Mamme vegane a New York
Interviews & photos with 5 NYC based vegan mamas
Vegan Italy magazine
Victoria Moran is the author of Main Street Vegan as well as a number of other books, the founder of Main Street Vegan Academy and was voted in 2016 as PETA’s Sexiest Vegan over 50.
Annika: New York City is known as one of the world cities with a vast and growing vegan culinary scene. How has it been to observe that development as a local over the years?
Victoria: I’ve lived here since 2000. There have been vegetarian restaurants here all the time but the growth and diversity of the restaurants and the number that are entirely vegan is something new and stunning. Old standbys like the macrobiotic-inspired Angelica’s kitchen still draw big crowds while wunderkind like By Chloe, Matthew Kenney’s 00 & Co., and Issa Chandra Moskowitz’s Modern Love in Brooklyn are getting a tremendous amount of attention.
Annika: What are your favorite local NYC vegan and vegan friendly restaurants and cafés?
Victoria: Candle Café West is where my husband and I go most often. It has splendid food in an upscale casual atmosphere. We live in Harlem and love to go to brunch at Seasoned Vegan, New York City’s only vegan soul food restaurant – – Sunday just isn’t Sunday without the pancakes and barbecued “chicken” there. I also love Quintessence a largely raw restaurant in the East Village. It is small at and quiet and when I leave there I feel as if I’ve done my body a favor.
Annika: What are your favorite vegan and vegan friendly restaurants in North America?
Victoria: Well, it’s a big country and I can’t speak for all of it but I love café gratitude, known for their California restaurants but there is also one in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. When I’m in LA, I’m a big fan of Real Food Daily, and when I’m in South Florida I always have to stop in at Sublime in Fort Lauderdale.
Annika: Some of the most memorable vegan dishes you have ever had?
Victoria: There was an amazing mushroom stroganoff I had in Spokane Washington on a road trip there in the 1970s. It really stood out because we had been traveling and in those days vegan food was hard to come by, especially on highways and in small towns. Spokane was the biggest city we’d hit in a long time and to be able to go to a vegetarian restaurant and get something absolutely splendid has stayed with me all this time.
Annika: What are some of your favorite culinary memories in other countries?
Victoria: Answering these questions makes me see that I’m really not a very culinary person. I mean, I enjoy food while I’m eating yet but the memories that I carry around aren’t generally about food. Let me see there was the time in Nepal when we were going to visit the Buddha’s birthplace and drove and drove and drove until I thought I would perish from lack of food. Every village we went through our guide had written off with the apologetic phrase “No food for Westerners, ma’am, no food for Westerners.” I finally asked what he meant by that and he said, “Only rice and dal, ma’am, only rice and dal.” I don’t think he believed me when I said that that’s what we eat, but I will always remember the simple and satisfying meal we had when we stopped in the next village. It was white rice – – in the States I would’ve wanted brown but traveling is a great training ground in accepting what’s before you and a very thin doll of yellow lentils, with customary Nepali spices. We were served on metal plates and saw that they were washed in a dish pan that had from a pump outside. It was all quite basic and just right.
Annika: Favorite ingredients to work with when cooking at home?
Victoria: I prepare a lot of the same foods over and over again. My grocery list always has kale and Romain lettuce on it, tofu, quinoa pasta and marinara sauce, garbanzo beans, red beans, canned tomatoes for chili, organic corn, and really good bread — I like wholegrain spelt bread. I’m also a big fan of spices for both their flavor and their antioxidant properties. I attempt to use turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, garlic and other health promoting spices every day.
Annika: Favorite meals to make at home?
Victoria: Now that it’s just my husband and I, we eat very simply. One of my staple dishes is beans and greens and I eat it for lunch throughout the fall winter and spring. iI’s made by sautéing onions, garlic, and turmeric until they’re tender, and then adding mushrooms, some kind of beans, and greens – – I most often use either baby kale or arugula – – added near the end of cooking. I put in a little lemon juice to enhance the iron absorption from the greens, and I sprinkle on black pepper because of the anti-oxidants and Turmeric are more bioavailable in the presence of black pepper.
