Due to a family wedding, I inherited two small non-vegan visitors for the week, ages five and ten. The five year old loves any food you give him; he even loves Daiya cheese. (“DIE yuh, not diet,” he will tell you.) Older brother is more the typical finicky eater – he wrinkles his nose to everything you offer before even tasting. Armed with the information in Myléne Oullet’s recent article, Some Musings on Hosting, I was ready to imitate meals that were familiar and try to keep the meals relatively kid-friendly.
First up was a homemade vegan pizza. This was a big hit with the little guy, but was only passable to big brother. Spaghetti is always a favorite, and no one seems to complain about what is or is not in the sauce. Two meals down, five to go.
I made some homemade vegan sausage, which had been a surprising hit when prepared for other family omnivores, but this time used barbecue sauce and offered Mac ‘N Gees, always popular with little brother. That meal was not moving off the plates of big brother until I reminded him: no clean plate, no dessert. He loves homemade vegan ice cream, so with a little salt and pepper, the entire plate appeared to be licked clean in no time. Vegan quesadillas are a regular and those are well received; the recipe I use is vegan-cheese-free, but you can always add a little some to give that gooey feel to the meal. Tacos are usually well accepted, too – bowls of chopped lettuce, grated veggies, vegan crumbles, salsa, and a little Daiya cheese make this only a little different than what is served at home. The most significant difference, of course, is that these meals are cruelty-free, or as cruelty-free as I know how to make them.
I have heard that when preparing meals for omnivores, add extra salt and fat (Earth Balance Organic?) to mimic familiar tastes from over-processed foods. Big brother likes raw vegetables, but a pleasant surprise was when little brother discovered lightly cooked broccoli – he ate a triple serving and was asking for more vegetables all week! He asks for Earth Balance by name and loves most anything that has that spread or melted over it.
Breakfasts needed to be made quickly so we could scoot off to school. Orange-banana smoothies, vegan waffles, oatmeal, scones, soy yogurt and fresh fruit kept tummies full enough to last until lunch time.
Lessons Learned In the Feeding and Care of Young Non-Vegans
Some of what I learned during this week:
• Pizza – best to heat the crust and topping a bit before adding the Daiya cheese – it tends to brown rather quickly. Live and learn. Little brother can eat most of a pizza by himself! Always make two - extras will be eaten the next day or may be frozen.Favorite crust recipes are from Barnard and Webb’s Get Healthy, Go Vegan cookbook, and Goudreau’s Vegan Table. Both are excellent.
• Having the ice cream, which is a special treat for older brother, helped him (along with salt and pepper) get through the meals he found too alien. Barbecue sauce didn’t hurt, either.
• Reading a Dr. Seuss book (Oh Say Can You Say) on tongue twisters (no turning the page until mouths were full) helped make breakfast fun and kept the focus on laughing while encouraging those bites, too. Soon they were eager to get to the table to see if I would make mistakes. Happily, I usually do. Every slip of the tongue unleashed gales of laughter – such easy entertainment!
• Books to the rescue again – each selected a book before bedtime and both seemed to love the reading time equally. It is always a ritual are our house to read before bedtime. No reading until every tooth has been brushed, baths taken, and jammies worn. There was no resistance to bedtime.
• Options are good, but not too many. I often made two or more vegetables and they could select what they wanted. Sometimes the choices were surprising. Dessert choices were often fresh sliced apples or persimmons.
I will keep kid-testing more new vegan recipes and continue to enlarge my recipe file. The older boy requested another pizza, despite his seeming disdain. But the biggest success of the week was finding out that big brother, who was taught to step on bugs, now saves them and carefully takes them outdoors. Skitter the Cat actually crawled up on big brother’s lap at one point – a real landmark for her and for him, too. After all, veganism is not about diet — and they are learning the important part.