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Vegans don’t have to be chefs, but it’s a good idea to learn to cook

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I grew up floating between the worlds of fine cooking and crap. It was typical for my weekday to start with a sugary boxed cereal, and my weekend mornings to feature homemade fruit crepes. With busy parents and a full schedule of schools and extracurricular activities, I’d say I had a pretty average middle-class childhood within the confines of my robin-blue kitchen. A curious kid who did better learning by doing, I would take up an appreciation for making my own food at a young age. What started as layering tomato sauce and cheese to make a pizza bagel blossomed into solo, four hour long gnocchi forming sessions. By the time I was old enough to shop for my own groceries, I was a fully formed foodie, and a bit of snob. But at twenty six years of age, I am discovering that more and more millennials aren’t just dining out for the fun of it, but are doing so in necessity. In my quest to share vegan recipes, I’ve discovered that before I can assume everyone can make the simple switch to grilling tofu over chicken, I have to consider if they’ve cooked at all. You see, deciding to go vegan is not the challenge, but living in a place without easily accessible vegan take-out is.

I can imagine many scenarios in which someone with the goal to go vegan gives up. But what I can’t imagine, is that a lack of comfort in the kitchen could be to blame for someone’s continued participation in animal exploitation. That’s right – I’m not referring to food desserts, or poverty – but a lack of education, experience, and practice with preparing food. Although 2016 surely has more pre-made, reheat, and “just add water” types of vegan products on the market than any year before it, understanding the basics of choosing, cleaning, cutting, and preparing fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains, is what’s essential for everyone. I’m not going to point fingers at parents, schools, or the man, but I am going to recommend that vegans spend a little more time providing kitchen education to newcomers, and a little less time telling people how easy it is.

I cooked my first rutabaga today. Are you asking what the fuck is rutabaga? It’s not a new kombucha brand, and it’s definitely not another one of my tricky bean-liquids. It’s a half turnip, half potato mystery that reminded me that hey, there’s more to life than just jackfruit pulled pork. When’s the last time you cooked something for the first time? Given the sheer number of edible things in the world, it’s possible you can try something new tonight. Yeah, it took me more than a couple minutes of YouTube tutorials to figure out getting through that hard rutabaga skin, but I came away with one more tool for sustaining this hungry vegan long enough to help make some vegans in the world.

I’m not going to recommend that everyone run to the store for a spiralizer, sign up for chef school, or start a nonna-stealing crime ring to reclaim the training of our forefathers. Instead, I’m going to recommend you spare a little bit of that non-violent, compassionate vegan heart, and apply it to yourself. Trust that you’re not only capable of cooking, but excelling at it.

The internet is an incredible resource, but so is your nose, your tastebuds, and your eyes. If you’ve fallen head over heels for your neighbourhood vegan pizza joint, you’re a dough and some toppings away from getting to brag on Instagram that you made it yourself. Just in case you don’t already have a Martha-Stewart-vegan in your squad, allow me the honour of saying it like it is; you don’t need butcher knives, vine-ripened organic tomatoes, or an animated rat named Remy to get started. Pick something you love to eat, and decide to love making it.

Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but I think if more people got excited about eating their own food, more people would go vegan. There’s no fear of raw meat, egg shells, or those little poops in shrimp spines to keep you away from your stove. You’ll get the hang of soaking and cooking beans, or you’ll stick to the canned variety for chilis and stews. You’ll be a pro at knowing exactly how much nutritional yeast will get you to your cheesy mac n’ not cheese destiny. And it won’t take anytime to get the hang of cutting onions, although you will continue to cry. Whether you’ve been clinging to Oreo’s because you don’t want to bake cookies, or you’re one under microwaved Amy’s Burrito away from calling for delivery, give preparing something from scratch a chance. Who knows, you might be the next vegan restauranteur or entrepreneur that less savvy vegans are begging for. Consider starting by following food diary blogs and vlogs, to get inspiration on what other vegans are up to. You’ll be surprised to see that tons of great home cookin’ is really just a matter of slicing, stirring, and throwing things together.

I promise that when you start cooking, you can still support your favourite vegan restaurants, too. There’s at least twenty one meals in an average week (more like 28 if you’re me) after all. I’d had the pleasure of watching my boyfriend go from meat eater, to vegetarian, to vegan, to vegan chef. Seriously, his “chicken and waffles” are out of this world. I’m not going to pull a “if he can do it, anyone can” theory out, because of his waffles, but seriously, there’s no cooking gene or pill, we all have it in us.

Check out some of my favourite resources below, get your grocery list ready, and plan a date with a spatula. I guarantee that being able to thrive on vegan foods at home isn’t just going to make your vegan eating more enjoyable, it’s going to show others that the expectation of bland, boring, and unsustainable vegan diets are a thing of the past. And hey, you have my permission to start with pizza bagels, those are still amazing.

 

Cooking Tutorials

Veggietorials has vegan cooking lessons on Youtube

This Pinterest pages covers everything from how to keep avocado from browning to how to cook quinoa

Sweet Potato Soul gives the step by step on her cooking channel

Vegan Recipes

Search the vegan category on Foodgawker

Oh She Glows, arguably one of the most popular vegan food blogs

Vegan Society recipes

Online Vegan Grocery Stores

V Word Market

Vegan Essentials

Vegan Supply

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