Annika: What were some of your daughters favorite dishes growing up?.
Victoria: She liked foods much more than dishes when she was very young. In other words, like a lot of kids, I think, she didn’t like complicated combinations. She liked avocado, sweet potato, tofu, seaweed, and most fruits except bananas; mangoes where her big favorite. When she was seven we traveled to LA and were introduced to Ethiopian food. She loved that! In Ethiopia, forks are considered weapons, so you eat instead with a wonderful, stretchy, unleavened, sourdough bread called injera. When we got back home, she insisted that I learned to cook Ethiopian and I did – – but only for special occasions; it was a lot of work. I recall as a teenager that she went through a big Middle Eastern phase– – she’s always been a fan of dolmas, stuffed grape leaves – –and I recall a Japanese phase as well, when she always wanted to go out and have Edamame, miso soup, and tempura vegetables.
Annika: You raise your daughter vegan from birth. What was it like to raise a child vegan over the past decade, including medical community response and communicating with schools?
Victoria: Adair was born in a Chicago suburb and did most of her growing up in Kansas City. It was unusual to be vegan in the 1980s but we had good friends who were vegetarian and everyone supported my choice to be vegan and raise a child this way. Adair home schooled and that probably saved us some aggravation. She always knew why she was vegan and she was very dedicated from the beginning. Once she visited a Sunday school class with a friend and when she got home I asked if they’d given her anything to eat. She said, “Well, there were crackers, but I didn’t eat any because the teacher wouldn’t let me read the label.” I think that most children, once they get the message about the animals, want to be vegan and will tell other people why they do it. We never ran into trouble with pediatricians. The only flak we ever got from a healthcare provider was once when I took Adair for acupuncture and the practitioner told her that she ate a “crazy diet.” I was steaming mad and told him that if anyone had made a crazy choice here, it was me, not my nine-year-old and that if he had a problem with it he should take that up with me.
Annika: Were are you vegan through pregnancy? If so, what type of changes did you make if any to your diet?
Victoria: I was lacto-ovo-vegetarian during my pregnancy. I had gone in and out of veganism prior to this in various fits and starts, but I had not been able to stay with it. I was a binge eater at that time and struggled endlessly with food choices and weight issues. When I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to follow the advice of my doctor, although I refused to eat meat or fish, even though he wanted me to. After my daughter was born I realized that in order to give her the best life possible on every level, I needed to raise her vegan. Of course in order to do that, I had to be vegan myself. I had already studied and learned quite a bit over the years; the only missing part for me was to somehow get over my eating disorder so that I could live according to my values. That happened through a 12 step recovery, giving me freedom of choice where food was concerned and allowing me to choose vegan that was November 1983.
Annika: Did motherhood have any influence on you as a vegan for influence your decisions?
Victoria: I always say that my baby made me vegan. I had tried for a long time and was almost vegan, or vegan at home, or something of that nature. When I looked at her in her crib one day – – and I distinctly remember exactly when this happened and how it felt – – I knew that I could not raise her with any less than the most ethical and spiritually integrated way of life that I knew about, and that was, of course, to be vegan. It was that desire that pushed me to get serious about recovering from compulsive over eating so that I would be able to be vegan and raise her in this beautiful way.
Something that I believe strongly and wrote about in the parenting chapter of Main Street Vegan is that vegan kids need support beyond what we usually think about, nutrition and socialization. These children are privy to knowledge about suffering that most of their peers do not have to deal with. They can handle it; kids are stronger than people often give them credit for. On the other hand, they are children and we need to be there for them as they carry the burden of attempting to understand why otherwise good people want to kill and eat animals.
