As someone who adores cooking vegan food, I hear the same remarks from non-vegans or aspiring vegans all the time.
There seem to be some common misunderstandings that I would like to clear up here.
1) Vegan cooking is not more expensive than any other kind of cooking.
It bewilders me that people believe this, when meat and dairy are always more expensive than fruit, vegetables and grains. What exactly do they think vegans spend so much money on?
Last week, I made a (delicious) batch of lentil kale stew from one bag of lentils costing $1.29, one bunch of farmer’s market kale which cost $3.00, some spices which I had in the pantry, which if I had to calculate based on the amount of each I used would come to roughly $2 or $3, and other assorted vegetables which cost no more than $5 combined.
That adds up to approximately $12.29.
I ate this stew for seven days, spending less than two dollars per day on whichever meal I ate it for (I alternated between lunch and dinner.) This is not an atypical example.
In fact, I make many things which are just as good and cost even less.
2) Vegan cooking is not hard.
Once you master a few easy techniques, like creating a good soup or stew base, knowing how to prep lots of different veggies for cooking, how to cook a variety of grains, and the basics of roasting, steaming, sautéing, grilling and braising vegetables, everything else is a breeze.
I will say, there is more prep work in the form of chopping, slicing and dicing but that problem is easily solved for people short on time simply by making big batches. It’s just as fast or faster to heat up a piece of vegan meatloaf or a bowl of soup and throw together a great salad as it is to make anything with meat.
3) Vegan cooking is not restrictive.
Okay, technically it is. But one of the most interesting things I’ve discovered about veganism is how expansive it really is. Not relying on foods like cheese, eggs, butter or meat for flavor opens up a whole world of alternative possibilities.
You become an expert on spice combinations, how to make soups creamy with nut butters, potatoes and okra, and how to give depth to food with creativity and intelligence rather than just plopping in some bacon. It has given me the chance to really learn about food, and the motivation to try new and wonderful things I never would have bothered with before.
When I look back on my pre-vegan cooking, it seems very boring, redundant and staid.
4) Vegan cooking is filling.
I’ve heard people worry about whether they’re going to “feel full” or “satisfied” eating a vegan diet. Go to a vegan restaurant or have a vegan friend cook a big yummy meal for you. You’ll quickly be undoing the top button of your pants. For me, one of the pluses is that I actually get to eat more food because so much of it is less calorie dense.
5) Yes, you get enough protein!
Lord almighty, this is a big one. Americans are so worried about their protein! Many vegetables are rich in protein, as are beans, nuts, grains and legumes. Plus, we don’t need nearly as much protein as was once believed.
One of the few major things that can be lacking on a vegan diet is the vitamin B12, which is easily corrected by taking the daily multivitamin you likely already take.
Vegan cooking isn’t something to be afraid of. It is a chance to celebrate flavor, the earth, health and compassion. Start slow, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and you’ll find the joy hidden in the vegetable gifts of our world.
(My first—and still favorite—vegan cookbook is called Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and I love her book Appetite for Reduction as well. Either of those are a wonderful starting point for the novice vegan.)
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Ed: Bryonie Wise