Monday, February 26, 2007

Mediterranean Eggplant and Beans

Many people have emailed me asking how they should handle social events now that they are vegan. What do you do when your business meeting lunch is going to be catered? When Aunt Fran invites you to dinner? When your Bible study group is meeting over donuts and pastries?

Bring food. Always bring food. If they tell you you don't need to, bring food anyway. Unless you are absolutely positive about where you're going and what you will have there eat, bring food. Make a dish to share if it is appropriate; if not, bring a fun, well-balanced meal just for yourself.

Because if you don't bring food (as I learned once again last week), you may end up with nothing to eat while all around you are enjoying a feast. This sends the wrong message about veganism to yourself and to everyone else. You may end up feeling hungry and sorry for yourself; your choice may start to feel lonely or isolating. Even worse, other people may look at you and decide that vegans are sad-looking people who eat nothing but carrot sticks.

But bring along a vibrant, fabulous lunch or dish to share and you show yourself and them how fabulous vegan dining can be!

Heeding my own advice, here's a little lunch I packed myself for a recent gathering. In the larger container is a green salad topped with kiwi fruit, almond slices, and strawberry balsamic vinegar (from Trader Joe's).

The smaller container holds a trio of delightful dishes. First I prepared Green Beans & Carrots in a Tarragon Viniagrette from Vegan Lunch Box. By the way, if you're a health-conscious veghead like me, it's easy to cut back on the fat in this recipe; I used just a small drizzle of olive oil as opposed to 2 tablespoons. I also left out the salt and no one was the wiser; Shmoo helped finish the rest of these off with gusto.

Across the happy pink divider is another salad: Cabbage, Apple, and Raisin Slaw from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas. I always hated slaw until I tried this one filled with tart apples and sweet raisins; I could eat the entire batch! But I resisted the urge and instead brought the rest to share.

Next to the salads is a ramekin of Mediterranean Eggplant and Beans from Eat To Live. Creamy eggplant and chickpeas taste luscious together with onions and red bell pepper (gee, it's fun to feature foods shmoo would never touch!) I packed this dish in a microwave-safe container in case I wanted to warm it up.

Verdict: It feels nice to be well-fed and taken care of, even when you're the one taking care of yourself! 5 stars.


Matt and Bobbie said...

This meal looks fantastic! I totally agree with you about bringing your own food to non-vegan gatherings. I have been in that situation where I have nothing no eat and it seems that the lack of food invites people to question veganism and "gang-up" on the vegan. I have so many "war stories" from family gatherings it's not even funny. P.S. Your Medi Eggplant and Beans sounds amazing! I'm craving eggplant now!

slb said...

I always, always bring my own food. Some of my friends try to provide a vegan dish, but it's usually grilled veggies or a salad, which are fine once but not 3849273847293 times. I spend Thanksgiving with close friends and I make an entire meal and bring plenty to share, and when I travel to my Dad's I bring along everything I need to cook for both of us. He's always amazed at how good my food tastes.


SallyT said...

What sort of reactin do you get when arriving at an event with your own food? People are so sensitive about food and seem to feel personally rejected if you don't eat their food. I know that making people comfortable with their food choices is not the point of veganism but I admit to being conflicted. I know that the Vegan Freaks say that timid vegans suffer but i'm finding it tough.

Cindy said...

I totally agree! I always bring dishes to share and people are amazed at how good vegan cooking can be. Plus, it allows me to sidestep that question that I'm sure we've all gotten a million times over -- "So....what do you eat, then?"

Twisted Cinderella said...

The food looks wonderful and that is great advice about bringing your own food. I will definitely do that next time!

High Power Rocketry said...

What a great looking, classic salad.

Makes my really hungry to read this blog during lunch time.

Kelly said...

