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1. As the Vegan Dad, you make an amazing variety of meals for your family. What's your favorite go-to meal on nights you're too busy to think?
I hate to say it it, but Yves hot dogs and some baked beans have become a recent "go to" standard. Add some frozen veggies and some potatoes and you have yourself some kind of a meal (and the kids think hot dogs are a real treat). The kids also love vegetable soup. It's basically beans, mixed veggies, pasta, spaghetti sauce, and water). It's a balanced meal in a bowl and they pound it back like there is no tomorrow.
2. Where do you get your inspiration for your recipes?
I love to read about food and watch food being made on TV (Top Chef is a favourite). The LCBO puts out a great publication called "Food and Drink" that has provided some inspiration, and I always leaf through old magazines at the thrift store looking for good ideas. I am also fascinated by various ethnic foods and own many Thai, Indian, Italian, Mexican, etc. cookbooks.
Most of the time, though, I think about what's in my fridge and cupboards and try to put together a dish in my head. It's always fun when a dish you imagined actually works out in reality.
3. You make some incredible faux meats, many from scratch. Where do you come up with the ideas for these recipes? My boyfriend wonders if you have a degree in chemistry.
The vegan world owes a great debt to Julie Hasson who first posted the steamed seitan sausage recipe. We also must pay homage to Isa and Terry and their chickpea cutlet. I have bascially taken the theory behind both of these dishes to make some of my own faux meats.
As much as I love a traditional seitan, it does take a lot of time. My goal was to make tasty but quick faux meats that could be pulled together for a weekday meal. For the most part, I think I succeeded.
4. You have built a home-based bakery of your own and are selling a few baked goods and breads on a weekly basis. What challenges did you find with starting this endeavor, and have you thought about making it more wide-scale?
The initial challenge was perfecting some recipes that would produce consistent results. If you are going to charge people for bread, it needs to be both tasty and consistent so they know what to expect when they place an order.
The second challenge was finding a reliable supplier that could deliver organic flours on time.
Finally, there was the question of what to charge. Organic flour is not cheap, and making bread takes time (it's not really hard, but it does take time). I seem to have ironed out all of the kinks now. It was a good idea to bake twice a week, rather that trying to fill orders as they trickled in day by day.
My plan in to keep everything small scale. There is only so much one oven can bake in a day, and, as I have found, baking bread is no way to make money. I enjoy baking for a small number of friends and neighbours and don't really have the time to do much more.
A few questions about your sons...
5. Have they been vegan since birth? Did you and your wife face any challenges with either raising them with this diet, or in changing to a vegan diet?
We have not been vegan long enough for all our kids to be vegan from birth. They are all vegan now, though. The transition was relatively easy for them, though Son #1 had a hard time giving up milk. Our parents had concerns about veganism, but I think their fears have been allayed because the boys are all healthy, active, and doing very well in school.
6. I have heard that many vegan children adore animals and their food choices, and will defend them if ever challenged. How do your children feel about their diets?
This has been an interesting aspect of our veganism. Our extended family is not vegan, so there is always the "meat issue" when we have get-togethers. I will never forget when Son # 1 stood up at Thanksgiving and said, "I wish everyone would just leave the turkeys alone!" (After that episode, my Mom will no longer eat meat in from of the boys)
That being said, our entire extended family is very supportive and accomodating of our veganism, and will make vegan food for us when we come. As the boys get older they understand more why we eat the way we do. We always tell them that while we have made a choice in the way we eat, not everyone has made the same choice.
I hope they will continue to value that choice as they get older and eventually leave the home, but we will see what happens . . .
7. How do you handle making sure your children have appropriate meals when they are at sleep-overs or camps?
This has not been much of an issue yet. Our friends know we are vegan and accomodate the kids when they are over at their houses. We sometimes have to bring special food to birthday parties, and make vegan pizzas for them when it's pizza day at school.
I have learned to relax a bit, though, and not worry if they eat a non-vegan piece of cake or a cookie at a party. Since my veganism is largely about using my purchasing power to support certain products, I know that them eating an occasional non-vegan cookie will not make any difference.
I have had friends ask me for vegan cake recipes for birthday parties, which is very cool of them. My sister-in-law actually has a small business making vegan cupcakes for parties. Since her son has a variety of food allergies, vegan cupcakes fit the bill.
8. What's your favorite meal to feed guests when you host a sleep-over party?
Sleep over party sounds like a nightmare . . . so we have yet to do that. Ha! We are the worst parents! We have had to feed non-vegan kids, though. Pretzel bites work well, as do McChick'n Nuggets. But serving food like that makes me appreciate how our sons' tastes have developed. They love tofu and broccoli, and don't need to be fed traditional "kids' food."
More on that: my Vegan Dad blog has tried to show how various and exciting the vegan food world is, and how we can reconceptualize what family friendly meals are. For some reason kids' food has yet to evolve from the french fry and the chicken finger. When exposed to a wide variety of food, kids will develop a love for all kinds of cuisines.
Thank you Vegan Dad!!
Vegan Dad Interview date: 12/08/08