EXCLUSIVE: Mayim Bialik Talks Veganism and New Cookbook
Anyone who tunes into primetime TV knows Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory.” Or, for those who’ve eschewed sitcoms since the mid-nineties, maybe you’ll remember her as Blossom, starring on the show of the same name. But, perhaps more importantly, the longtime actress, neuroscientist and mother of two has added something even more meaningful—in our eyes—to her resume: becoming vegan (in 2010) and, likewise, being vocal about it.
Where other celebrities have publicly stumbled, disappointing plant-based fans with their fickle food decisions, the Emmy-nominated Bialik proves nothing if not staunch in her lifestyle stance, wholly committed to the cause. So committed, in fact, that she recently wrote a cookbook—her first!—called “Mayim’s Vegan Table.”
Released last month, this family-friendly recipe pub is packed with convenient, delicious and nutritious meals to please even the pickiest palate. Think chili, dark chocolate peanut butter pie, French toast and baked ziti, to name just a few. It also contains a comprehensive intro, addressing anticipated queries from potential purchasers. From combating the money myth—the misconception that eating vegan will somehow cost more than eating meat, dairy and eggs—to how to stock your pantry, from tips to get kids onboard (with the aforementioned dishes, we can’t imagine it’s too tough…) to what tools and appliances would be best to invest in, Bialik and her co-author, Dr. Jay Gordon, make it turnkey.
Dr. Gordon, by the way, is a pediatrician originally from Wisconsin, but he ditched dairy nearly 40 years ago due to its detrimental effects on human health. He writes in a sidebar, “If I could remove cheese and apple juice from every kid’s diet, I think I could knock out the diagnosis of ADHD and obesity all at once!” We don’t doubt it! Now if only we could snap our fingers and make that happen. Poof!
Because Bialik’s pretty popular, and rightly so, it wasn’t simple to pin her down, but we secured time with her last week and what follows is a portion of our conversation.
Ecorazzi: So, what sets “Mayim’s Vegan Table” apart from other plant-based and/or celebrity cookbooks?
Mayim Bialik: I really tried to make a book that was approachable and normal, things I actually make for my kids and my friends. A lot of cookbooks have unusual ingredients or unusual standards for nutrition. That’s not so in this book. Dr. Gordon—he’s a pediatric nutritionist and pediatrician who weighs in on all those issues—and I wanted to present something that wasn’t going to tell people, The way you’re eating is wrong. You need to change it. We have the right way. We wanted to present plant-based options in a non-threatening way. The goal was actual recipes that actual parents can make easily and inexpensively with things that are pretty much in their pantry already.
Ecorazzi: Makes sense to me! I imagine as a vegan parent raising vegan children you sometimes run into challenges. Can you speak to this at all? Any advice?
Mayim Bialik: There are a lot of challenges. One is all the judgment people have, saying I’m not feeding them correctly or that it’s bad for their health. It’s part of why we had Dr. Gordon co-author. We wanted to make sure people understood there are nutritional concerns, and we address them all.
Ecorazzi: Dispelling myths before folks have a chance to criticize. Good thinking.
Mayim Bialik: Also important is preparing kids for events where they may not be able to eat things. Not feeling like the world will end if they can’t have a cupcake every time some other kid has a cupcake. And providing them with alternatives, so they don’t feel like they never get to have fun stuff.
Ecorazzi: Sounds like a solid approach. On behalf of parents out there, what’s your advice for encouraging children to eat more vegetables?
Mayim Bialik: Not to obsess about it. Training them to enjoy food the way it tastes. Not having them eat a lot of processed foods, especially in those early years, is really important. It teaches them to appreciate vegetables. Kids like to dip things in dips. That helps. Also, kids need fruits in their early years as much as they need vegetables.
Ecorazzi: Can’t argue with that. So, I’ve often wondered, what’s it like navigating Hollywood as a vegan?
Mayim Bialik: There are a lot of choices, because I’m in LA. A lot of events cater to that. But, when I go to large events or awards shows, there’s not much to eat. So, it’s definitely a challenge. In my opinion, these dinners with hundreds of people could save a lot of money, if nothing else, by not serving chicken or steak or fish. But, I usually try to eat before and hope there’s something safe I can get, like a salad.
