Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving" ~ Rosalind Russell

Since I can remember, my life entire life has been defined by the food around me. Growing up as a vegan in middle America, our first priority as a family was, can we eat anything there? Can this restaurant make a baked potato? Does the soup have a beef broth? Can they provide a side of avocado? Do they know what avocado is?

Throughout my childhood, I often felt as though I was living in a parallel universe. While other kids packed their lunches with JIF-filled Wonder bread sandwiches and sipped their chocolate milk boxes, I was eating avocado-covered rice cakes and yelling at my dad to make sure he strained the fresh-squeezed orange juice my sister and I had to drink before we were allowed to leave for school. I was sixteen when I finally discovered what a coffee grinder was. Granted, we had one in our kitchen my entire life, which was used to grind cashews and in my mind, it was a nut grinder.

Normally resigned to two aisles in the back of conventional grocery stores, I remember feeling liberated whenever my dad and I would make our monthly pilgrimages to the Mustard Seed Market in Akron (this was even before Cleveland got a Whole Foods, let alone a Trader Joe's).
The world of healthy eating has changed a lot since I was in elementary school. By high school the same kids who once mocked me for eating "slime" on my rice cakes were asking me how to lose weight and how to make smoothies. I knew the world had really begun to shift the first time I saw national commercial for Silk soy milk. Now in addition to The Mustard Seed, my dad's pilgrimages include detours Whole Foods as well as Trader Joe's. While growing up the best vegetarian option for fast food was a salad bar at or baked potato at Wendy's, veggies-on-the run can now choose from Panera, Jamba Juice, and the wonderful magic that is Chipotle.

The point is, there a lot more ways to eat healthy today there were when I was growing up. Still, I encounter a lot of people who run into obstacles when trying to navigate the meat-free lifestyles. They either report feeling ill because they decided it was enough to simply give up meat while continuing gorge themselves on what my dad would call "chazerai" (i.e. over processed sugary crap), or they eventually give up after a month because they find a diet of brown rice, tofu, and steamed broccoli to be severely limiting. And I agree would have to agree wholeheartedly.

This blog is by no means a diet system. I have always found the word "diet" to be limiting. It implies oppression and deprivation. Many people give up on vegetarianism cold turkey because they feel discouraged by one or two guilty indulgences. For me, life is all about balance. I am immensely grateful for the way I was brought up (yay immunity!) and yet at this point I personally find pure veganism limiting as a lifestyle choice (a semester delighting in unpasteurized camembert and roquefort in Rennes, France pretty much killed my taste for soy cheese). I am grateful to my upbringing because it taught me how to take care of myself: when I start to eat too much "chazerai" (i.e., over-processed, over-sugared crap whose ingredient list contains more than 5 mysterious chemical compounds) I get congested and realize my body is telling me it's time to eat fresh fruit and miso soup for a week.

Here you'll find recipes here that involve cheese and eggs as well as soups that use ground nuts as and coconut milk as substitutions. Though I am aware the vegetarian lifestyle is not the right choice for everyone, I want this blog to illustrate that vegetarian living by no means should involve sacrificing flavor, color, variety, adventure, and magic.


  1. Hey Lisa! This is Ben Boquist. Awesome blog. I rmember when you used to eat those rice cake and slime lunches :) good times. I'm living in LA now, where healthy food is huge. I look forward to yuor recipes.


  2. When did you arrive in LA? I spent two months there this summer and was blown away by how inherent healthy living is to the culture there (every restaurant has avocado lol). Growing up Whole Foods and Trader Joe's were magical, mystical places that required at least an hour's drive. And yet I remember one day in LA I went to the Trader Joe's on La Brea looking for this sweat deal on organic cherries I remember seeing. The one on La Brea didn't have them, so I drove 5 minutes and went to the one on Santa Monica Blvd, where i found exactly what I needed. Now that was luxury!

    P.S. The best vegan restaurant I visited in LA was The M Cafe 7119 Melrose Avenue. The West LA Whole Foods on Barrington and National has also begun to carry their sandwiches.

  3. Great idea for a blog, and I like your first post- thanks for sharing your thoughts about growing up with this lifestyle. Even when it's so much easier to not eat meat now, I still often feel isolated because of my choice to do so. I could only imagine what it must have been like as a kid. It takes strength of characater to stick to that, no matter how insistent one's parents are, so I'm glad you did and thanks for sharing :)

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  5. Lisa ... I think this is going to be great. And I have already bookmarked you. :P

    Honestly, going over to your house as a kid was one of my favorite things to do. First and foremost, for the company - secondly, for the food! I still remember the look on my mother's face when I said I wanted to become a vegetarian, ha! She just didn't understand how well we always ate at your place.

    I'm now an avid meat-eater (alas, I never converted), but am always looking for new and interesting things to do with veggies.

    Blog on, my friend. Blog on. :D

    ... I spelled vegetarian incorrectly the first time. For shame!!