What better way to begin 2016 than to veganize Ned Taylor, a sixteen-year-old from Victoria, BC? In December’s MEATLESS ANYDAY AND A TEENAGER’S PLEDGE TO HELP CHICKENS, I blogged about promoting Ned’s petition – “Ban Battery Cages in Canada,” – urging the government to ban battery cages for chickens. Yet despite his deep concern for chickens and other animals, Ned still ate them.
But he was already considering veganism, and when I challenged him, he committed to one vegan day a week. A few days later, Ned shared his notes about Day 1, which was vegetarian, kind of a warm-up, and Day 2, which was out-and-out vegan.
Day 1 (Vegetarian)
Breakfast: I had scrambled eggs (free-range of course) and hash-browns.
Lunch: I had three grilled cheese sandwiches.
Dinner: I had mashed potatoes, baked green bean and french fried onion mixture, stuffing and carrots.
Thoughts: It was pretty easy going just without meat. For breakfast my family ate bacon, eggs and hash-browns and all I had to do was remove the bacon. I could definitely see myself doing this more often. It’s healthy, good for the environment and super easy!
Day 2 (Vegan)
Breakfast: Hash-browns and 2 pieces of toast and peanut butter.
Lunch: Beans on toast
Dinner: I had a butternut squash soup with garlic bread (recipe below). Also after dinner I went to a movie and got popcorn. Thankfully my mum reminded me to get margarine instead of butter so I didn’t spoil it at the end!
Recipe for Butternut Squash Soup:
Thoughts: This was definitely trickier than going vegetarian but overall it wasn’t too hard. The main obstacle was avoiding dairy products (like the popcorn butter issue). Also the butternut squash soup was delicious! I definitely want to have that more often.
Well, well, well! What was I to say about this menu? The Day 1 vegetarian dinner looked like a typical meat-based meal with the meat omitted, almost identical to meals I’ve consumed as a guest of non-vegans. Its main virtue was that it required no extra preparation and was, from Ned’s perspective, “pretty easy.” No wonder he could see himself doing it more often.
But I couldn’t help commenting about his lunch of three grilled cheese sandwiches” Isn’t that … um … a lot of sandwiches?” “Oh, my mom also asks me if I really need three,” Ned said cheerily. “The thing is, I do, because I’m really hungry. But I work out a lot so I can afford to eat a lot without gaining any weight.”
I chuckled and reminded myself that Ned is just sixteen, and super fit. I won’t worry about the quantity of food he consumes. I’ll just stick with doing what I’ve agreed to: guiding and documenting his progress on his weekly vegan days, when he abstains from animal products altogether: no eggs, cheese, milk, etc.
When Ned plunged into his vegan day, it helped that both his parents were very supportive, and that it was a Sunday, when he had the time to “find stuff I could cook myself” to avoid expecting his mom to prepare special meals for him. Breakfast and lunch were simple and toasty, and he probably enlivened them with a glass of something to drink and a fruit or two. Lastly, Ned’s dinner of Butternut Squash Soup from One Green Planet constituted a brilliant ending to his first vegan day! (Except, of course, that unbuttered movie theatre popcorn, a pop cultural indulgence shared by millions, including me.)
Squash or pumpkin soup is a mainstay of Caribbean cooking, and when I lived in Haiti we had it every Sunday. It’s delicious, nutritious and filling; it’s also versatile, perfectly happy to be spicy or blander, and always willing to soak up and integrate a stray vegetable or two.
Ned ended his first vegan day resolved to repeat it. “Dairy was the hardest to avoid,” he mused, “but I’d much rather eat vegan things.” Ned’s an environmentalist and a compassionate animal advocate who is already lobbying politicians against factory farming. So far, our modest little experiment is working, because Ned is determined that it will. But it’s clear that I should offer more encouragement in the form of that most basic of assistance: recipes, simple, clearly-described and most of all, appealing to this extraordinary teenager who is so eager to rescue and restore the world to pristine nature.
I’m going to start with pizza, arguably the most popular fast food in North America, and heavily consumed by male teenagers. If Ned tries some of these delicious recipes, he won’t be the odd man out at the table. Without even trying, he’ll have introduced his family members to the delights of good vegan food, and in a single sitting, spared at least a few animals!