Me, to someone who asked me to bring my own food to a dinner party.
(As always, if pressed for time, please scroll down to the WHAT CAN YOU DO section of this blog.)
I became a vegan about nine years ago. I found that almost immediately I began to feel like a liability at dinner parties. I knew that while some people had no problem figuring out what to feed me, others found it incredibly challenging. I really hated feeling like a burden, so I frequently offered to bring my own food.
Then one magical day friends of mine sat me down and told me that it was actually rude of me to offer to bring my own food. They had invited me. It was up to them to feed me. It was one of those 'Aha!' moments for me, and I began to understand that I had no need to appologize for living my ethical and healthty choice.
Once that happened, I completely changed my attitude. I now expect to be fed when invited to dinner, in the same way that I gladly feed those with dietary restrictions when I host a meal. That doesn't mean, however, that I am ignorant of how challenging it can be to some people.
For years now I have talked about writing a cookbook that provides two versions of the same dish and/or meal, one vegan and one non-vegan, so that those with loved-ones can 'veganize' their food. I will write that cookbook one day, too. I even have a title: "Veganize it! A Painless Meal Conversion System". Vegan food can be be delicious and pretty, as well. For instance, can you tell which bowl of potatoe salad (above) is vegan?
One of my friends suggested that I start using this blog occasionally to write about this, and it seemed like a good testing ground, so here it goes.
Veganizing a dish involves four simple steps: List, Analyze, Replace or Ignore (or LARI for short). I'm going to take you through this process using something relatively simple, like potatoe salad.
So, the first step is to list the ingredients. Potatoe Salad tends to be a family-tradition type of thing. I'm going to take you through my version.
- shredded carrots
- veggies (celery, broccoli, whatever I feel like that day - for this blog entry I used cold steamed peas and parsley)
The next step is to Analyze. So...Potatoes, carrots, veggies, and paprika are all vegan. Mayonaise is not. Now, you have to choose to Replace it, or Ignore it. Potatoe salad without any dressing just sucks. We all know this. So, my choice it to replace the mayonaise with something else.
Let me take you through cooking steps:
Cut up the potatoes, and cook them. (You want them to be firm. Mushy potatoe salad is one style, but not mine.)
Add shredded carrots, and the veggies of your choice. (Here I have the peas and parsley, but as I said, you could add celery, chopped broccoli, green beans, cooked or shredded beats, etc.)
Toss all the veggies together. Now, you have a number of choices. The first choice is whether to remove a portion of the salad for your vegan guest/s, and have one non-vegan and one vegan version, or to go vegan-all-the-way.
If you choose the former, toss the non-vegan portion with mayonaise, or a combination of 3 parts mayonaise and one part vinegar (makes it nice and 'bitey'.)
Now, for the vegan portions, you have more choices. You can replace the mayonaise with Nayonaise, which is a commercial vegan mayonaise substitute.
You can get Nayonaise at many health food stores, and even if you aren't a vegan, the nutritional breakdown is impressive. (I promise you it tastes good too, and I don't lie about stuff like that!)
per 1 Tbsp
You have a couple of other options for replacing the dressing, too. You can replace the mayonaise or with a mustard vinegrette (3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar of your choice, 1 part mustard of your choice - whisk until emmulsified), or with a really high quality salsa (and you do have to use a brand you like for this - it makes a difference). Both of these versions also have the advantage of being really great to bring to picnics, or to pack for lunch, as you don't have to worry about food poisoning and bacterial growth in the hot sun. So, here are the four versions you can make:
Now, obviously there are variations. Some people add pickles (and if you so, I would suggest that you do not add the vinegar to the mayonaise/nayonaise in the first two versions). Pickles are vegan, so no worries.
Some people add bacon. You can either use vegan bacon-bits and add them just before serving so they don't get soggy, or you can get Yves' bacon slice replacements, fry them until they are crisp, and toss them in. You can also choose to omit them.
Some people add eggs. Eggs are not vegan, so now you have to choose to replace them or ignore them. Personally, I recommend ignoring them in this case, but if they are important to you, you need to really analyze the eggs. There are no ready-made vegan versions to use as a replacement, so you need to analyze the eggs as ingredients. They add a bit of chewey texture, they add a yellow colour, and they add a sulpher-like taste. The texture can be somewhat (but in my opinion, not successfully) replicated by cubing firm non-silken tofu and tossing it in with the salad. The sulpher-like taste can be replaced by adding 1 tsp onion powder and 1/2 tsp garlic powder for every 4-6 eggs you want to replace (you need to taste-test this yourself). The yellow colour can be compensated a bit by adding some tumeric.
So, there you have it: Potatoe Salad Veganized Three Ways!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- If you have invited a vegan to dinner, do not be afraid to ask questions about what s/he can eat! Like Catholics, vegans come in various forms of 'observant'. For instance, honey is not considered to be vegan, but I have no problem eating honey. Also, most of us understand that it may take some time to learn the ins and outs of our restrictions.
- When planning a menu, either plan a menu that is entirely vegan, or (and this is what works for most people), or choose a menu that is easy to 'veganize' a portion of. This means either making dishes that can easily be portioned out before the non-vegan ingredients are added, or a meal that has mostly vegan dishes and only one or two non-vegan items that have to be replaced (for instance, all vegan side-dishes and steak for the omnivores and tofu for the vegan/s).
- Eat vegan dishes a bit more often (better for your health and the world - I will get to a blog on veganism at some point, I promise!)
- Send me ideas of food you want veganized!
- If you feel that veganizing is just beyond you, invite your vegan friend/family member over for a cooking party to teach you, or go to a restaurant that is vegan friendly. STAY AWAY FROM REGULAR BOUFFETS. They are almost always nightmares. I have literally been to family get-togethers where the only thing I could eat was lettuce and coffee (black), and I had to pay $15 for this. Get feedback from 'your vegan' if you aren't sure where to go.
Now, go and enjoy!