Interview & photos with vegan mama & author of Baconish, Leinana Two Moons is in the September/October issue of Vegan Health & Fitness magazine!
As part of an ongoing interview series with vegan mothers and fathers around the globe, Annika Lundkvist chats with and photographs blogger, cookbook author and Customer Service Guru at Vaute Couture, Leinana Two Moons. Her cookbook ‘Baconish: Sultry and Smoky Plant-Based Recipes from BLTs to Bacon Mac & Cheese’ was published this year and she is mother to two vegan young ones and wife to husband Anthony, also a vegan!
Annika: Where are you from and where do you live now?
Leinana: Tough question, because my dad was in the army and we moved a lot when I was young! I mostly grew up in Virginia. Then I lived about 6 years in Europe (Germany and France) before I moved to NYC in 2002. I live in Long Island City, NYC now with my family.
Annika: When did you become vegan & why?
Leinana: I think I’ve been vegan for about 8-9 years now, I don’t know the exact date that I went vegan. It was a more gradual transition for me, starting with the fact that I married a very long-time vegan! Anthony had been vegan over 20 years already when we met. At the time, I still ate fish and dairy, but no other kinds of meat. I’m the only one who cooks, so at home I would only cook vegan food, to make it easier for myself, but when we would go out I would still sometimes order fish or eggs. But I got really into cooking vegan and I found that even when we went out to eat, I was always more interested in whatever Anthony ordered. Without really thinking about it, I started eating fewer animal products. At some point, I started noticing that the fewer animal products I ate (especially dairy), the better I felt. Health issues I had literally my entire life were starting to disappear. I cut all animals out of my diet, and then one night, after watching the movie Earthlings, I gave up even wearing leather or buying animals in any other form, and declared myself vegan from that point on.
Annika: Were you vegan through pregnancy?
Leinana: Yes, I was completely vegan through both pregnancies!
Annika: Can you share any special changes you made (i.e. with diet & nutrition) through your pregnancies?
Leinana: Honestly I didn’t do anything that different, other than taking a good vegan daily prenatal vitamin. I made sure it had plenty of folic acid and B12 in it, but that would be recommended even for non-vegans. I also took a vegan omegas supplement, but I took that before my pregnancies too. I’d like to say that I ate extra fresh fruits and vegetables, which I probably did, but I also really let myself indulge and eat vegan ice cream whenever the craving struck me. I was confident that my diet was naturally healthy and that I was getting enough nutrition. My bloodwork was excellent during my pregnancy and after both births. I actually remember my OB saying, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it!”
Annika: Did motherhood have any influence on your vegan outlook?
Leinana: Yes definitely! When you become a mother, I think you tend to become hyper-sensitive to the idea of suffering babies, or babies being separated from their mothers, or any other situations that unnaturally destroy the mother-child bond. And especially as a vegan, this applies to non-human animals as well. When you think about baby calves being torn away from their mothers – the cows scream and cry and go mad trying to get to their babies, just like we would, the thought of that just hurts me all the way to my core. I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on my worst enemy.
Annika: How old are your children & are they vegan?
Leinana: My son is 4 and my daughter is 2, and yes, they have both been vegan since birth.
Annika: What are some of their favorite foods?
Leinana: Well the bad news is that vegan kids can be just as picky and vegetable averse as non-vegan kids! Both of them love vegan macaroni & cheese. They also love rice and tofu, so I do a lot of stir-fries. They love pancakes and waffles for breakfast. My son is at least good about snacking on fresh fruit, and my daughter will actually munch on raw broccoli. They’re not great about vegetables though, so we make a lot of green smoothies when we feel like we need to get some extra nutrients into them.
Annika: How do you navigate situations like your children attending peer’s birthday parties where there may be predominantly non vegan food?
Leinana: We’re really lucky to have a fairly large circle of vegan friends with children close in age to ours, so it’s amazing when you get to go to a birthday party and you know the cake and everything else is vegan. We’ve also been lucky to have really thoughtful non-vegan friends, who have provided an extra cupcake or other vegan treat for us. Otherwise if there will be mostly non-vegan food, we’ll just make sure that we feed them beforehand and bring plenty of snacks of our own, and/or ask the host if we can bring a dish to share with everyone. The best thing is when we host our birthday parties and invite non-vegan kids and their parents. At my son’s 4th birthday party last year, we bought a vegan ice cream cake that was so good, the kids were crazy for it and even the non-vegan parents were raving and said it was the best they’d ever tasted.
Annika: That’s really exciting how you’ve turned non-vegan parents onto the deliciousness of vegan food! What would your menu look like for a child’s birthday bash?