I've been reading your blog for over a year now, and have yet to comment. Today's posting really inspired me to comment on here! I decided to become a vegan at the age of 10. Coming from a family of meat eaters, they thought I was going through a phase. 13 years later, I'm still vegan, and have no intentions of changing that. Social events are tough. I pretty much have a scripted explanation I rattle off, every time someone asks me why I'm vegan. I love bringing delicious vegan dishes to potlucks or family dinners. People always enjoy the food I share, and by the end of the night they are telling me that veganism isn't "so bad" :-) I've definitely been to some of those dinner parties where I have nothing to eat, and whenever I even begin to feel sorry for myself, I remind myself what a strong person I am for showing true dedication to something I believe in. Go vegans!

Unknown said...

I come from a family that wouldn't know what to eat if it weren't for cows, so I empathize with those who end up eating salad and pickles at thanksgiving! Something that I've started doing is going to gatherings early to help cook -- I ask in advance, of course. Mom (the usual host) loves it and I get to help plan the dishes.

Jennifershmoo said...

>>What sort of reaction do you get when arriving at an event with your own food?

Oh, it depends. Some folks are very curious to know what I'm eating, and many are very positive and supportive about it. Others do get their noses out of joint because I'm not eating what everyone else is eating. All I can do is try to keep a positive, cheerful attitude and steer the conversation to something else.

>>...the Vegan Freaks say that timid vegans suffer but i'm finding it tough.

That's an interesting way of looking at, and I think that's probably true. If you are shy or worried about offending others, things are probably harder for you. But if you are outgoing and make no apologies about it ("Look at my cute lunch box! I brought my own lunch 'cause I wasn't sure what you guys were having, and don't you love these little baby bananas I found at the store, want one? blah blah blah") things are probably easier for you.

Alok said...

Roxy this is terrific, totally loved it. Not sure if putting links is ok or not, but just wanted to say that I found this terrific VeganTV site with lots of cool video recipes. Roxy you should be represnted there for sure.,1161

Karen Food aka Bistro Arkadash said...

Bringing your own food is fantastic but sometimes the hosts can work with people's diets. I just catered a vegan weekend with chick pea curry, wild rice pilaf salad with wild blueberries, samosas, falafel, Vietnamese salad rolls and more. No one noticed the lack of meat when everyone celebrates.

Sheree' said...

Awesome lunch. I need toget the cookbook from Nava Atlas. I love slaw and am always looking for a new recipe. Thanks for the tips on packing meals.

LadyRachelLynn said...

I had to add my food story

When my first husband was alive, and suffering from cancer, we had to take food with us everywhere we went. At first, we'd just take a small snack for him, incase. But we discovered that when your body is healing itself, you can be ALOT hungrier than you were before! So I had to start bringing meals with us. To make it easier on appearances for us AND him, I would often ask the host or hostess what they were making, and modify their menu to be vegan. Then, whether it was a picnic, a potluck, or a family get together, not only did we have vegan food, but it usually LOOKED like everyone elses. I tried to make enough to share, often a whole meal x4, so others could try it as well. We had to do this for 3 years, and within the first 6 months I was being requested to bring certain vegan items (because everyone loved them so much), or to come and assist in the preparation so that we didn't have to be left out, and so that the cooks could see how I did it (they just couldn't believe the food could possibly be vegan, had to see for themselves!)

Even though I'm not solely vegan, but use a handful of things like eggs, many of my foods are still vegan and I'm still be asked to bring them. People still calls me up to ask how to vegetarianize this dish, or can you please bring this item to our dinner....It isn't always immediate, but the results can be very satisifying to share your knowledge with food!!

Susan said...

I bought Nava Atlas' Vegetarian Family Cookbook on your recommendation, and I LOVE that slaw! I haven't been able to make a lot of recipes from the cook book yet, just that slaw and the West African Peanut stew, which is also really delicious. Even if I don't make anything else, these recipes were definitely worth the price of the book. But there are so many more recipes I want to try, so I wanted to send my thanks to you for the recommendation.

I try to bring food to dinner and events, and I am surprised at how hostile some people can be. My best friend refused to even try the Peanut Stew, although she was polite about it. But, I know this is healthy for me, so I just don't dwell on it.

acommonthread said...

hi - you're website looks great. also, i love the little lunchbox pots you have there - can you tell me what they are called or where I could find them?? thanks!