When I was in high school, my first job was working summers at the same company where my dad worked. The job itself left a little to be desired, but it gave me the opportunity to ride to and from work each day with my dad and to regularly go out for lunch together — I can’t even begin to describe how much I cherish that time we had together.
Earlier this month, my dad said goodbye to the nine-to-five and entered retirement. On his last day, I picked him up at his office for one final father-daughter, workday lunch. On our way to the restaurant, he commented that he didn’t care where we went so long as there was something for him to eat. I said that we weren’t going to a vegan restaurant, although, even if we were, there would be plenty for him to eat. He lovingly scoffed. You see, he doesn’t like “vegan food.” (He must have forgotten the vegan penne vodka and sweet and savory jackfruit carnitas tacos that he happily chows down on at my place. And my Texas sheet cake — his all-time favorite dessert, which he happened to have been eating on all week.)
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Maybe it’s the neighbor who won’t touch the vegan dishes at the block party or the vegetarian co-worker who, when food is ordered for the group, won’t eat the vegan option because she’s vegetarian, not vegan.
Maybe you’ve even said it yourself.
But here’s the thing about vegan food: it’s just food. Food that happens to be free of animal products. And everyone, regardless of dietary persuasion, eats vegan food. They just don’t call it vegan — it’s simply called, “food.” So when someone says they don’t like vegan food, I say, “Bananas!”
Literally, bananas. They’re vegan. The plant kingdom has a plethora of options:
- Apples, grapes, strawberries, tomatoes, avocados, watermelon, cantaloupe and any and all other fruits you can imagine.
- Broccoli, sweet potatoes, potatoes, kale, celery, carrots, and all other vegetables.
- Garbanzo beans, black beans, lima beans, pinto beans, kidney beans — beans, beans, beans! And lentils, too.
- Nuts and seeds like walnuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, chia seeds, quinoa.
- Grains such as rice, oats, millet, wheat and barley.
- Mushrooms of many varieties — portobello, morels, shitake.
All the fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains and fungi anyone could want.
Who hasn’t gone to a baseball game and snacked on peanuts and crackerjacks, or gorged on a meal’s worth of chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant? It’s all vegan. So many snacks and meals and drinks are, generally speaking, already (accidentally) vegan. Such as:
- Pita with hummus or Baba Ghanouj
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- Pasta with red sauce
- Chips and guacamole
- French fries
- Bread sticks with marinara
- Bean chili
- Vinegar and oil based slaws
- Potato chips and corn chips
- Beer and wine
- Ants on a log
- Peanut butter and banana paninis
- Soft pretzels
- Bean burritos
- Pasta e Fagioli
The problem isn’t vegan food, but, rather, the unfamiliar. A vegan diet is an enigma to many, and it is hard for them to picture a satisfying plate once the steak and cheesy potatoes have been removed. But when we frame it in terms of foods that they already eat and enjoy every day, we help to demystify veganism, open minds and make a plant-based diet more accessible.
What’s your favorite “accidentally” vegan food?