I've waited twenty-five years to say this: Vegan is going mainstream, baby. The "v" word is no longer just kicked around like some kind of hot potato with cooties or regarded as "weird," "fringe," "faddish," or "radical." Articles in major magazines and newspapers have extolled the virtues of going vegan, and millions of Oprah and Ellen viewers have heard about the multitude of benefits to be gained from eating a pure plant-based diet. Only a few years ago, most people couldn't wrap their brains around the concept of giving up meat, dairy, fish, and eggs. But now more than ever before, Americans are beginning to not only accept, but embrace the idea that eating exclusively plant-based foods is good for their health, the animals, and the planet.
I admit to cringing when I hear Veganist author Kathy Freston suggest that people "lean into veganism," because I want cruelty to end and people to stop eating animals now. But if I am honest with myself, I must take a step back and reflect that I didn't become vegan overnight (how many of us really did?) I did quite a bit of leaning myself—first giving up veal, then red meat, and eventually chicken, fish, eggs, and dairy. (The last animal foods to leave my plate forever were cream cheese, (there was no palatable non-hydrogenated and casein-free vegan option back then), chopped herring, and unagi (eel) sushi. I can still remember the last time I thought about ordering unagi, and my friend, Sangeeta, looked at me and said, "Are you sure you want to eat that? Think about the poor eel." She was so calm and gentle about it. I thought of the poor eel, and that was it for me. No more leaning.
Today there are delicious vegan options for almost every food imaginable—even vegan cheeses are starting to rival the real deal. (Have you tasted Dr. Cow Tree Nut Cheeses?) And talented chef/authors like Jenn Shagrin take their culinary creativity into the stratosphere with vegan recipes for everything from scallops to short ribs and flank steak!
In perfect synchronicity with all the new vegan awareness, chef and author Marilyn Peterson, (herself a leaner for many years and a vegan for the last thirty), offers a gentle, step-by-step guide to overhauling your diet and achieving your most vibrant health in her wonderful new book, Vegan Bite By Bite.
In Vegan Bite By Bite Marilyn becomes both mentor and cheerleader, offering a clear and simple path to healthier, more compassionate food choices that can be made over the course of two stages. Stage One includes packaged comfort foods like mock meats and cheeses, allowing the palate and the body to ease into the elimination of animal-based foods without giving up many familiar tastes and textures. In Stage Two, whole plant-foods predominate, and more raw foods are included. There are no time restrictions, and readers are encouraged to lean in at their own pace. The transition is presented joyfully and light-heartedly, and as you read, you will feel as though you have a partner and friend holding your hand and guiding towards more vibrant health and vitality.
At 75-years-young, Marilyn Peterson is the perfect vegan ambassador.
How many 50-year-olds do you see every day who don't look nearly
this youthful, trim, attractive, and fit?
this youthful, trim, attractive, and fit?
The book opens by asking (and answering) the questions, "Why Vegan?" and "How?" and is peppered with thought-provoking, inspiring, and humorous quotations from famous vegans. There's a chapter on karma that connects readers to her own inner voice and shows us the connection between our food choices and our spiritual evolution.
What Marilyn succeeds at doing next in her book, is something I have done often in people's homes. She walks readers through a complete kitchen makeover, teaching them how to organize, store, substitute, and shop for healthier vegan foods. And since so much of the apprehension people have about going vegan is centered on wondering what they will eat, in Vegan Bite By Bite Marilyn offers more than 100 delicious recipes along with six-week menu plans so that readers don't even have to think about what to shop for or prepare.
In later chapters, readers will gain insightful health and nutritional information from medical doctors and be inspired by transition stories from celebrities, students, authors, and others. Don't be surprised if many of these stories sound a lot like your own. It's comforting and supportive to know that other people had the same questions, doubts, and struggles with their diets as you do. From these stories we also learn that there's no one right way or single path, and that we're all still fine-tuning and tweaking our diets.
My favorite chapter by far, is the one in which Marilyn shares her own story. It's a moving survival narrative detailing an extraordinary life journey filled with suffering, joy, challenges, and successes.
Readers won't feel stranded when they reach the end of the book, as Marilyn has thoughtfully provided supportive books, websites, and other resources for newbie vegans. One of those is her very own website, veganbitebybite.com. And it's filled with photos, recipes, and other valuable resources. You can even sign up for workshops and cooking classes with Marilyn!
Whether you are fully committed to taking the great vegan leap or only ready to dip your toe into vegan waters, Vegan Bite by Bite will not only answer the question, "so now what do I eat?" but will show you how to lean into eating vegan with flavor and ease.
I couldn't get through the whole book without preparing at least one of Marilyn's recipes. Eggplant Minestrone Stew beckoned to me, so I went shopping for all the needed ingredients. To my astonishment, there was not an eggplant to be found anywhere! (First it was raw pistachios—I still can't find them—and now it's eggplant!) I went to three different stores, and at each one they told me they'd been out of them for several days. I had already purchased all the other ingredients, including my new favorite pasta, Ancient Harvest Gluten-free Elbows, and while I had a real craving for eggplant, I decided to substitute potatoes and carrots, rather than figure out an entirely new dish to prepare. As it turned out, this almost entirely new dish was flavorful and filling. (So good, that yes, I added it to our dinner rotation!)
Here's my version of Marilyn's Minestrone Stew (with potatoes and carrots, instead of eggplant!
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into ½" cubes
8 oz elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
1 Tbs olive oil
6 cups plus ¼ cup vegetable broth
1 medium onion, diced small
2 carrots, peeled and sliced ¼"-inch thick
4 garlic cloves, minced
1½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
2 15-oz cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 14.5-oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes
3 large bay leaves
2 tsp thyme, dried
2 tsp oregano, dried
1 Tbs basil, dried
1 cup packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
Boil potatoes for 10-15 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
Prepare pasta according to package directions. Rinse under cold water, drain, and return to pot. Stir in olive oil, and set aside.
Heat ¼ cup broth in large soup pot on medium-low heat. Brown the onion and carrots. Add the salt, pepper, and garlic. Stir and cook until carrots are slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, except the pasta. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add pasta and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve. Makes 6-8 hearty servings.