Ecorazzi: How were this year’s Golden Globes and SAG Awards? I wrote about the Golden Globes’ vegan option. We were under the impression it was legit.
Mayim Bialik: It’s a very big hotel that the Golden Globes takes place at and there are a lot of people. So, sometimes vegan food in those situations is not what we would always hope. It was okay.
Ecorazzi: Hmm. So, what about on set?
Mayim Bialik: There’s always lots of fruits and vegetables. Our props master knows I’m vegan. If [in a scene] there’s pizza, he has to make me one without cheese or, if there’s salad, [he has to] use vegan dressing. And, whenever there’s Chinese food served in a scene, it’s always vegan-friendly. So that’s really good.
Ecorazzi: Have any of your cast mates asked you about veganism?
Mayim Bialik: I’m close with Jim Parsons and Melissa Rauch and we talk a lot about food and nutrition in our down time. Everybody here is a pretty healthy eater, but I’m the only vegan.
Ecorazzi: Then I might go so far as to say there is only one healthy eater on “The Big Bang Theory.” [Laughs] What for when you’re out and about? Where—when not cooking at home, on set or attending events—do you opt to eat?
Mayim Bialik: I love Real Food Daily. When I want great comfort food, Native Foods Café. Their Reuben is my favorite. There’s also Doomie’s Home Cookin’. They have a vegan Big Mac, vegan Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese. It is the most incredible vegan trashy food. It’s awesome.
Ecorazzi: Don’t tempt me to catch a flight to LA. What about in New York?
Mayim Bialik: Café Blossom. Pure Food & Wine, which is raw. It’s pricey and it’s fancy, but the food is absolutely out of this world. And there’s vegan dim sum in Chinatown, Buddha Bodai. I always go. Dun-Well Doughnuts in Brooklyn. I think the best vegan food in this country is in New York.
Ecorazzi: If you say so. I guess I’ll stay put. Speaking of, is it hard to keep vegan when traveling?
Mayim Bialik: I make it work. I don’t always get to eat as healthy as I want to. Often I eat pizza no cheese, or pasta and marinara, or green salad and French fries. Whatever I have to, to make sure I have something. But, I go a lot of places in the country where there are no vegan options and you kind of have to make them.
Ecorazzi: We’ve all been there. Where have you found to be most difficult?
Mayim Bialik: Oh gosh, the Midwest. Even more than the South. The Midwest has been the hardest.
Ecorazzi: Can’t blame you for saying that. I’m from Green Bay. But, it’s do-able. Switching gears, as a celebrity, plenty of people look up to you. Are there any cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics or other products you personally use that you can recommend to readers?
Mayim Bialik: Not in particular. I mean, I go to Murad Spa, which is here in LA, and they have vegan stuff. I like Votre Vu products a lot. Obviously, there are some really great vegan makeup lines. Companies like Hourglass Cosmetics and Tarte Cosmetics have vegan options. One of my big things is finding reds. Lipsticks that have red in them usually involve carmine, which is ground up [cochineal beetles]. So, it’s been a personal journey of mine to find vegan lipstick.
Ecorazzi: It’s superb you’re so thorough and thoughtful. On that note, what’s your stance on Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s 22-day plant-based diet trial? They came under fire for fashion faux pas and other inconsistencies. I’d be curious to hear your point of view.
Mayim Bialik: I think it’s very interesting. [Their challenge has] given a lot of positive attention to [veganism], and any attention to veganism is good attention. There are a lot of different reasons people may explore, want to explore, a vegan lifestyle. What I think would be a shame is if after it there were comments made like, This was gross. I don’t like it. Or, No one can live like this. Or, a lot of comments that kind of bug me is people saying, You can’t be vegan and pregnant. My feeling is, if you want to make choices, they should be statements about your preferences and not about the movement as a whole.
Ecorazzi: Right on. Last but not least, are there resources you might recommend to aspiring vegans or vegan leaning people, in addition to Mayim’s Vegan Table, of course?
Mayim Bialik: “The China Study,” “Eating Animals,” “Future of Food,” “Food, Inc.,” “Forks Over Knives.” That’s where I would start.