Leinana: For our last birthday bash, I made a lot of finger foods, easy for both kids and adults to eat – pigs in a blanket (the recipe is in Baconish), Asian dumplings and spring rolls, little samosa bites, plenty of popcorn and chips and dips, a big fruit platter, and then the main event was a big Curious George-themed vegan ice cream cake.
Annika: What about a menu for a dinner party?
Leinana: My dinner party menu would most likely be an all-Thai affair. I would start with some green papaya salad and lettuce wraps filled with a larb-style salad. The main course would be several different Thai curries and a big pot of perfectly sweet-sour-salty pad thai. For dessert I would serve coconut milk rice pudding with fresh mango slices.
Annika: What are some of your favorite foods?
Leinana: Well I’m half Thai, and I’d probably say that I love Asian food of all kinds the most. I love a hot Thai curry, or spicy stir-fried noodles. But I also love Indian curries, and noodle soups, and Korean food, and vegan sushi… I think I just love food, period!
Annika: Favorite meals to make for your family?
Leinana: My stand-by dish that we have at least once a week is a basic tofu stir-fry, with whatever vegetables we have in the fridge. I serve it with a teriyaki-type sauce, or sometimes a peanut-sesame sauce, over rice. We also have a special “Two Moons” family pizza, which is a cornmeal crust piled high with sauteed shiitake mushrooms, garlic, artichoke hearts, black olives, and fresh basil.
Annika: Favorite restaurants?
Leinana: I absolutely love HanGawi, a beautiful all-vegan Korean restaurant in midtown. The food is amazing and the ambience is so calm and lovely. I love the Blossom and Candle restaurants too, for special occasions. And I was completely blown away recently by 00 & Co., I think it was the best pizza I’ve ever had, vegan or otherwise.
Annika: Any specific challenges you face as a vegan mother & how you handle them?
Leinana: I have to be honest and say that it does take more work and coordination raising vegan kids, once they start school. You have to communicate with their teachers to make sure they understand what foods/snacks they are allowed to have. With the classroom birthdays, you need to know when the parties are happening, and decide if you want to bring in a vegan alternate for your child or even the whole class. I know some people who keep a vegan cupcake in the freezer at their child’s school, so they’re always prepared for those birthday parties. And I pack my son’s lunch for him every day. It would certainly be much easier, and free, to send him to school and let him eat whatever they’re serving for lunch, but I am continually dismayed by how much meat appears on the school’s lunch menu. Usually their snacks are mostly fruit, and if they are having a yogurt or something like that, I will send a vegan yogurt with him. I try to keep up with the school menu and send him similar items to eat when I can.
Annika: Your book Baconish: Sultry and Smoky Plant-Based Recipes from BLTs to Bacon Mac & Cheese came out this year- Congratulations!!! I love the concept of focus of the book and am very excited to start trying out recipes. Did your children and husband play a big role in recipe development and taste testing?
Leinana: Thank you! My son especially loves the coconut bacon but I limit how much he eats, because of the salt. I give my husband a lot of credit for eating so much bacon all last year, I know by the end he was pretty tired of it! I knew the recipes that I wanted to make and include in the book, but their feedback was definitely important in the taste testing. Whenever my husband actually goes back for seconds, I know the recipe is a real winner.
Annika: When did you conceive of the idea for “Baconish” and know that it was a project you had to do?
Leinana: I have to say the seed was planted back in 2010 when my husband and I spent a long weekend in Montreal. We ate at a place called Aux Vivres, and that was the first time I ever heard of coconut bacon! They had it on their menu and I was totally intrigued. I ordered it and absolutely loved it, it was everything I remembered bacon being – salty, smoky, crispy, and delicious. After that trip, I posted a recipe for coconut bacon on my blog, and people really went crazy over it. After that, I started seeing so many different kinds of vegan bacon recipes popping up everywhere. At first, I just thought it would be kind of funny to put together one big book of vegan bacon recipes, just to show how we can make ANYTHING vegan, and also to show how much even vegans love bacon. But then I started thinking about it in the context of this larger bacon mania everywhere, how people are really obsessed with eating bacon even after it has been definitely found to cause multiple types of cancer, and that’s not to mention how the pigs are treated on factory farms, or the environmental damage caused by animal agriculture. That’s when I thought that maybe a book like this could actually reach a wider, non-vegan audience too, and appeal to people who love bacon but are trying to cut back due to health reasons, or maybe just pique people’s curiosity and get them to pick up a vegan cookbook. I wanted to show people that you can still capture that delicious baconi-ish flavor, but using plant-based ingredients. That’s when I knew I really had to make this happen.
This interview is part of an ongoing interview series by Annika Lundkvist with vegan mothers and fathers around the globe. For more interviews and information please visit this page: Interview Series: Vegan Pregnancy, Parenting & Kids.