I remember when my daughter was three that one night at dinner she burst into tears. My mother was visiting and we were all so surprised at this sudden change of mood and Rachel – – Rachel was my daughter’s given name; she has used her middle name, Adair, since she was 14 – – told us through sobs, “I am sad that grandma eats animals.” When you think about it, that is a big concept for a little person to wrestle with, here is my grandma or my teacher or my pastor, someone that I admire and respect, doing this thing that I know to be very, very bad. What is a little kid to do with that? We need to be there with them offering guidance all the way.
Another thing that isn’t talked about much is how children can get caught in the middle of adult beliefs and practices around eating and lifestyle. For example if one parent is vegan and the other is it, that’s tough for the kids. It’s not insurmountable, but again the kids need support in processing this kind of thing.
In addition, vegan kids are different from their peers. Vegetarian children can eat other kids’ birthday cake, or go to a pizza party and not have to have some special pizza. That’s not the way it is for a little vegans. I really came to see this when I married my husband. Adair was 14 and William had three children of his own, being raised conventionally. I didn’t realize until then that a dare and I lived in a different culture.
We not only ate other kinds of foods, but we had no water toys in our home, no toy guns, no violent video games. In the process of blending families – – something that is rarely easy anyway – – being ethical vegans and trying to live a nonviolent lifestyle in other ways really showed me how out of step with the mainstream culture we were.
I see in retrospect that racing a vegan child is even more of a responsibility than raising a child in general. We are a voluntary minority, and we invite our children into this chosen Way of being. There are many benefits, of course – – improved health, love for animals, compassion for all life – – but these kids have some extra stuff to deal with. Vegan parents need to be aware that providing stability and support for our kids is even more important than it would’ve been if we weren’t Vegan – – and, of course, stability and support are important for every child.
Annika: You began writing and publishing on issues related to veganism in the 1980s, which makes you easily one of the first subject matter expert’s and writers. You also have a prolific output with 12 books today. How has it been to watch the vegan movement developed since the mid-1980s when you published your first book?
Victoria: It is incredible to see where veganism is today. When I started, which was really in 1969 when I went vegetarian, Even that was such an oddity. When I first heard of veganism it sounded so strange and extreme. Now it is an accepted way of life. I wish it were the norm, but we have made such powerful and positive strides in that direction. I believe that the Internet is responsible for a great deal of this growth. Before, vegetarianism and veganism depended upon best-selling books to get there boosts. In the 1970s, there was Diet for a Small Planet. In the 80s, we had Fit for Life. In the 90s came Diet for a New America. In 2005 there was Skinny Bitch. And while as a writer, I love books and believe they are still important, the growth of this movement that has come since 2005 is largely Internet-driven. There is also the important contribution of the many vegan and veg-friendly documentary films we’ve been graced with over the past decade.
Annika: What year did you go vegan and why?
Victoria: The journey really began for me when I went Vegetarian in 1969, as I said I heard about veganism in 1970 and I met Jay Dinshah, cofounder of the American Vegan society, that year. As I explained in some previous answers, it took me a long time to make it to Vegan due to my eating disorder. I made that switch in November 1983 because I wanted to raise my daughter vegan and I had entered into recovery for the eating disorder. Those two things came at the same time, the right time, to bring me over.
Annika: Your book Main Street Vegan has received a glowing response and a consistent theme and many of the reviews is your accessible and enjoyable style of communicating the information you present. What is your advice to individuals seeking to elevate their actions invoice and advocacy for animal rights and promotion of the vegan lifestyle while maintaining balance compassion and approachability?
