Often, when people find out that I’m vegan, they start asking about what I eat.
“Do you eat fish?” Nope, fish are animals and vegans don’t eat animals.
“What about eggs? Do you eat eggs?” No, I don’t.
“If you don’t eat meat, milk, eggs,
or cheese, what exactly do you eat?”
It’s probably all just salads, right? And vegan potlucks consist of a bunch of people sitting around sampling from a variety of dishes made with different types of twigs and berries, correct? Wrong! While I do love a good salad, I’m not much of a twig fan, and there are plenty of things to eat on a vegan diet. The truth is that once I gave up meat and ditched diary, I opened myself up to a wide variety of different foods, and my meals are much more creative now.
So what do vegans eat? Well, every grocery store has a vegan section, only it’s usually called “produce.” We eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, such as kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, acorn squash, pumpkin, carrots, rutabaga, beets, parsnips, onions, avocados, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, rhubarb, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, kiwi, tomatoes, and yes, a little bit of lettuce. A few aisles over from the produce section you can find some other vegan staples, such as beans, rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and pasta. Some of us also like tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Right now is a great time to be vegan because there are also great analogs on the market, such as soy meats, cashew cheeses, and coconut yogurts.
A meal of vegetables, beans and grains might sound a little boring, but putting it all together with seasonings and sauces is key to any meal – vegan or not. Seasonings and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, chipotle, oregano, thyme all come form plants and are all vegan by default. Flavored vinegars and olive oils are also great ways to add an extra somethin’ something’ to a dish. Some of my favorite sauces are spicy peanut, lemon and white wine, black bean, and tahini.
So how do you put it all together? Think of some of the meals you may have eaten that were unintentionally vegan such as spaghetti with marinara, pasta primavera, a bean burrito, a hummus sandwich or avocado sushi rolls. We eat all of those and more! Some of the meals I’ve eaten recently were tofu pad Thai, mushroom stroganoff made with cashew cream, black bean tacos, roasted vegetables in lemon cannellini sauce, a stir-fry with spicy peanut sauce, setian stew, chickpea piccata, a vegetable pizza with pesto and arugula, and green bean curry.
If it seems like putting together a vegan meal might be difficult, just think about some of your favorite dishes and then consider what to replace the meat with. Do you like Chicken Marsala? How about swapping the chicken for tempeh? Is beef bourguignon one of your favorite dishes? Try omitting the beef and using hearty portobellos instead. Love chili? Skip the meat and use beans instead. By making simple swaps, you’ll see how easy it is to throw together a meat-free meal, and you’ll understand that vegans actually do eat more than just salad.