I’ve always loved food. Just not the right foods. I was known as the junk-food lovin’ kid. Would always sneak off to our corner-store for chips, bars, ice creams, gummies, and more. And, I loved my mom’s cooking too. Would eat seconds of our meat ‘n potatoes dinners. Except for liver night. Never liked it, and drowning it in ketchup didn’t help anything, just made me wish I had fries (which I would happily eat, covered in gravy and ketchup). For sure my food journey was just that – a journey. I didn’t always like vegetables, or beans. And, I definitely always craved fatty foods and cheese and also rich desserts. But, my body didn’t like it. And it told me so, early in my twenties.
During my late teens, I cut out eating cows and pigs (the ‘red meat’). But it wasn’t until my twenties that I stopped eating other animals and also dairy. I grew up with five sisters, and recall one of my sisters pointing out an article about red meat and how it does not digest well and remains largely undigested in your intestines, up to several pounds. The idea was repulsive to me. And, at the time as a teen, I was all about looking good, but there was also a little part of me interested in health. I exercised most days of the week – even if at the time it was more to lose weight than to be healthy. But, along the way, learning about the food and weight connection I picked up a few life-changing resources. Still, while I had stopped eating the ‘red meated’ animals, I still ate chickens, fish, and eggs and dairy.
Until I read “Fit For Life” and “Diet For a New America”. Those books had a huge impact on me. I stopped eating chickens, and then fish soon followed. I felt some health improvements, but even bigger changes came when combined with eliminating dairy. I wasn’t as convinced that dairy should be removed. After all, it is pretty critical for calcium and bone health, right? No, not right. But, I experimented. That next step of eliminating dairy – along with other animal products – upped the ante for my health. During my twenties I had a lot of joint stiffness and pain, which I now think were early signs of arthritis. I also had swollen areas in different joints, and an episode with gout. I remember being 22, giving a presentation in university. When it was my time to stand, all I could think was how much it hurt my knees. I wasn’t heavy either. Maybe had an extra 15 or 20 pounds on, but that’s all. But my knees felt like I was 75 pounds overweight. I knew something had to change, but didn’t make the full dietary connection until after university. Once I cut out dairy (along with meat), so much improved. My digestion felt better, not heavy and sluggish. My energy lifted and I didn’t have long-lasting mucousy colds. And, the pain and stiffness in my joints subsided. I knew in my soul that meat and dairy weren’t good for my body. And, the more I read, the more facts I had to support my decision. I had just married at the time, and my husband Paul jumped on board. Okay, he didn’t jump. Perhaps I pulled him along at first. But, it took only a few weeks for him to also feel better and our course was set.
I guess we were now ‘vegan’. This was in the 90′s, and what a bizarre idea that was for people. We were definitely the ‘kooky ones’ in the family. But, we stuck to our beliefs and I found a new love in cooking. Before eating vegan, I never enjoyed cooking too much. I’d cook minimally – mostly prepared or semi-prepared foods. And baking was from mixes. And, what a nuisance it was to separate eggs and determine if they were ‘safe’ and to cream butter and more. Not fun. And cooking was worse. I would prepare chicken and fish and find it disgusting to pull of the skin from the flesh, and to clean the ‘juices’ (blood) after… and to make sure nothing else in the kitchen was contaminated with raw meat or ‘juices’. Really, it was not enjoyable for me on any level.
Then I started cooking and baking without the animals and their parts involved. What freedom! Really, as much as people think eating vegan is restriction, I enjoyed this new world! Less worry, more fun. And, so many more foods and ingredients to play with. Not at first of course. I started with what I knew, and that’s where vegan seems ‘limited’ initially. Because we imagine our plates without the meat, dairy and eggs and wonder what’s left (because we’re not eating enough plant foods to begin with)!
I soon learned there was an entire plant-powered food world – and it wasn’t about what I was “giving up”, but about all the new things I was bringing into our diet. I found a new love in cooking and baking! There were few vegan cookbooks available at the time, so I created my own recipes. After my father-in-law’s heart attack I put pencil to paper (or, fingers to keyboard), and starting writing my first cookbook.
As I grew into eating vegan, I also became more interested in whole foods and overall health and wellbeing. It wasn’t just about not eating animals. I wasn’t about to eat white bread, pasta, and processed foods in the name of eating vegan. My own personal health was important – and that of my family. Early in my cookbook career, I gained a reputation for having the “healthy” vegan recipes. Yep, I’ve often called myself the crunchy-granola of the vegan cookery world. But I like this place. People often tell me that they turn to my cookbooks for healthy vegan recipes that also hit the flavor mark! And, my cooking has evolved with new foods and new information and is more nutritious (and delicious!) than ever.
Four cookbooks, three children, one Sarabi-cat, and a few hundred recipes later, I still loving creating new dishes. Now they are better than ever, with the best balance of “nutritious meets delicious”! I’m not going to give you any recipes I wouldn’t feed my children. They’ve got to be healthy. And, they’ve got to taste good (I won’t give you anything my family rejects either)! So, join me, get plant-powered!
Over the years, several resources have really reaffirmed my beliefs in, and commitment to, eating vegan. In addition to those mentioned above, books like “The China Study“, “Eating Animals“, and in earlier years “Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating” had a profound impact on me. Now, there are plenty more resources available in the way of books, and also very informative sites. People often ask “what books and links do you recommend?” In addition to the books mentioned above, at right is a list of terrific resources for learning about how to eat more healthy and compassionately.