My family and other vegans
When Juliet Sear’s children stopped eating meat, chaos ensued. But being able to adapt had some surprising benefits
Julie Sear on the surprising benefits of adjusting to new eating regimes
Ithought that, once I got through the toddler years, my life in the kitchen was going to be pretty easy. Even with three kids it wasn’t that tough – only Ruby, the youngest, went through a just-white-carbohydrates phase, and she ate a regular healthy diet eventually. But then my toddlers turned – seemingly suddenly – into teenagers, with the ensuing revolt a shock. George, then 17, returned from a trip to America a vegan. True, it’s no tattoo or desire to go on reality TV, but really? Vegan? He used to love cheese. What was I going to cook?
Being the eldest, his influence filtered down as he showed the two girls all those animal cruelty videos on Youtube. Lydia, then 16, went vegan and, Ruby, then 15, went veggie, “because, Mum, I love cheese”. (I now know this is called Cheegan. A Veggan is a vegan who eats eggs.) My husband said he was oblivious to George’s videos, still loved steak and wasn’t about to change. I, on the other hand, watched the videos and also became veggie.
I VALUE THEIR DEVELOPING SENSE OF SELF,
but the overnight change was alarming and disruptive. I could have made them cook for themselves but I love to feed us as a family, and I don’t think I could stand the mess they’d make. So I became a DJ of diets, spinning multiple pans. To create a simple pasta I’d need a butter-free sauce base, vegan Parmesan for two, veggie Parmesan for two more and a skillet of crispy pancetta for the old man. A 15-minute meal turned into an hour. Something had to change.
I started by rethinking the way I put family meals together, going back to basics. If I could get the base right, with something that would satisfy everyone,
I could easily pimp a dish at the end to suit them all.
For as a vegan doesn’t want to eat animal products so a meat eater doesn’t always want to eat plants.
Piri piri chicken and salad pittas, with the chicken swapped out for fried tofu was a good start, then came vegetarian shepherd’s pie with a separate vegan mash at the end. I was in the groove, knocking out mixed roast dinners, pizzas and a spicy ramen that was easy to adapt.
On reflection, I actually liked the changes George caused, enjoying finding new ways to cook. It woke me up to what I was feeding my family and I had to admire the children’s energy to get behind their passions. Perhaps we weren’t terrible parents after all. I’ve got into a new flow now and been made to be creative. You can learn a lot from those around you – your children, colleagues, friends – and if you listen to their reasonings, you might even be swayed. Life is a map of alternative routes to travel, and some of them might feature vegan cheese.