about a lot of meals with meat and cheese in them, too, couldn’t you? I look back on my childhood and shudder at the sort of things my parents used to feed us. And yeah, I bet being vegan in the 1980s was quite the challenge.

I feel really lucky to be alive and cooking for myself in the early 21st century, with so many terrific vegan food products, cookbooks, and eateries to choose from. The only time I have a “bland” or “boring” meal is when a chef at an ordinary restaurant doesn’t put much thought or care into the plant-based menu options. Going vegan gives you a terrific opportunity to exercise your creativity and get more adventurous in the kitchen (and in turn, this newfound willingness to experiment enhances your creativity in every other aspect of your life—more about this later.)

The assumption underlying this “bland and boring” argument is that a vegan diet is a diet of deprivation—that to go vegan you have to give up all the most satisfying foods in life.

I never deprive myself. As a matter of fact, I sometimes look at a dairy cheese platter at a cocktail party and think, “Do I want that?” And for the past four and a half years, the answer has always been “no, definitely not.” As my friend Zachary says, “It’s just not food to me anymore.” Because he has educated himself as to precisely how a cow suffers and dies, a hamburger can never tempt him again. He would no sooner consume a steak than he would a beach ball or a pencil sharpener.

Of course, the most natural question now is: “What do you eat?” Here’s a very partial list of my favorite foods:

  • Mediterranean tapas with sundried tomatoes, mushrooms with rosemary marinated in umeboshi vinegar, hummus and homemade pesto for spreading on seeded crackers, French bread, or focaccia
  • Butternut squash “bisque,” roasted with garlic, onion, and sage and blended with almond milk
  • A breaded seitan cutlet with mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts (from my favorite restaurant, Veggie Galaxy)
  • Roasted red pepper cutlets (you can use that recipe to make eggplant-faux-parm as well)
  • Pasta with avocado “alfredo” (a super-easy sauce made in the blender with avocado, veggie broth, and fresh herbs)
  • Kale chips baked in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper, and nutritional yeast (which gives whatever you put it on a rich, cheesy taste)
  • Cashew chèvre out of Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese (cheesemaking post coming soon!)
  • Dark chocolate (my favorite brand is Taza, which makes awesome flavors like cinnamon, gingerbread, rum raisin, guajillo chili, and lots more) and schmilk chocolate, made in Vermont. The toffee crunch is unbelievable.
  • Sorbet or coconut-based ice cream (which, by the way, doesn’t make me feel queasy afterward the way dairy ice cream used to do)

You’ll notice that many of these foods are analogs—you can often tweak your favorite recipes to create something just as delicious, as I did with a classic potato salad recipe my mom asked me to veganize for Christmas Eve dinner. (My version was even tastier than the original, and no chickens or cows were harmed in the making of it.)

A very important fact to keep in mind as you transition to veganism is that our tastebuds take two or three weeks to reprogram. A big healthy salad might taste “too healthy” to you on day one, but by day twenty-one you’ll find yourself craving those greens with that yummy tahini dressing. Look back over the foods you’ve eaten a lot of in the past, and you’ll see how your tastebuds have already evolved. For instance, I’d rather have nothing but water all day than consume a Pop Tart or a handful of Doritos now. Eating a half dozen Brussels sprouts was a total chore when I was a kid, and now I can’t get enough of them—just roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper.

As you can see from the list above, I eat whatever I want, and savor every bite. Going vegan doesn’t mean giving up loving your food—it means growing to love new and better foods.

 

1 Comment to The Deprivation Myth

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    October 28, 2015 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Today at the grocery store, you inspired me. I said I’m going to just see what speaks to me and pull together a meal that way Camille always does. It didn’t turn out half bad–beets, turnips, broth, garlic, onions, tomato paste, canned whole tomatoes and I had a stew going 🙂 The only thing is I should have roasted rather than sautéed the vegetables.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.