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This month’s topic is definitely not mainstream. If you’re not a vegan, consider this a lesson in the vast literature of food and eating habits. At the very least, you will understand a little more about the diverse culinary possibilities of a plant-based diet. Vegetarians are not as strict as vegans but still adhere to a mostly vegetable diet, sometimes including fish or chicken.
Veganism, the practice of eating without consuming animals or animal-based products, is not new. However, the term “vegan” did not come into use until the latter half of the 20th century. And the profile of vegans and veganism has been raised in recent years, driven by health consciousness, the rise of animal rights philosophies and high-profile advocates for the diet.
Vegans eat nothing derived from an animal, not even eggs, milk or honey, depending on how strictly they follow the regimen.
Some people choose to follow a vegan diet for health reasons and some for environmental reasons. Others, known as ethical vegans, believe that any use of animals is wrong. Ethical vegans also tend not to wear animal products such as leather or silk.
Following a vegan diet or cooking for someone who is vegan can pose a challenge. There are a number of substitutes for products such as eggs or cheese, but using those substitutes in a recipe doesn’t always produce the results you might be used to. Vegan cooking, with all its restrictions, can be a challenge for the uninitiated, but it also can inspire creativity.
One of those creative recipes comes from Austin’s burgeoning trailer eatery scene. Chef Rishi Dhir, who opened his vegetarian trailer, Conscious Cravings, in 2010, offered this easy-to-prepare vegan recipe to cookbook author Tiffany Harelik, whose two-volume Austin edition of the Trailer Food Diaries Cookbook (2012, The History Press) covers the gamut of the city’s diverse mobile food culture.
1 pound firm tofu
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
About 1/3 cup vegetable broth
Servings: 2. Serving size: 1/2 of dish. Per serving: 207 calories, 17.1 g protein, 7.7 g fat, 18.4 g carbohydrates, 2.9 g dietary fiber, 840 mg sodium, 8.7 g sugars