Victoria: As an ethical vegan, I wish that the world had gone vegan yesterday. I want the animals off the farms and out of the slaughterhouses and laboratories. I want a whole new world. However, I live in the world as it is, filled with people as they are. I used to think that all we had to do was say, “There’s so much cruelty involved in animal foods; let’s all stop eating them.” It seems so simple, but because we’re dealing with humans, nothing is simple. People will come around when they’re ready. If you happen to be the person who reaches someone when they’re at the point of readiness, you’re the one who is going to make them vegan. However, they may have talked to somebody else last year; they may have watched a documentary the year before that and read a newspaper article at some point along the way. In other words, they’ve been getting information and when they met you, they only needed that last little bit of push. I work hard at not being strident or holier than thou. Sometimes I fail. There are days when the suffering of the animals is so strongly factoring in my mind that it’s hard for me to say to someone who’s doing, say, meatless Mondays, “That’s really great – – keep up the good work.” And yet that is precisely what I need to say to that person. Nobody changes because of being shamed or put down. I want people to celebrate the small steps that I make in areas outside veganism where I am trying to improve myself or improve conditions in the world, and people who are beginning to move toward veganism deserve that same courtesy.
Annika: In my experience with some people who are vegan-curious but a little resistant, I find that often their resistance is rooted in the fact that their families or partners are not willing to go vegan with them as someone who transitioned with support from my partner, but alone in the transition, I find it very important to encourage people to make the change, no matter what others around them are doing. The ripple effect will often come into play later and we can often be pleasantly surprised by the changes our loved ones decide to make after some time. What are your thoughts and advice for individuals seeking to change but who may not have much support from their immediate family or circle of friends?
Victoria: This is such an important issue, and I believe that the vast majority of former vegans, regardless of what they tell you is the reason for their return to the status quo, really left the fold because of family and social pressures. Ours is a gregarious species. We crave the support and approval of people in our group, in our clan. It is very hard to be an outsider, especially when you’re not simply believing something different but actually behaving differently from the group, the family, the community. Of course it is important to follow your conscience and do what you believe is right, but you can make things a lot easier for yourself if you get the support that you need– – whether you believe in the beginning that you’ll need it or not. Make vegan friends. You can do this locally through meet up groups, Vegetarian organizations, or simply looking for vegans at places where they might hang out – – yoga centers, natural food stores, etc. The Internet is also a powerful tool for vegan networking and socializing. Become involved with Facebook pages that have to do with your particular Vegan interests. Obviously, flesh and blood friends are the best, people you can call or meet with when you’re feeling down, but friends from afar that you make online are good too. They let you know that you are not alone. In terms of immediate family, these are often the hardest people to reach. They knew you before. They think this is just some kind of weird fad. It’s also threatening to some of them; you are upsetting the family dynamic in becoming this “radical.” I think the best tactic is to keep a very good humor about it all, not push your beliefs on anyone who isn’t interested in hearing them and learn how to cook, if you don’t know how already. You can bring beautiful food to extended family celebrations and share it generously, without going in to a lot of detail about it’s being vegan. Everybody will know that it’s vegan, and if it taste really good, you’ll be busting that stereotype that vegan food is bland or boring. in your marriage or primary partnership relationship, you’ll have to do some negotiating. How do you feel about having made in the house? How do you feel about preparing it? How do you feel about kissing someone who just ate a hamburger? it calls for some soul-searching and for the kind of compromise that does not cause you to go against your values, but that allows you to be loving and caring of this person home, after all, you did fall in love with. In my own marriage, my husband was an omnivore when we met and I told him immediately about my veganism. He was very respectful and in the early weeks of our dating, we went to Italian, Mexican, Chinese places so that it was easy for him to eat vegetarian in my presence. I was fortunate in that he chose to go vegetarian early in our relationship. The vegan thing took quite a bit longer but eventually he got it – – not because I pushed it on him, which I never did – – but because his moment of readiness happened to coincide with his seeing a video clip from Farm Sanctuary about a mother Cal and her calf being separated. That got him away from drinking cow’s milk. He would still eat cheese pizza sometimes, but in 2011 when he read the Main Street Vegan manuscript, he came to me and said OK now I get it I’m a vegan. Today his entire life — toiletries, clothing, and attitude – is vegan. He is even the primary screenwriter of our feature film, Miss Liberty, about a cow who escapes from a slaughterhouse. I am very pleased and proud to be married to a man who is such an advocate for animals, but he had to come to this on his own time and in his own way.
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.