Notes from a Virgin Vegan, Part Three: the Next Generation

As many readers of This Week in Sarasota know, I am the mother of a toddler, and I started on this virgin vegan journey in an effort to instill healthy eating habits in my daughter Daphne right from the start. Those of us who have been pregnant know that prenatal eating is a highly regulated affair. Obviously, you give up alcohol and sushi; but strangely enough, even seemingly harmless lunchmeat is taboo. At one of the most joyous times in a woman’s life, she must also be extremely vigilant about everything she ingests.

Furthermore, new moms are all very careful about the breast milk, formula, and/or whole milk a child drinks in her first year. But suddenly, once a child is old enough to eat “table food,” all bets are off. The children that we protect in the early stages are suddenly ready to encounter universally-appalling children’s menus. My mom and aunt suggested I give the children’s menu at one restaurant a try when they visited for Daphne’s first birthday. The menu was a surprise to me, because the choices were chicken fingers, grilled cheese and fries — with a soda and ice cream! Really?! Why would I feed my child the kinds of foods I assiduously avoid? When I posted this issue on the Sarasota Conscious Parents page on Facebook, all the moms agreed that children’s menus are usually a terrible choice (with few exceptions). Instead, they share their dishes with their children and/or order side dishes of vegetables. Where is Mayor Michael Bloomberg to step in and legislate healthier eating for the littlest constituents?

Thankfully, Daphne is very wise; and she loves green beans, “brockiki,” and “bluebabies” (that is, broccoli and blueberries). She seems to have a natural affinity for healthy foods. Perhaps we should be more observant of these early instincts and nurture them in ourselves and in our children.

With this motivation in mind, I was very impressed to meet a young man named Anders who joined my third cooking lesson with Vicki Chelf, vegan chef extraordinaire, with whom I have been studying. Anders is 14, a practicing vegan, and he wants to learn to be a vegan chef like Vicki. I frankly have no idea what most 14-year-old boys are into these days, but I can imagine that very few are interested in vegan cooking! Note to young parents: Anders said he has been raised a vegan and wants to learn how to make new and exciting dishes in his spare time. Impressive indeed!

During the session I had with Vicki, which Anders attended, she taught me how to make corn muffins in 30 minutes and the most exquisitely delicious vegetable soup I have ever eaten. I could hardly believe how quickly and deftly Vicki pulled together the kind of meal one might expect to eat after spending the day at a farm in the south of France.

Vicki said that one key is to save the vegetable-infused water from steaming vegetables and freeze it for use as stock for soup.  She also said not to go out and buy any vegetables for your vegetable soup, but to collect everything you have stored up in your refrigerator, cut off any parts that look a little over-ripe and throw them right into your pressure cooker (along with the vegetable stock). You should layer the vegetables that need a longer time to cook on the bottom and the quickies on top. Then, once it has cooked completely, finish it with tomatoes to give it the unmistakable flourish of garden freshness, and serve. In fact, Vicki grows many of her vegetables in her backyard, quite literally bringing the concept of eating local home.

Amazing cornbread muffins:

Mix 1 ½ cups of cornmeal with 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and a pinch of sea salt.  Add in 1 cup frozen corn then mix again. Blend in ½ box of firm silken tofu, 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar, 1 cup frozen corn and 1 ¼ cups of almond milk. Pour wet ingredients into dry, quickly mix, and then spoon into prepared muffin tins.  Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until done.

Stay tuned for next week’s edition, when Vicki comes to my kitchen to prepare me to venture forth on my own culinary adventures.

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