Big (Vegan) Bang Theory
In the beginning, there was her mom’s homemade curry. And Robin Asbell said it was good. Really good. Growing up, “I remember the excitement on curry night,” she says. “We could have a bowl of chopped peanuts and a bowl of raisins we could put on our food. I couldn’t believe it — it was the most exciting thing on earth.”
There was also the not-so-good. “We grew up in a community where there was lot of hunting. I didn’t like that,” says the author of the new cookbook Big Vegan. ”We would go visit my grandparents or uncle, there’d be squirrel hunting and turkey hunting and from very early on, I refused to eat it.”
Great food of every ethnicity, no cruelty, no killing — these have been the defining forces for Asbell, who spreads the meatless joy in the kitchen, in the classroom and by way of fabulous recipes that “tempt and seduce.” Offering both quantity and quality, Big Vegan earns its name, with over 350 plant-based recipes from Indian Masala Brown Rice with Tomatoes (echoes, perhaps, of her mother’s curry) to classic wintery comforts like shepherd’s pie sans sheep, cow or animal of any kind.
Being vegan “makes so much sense,” says Asbell, who went meatless in her teens. “I was sure everyone was going to go vegan. I thought, ‘I’m going to see this happen.’”
Even God didn’t make a meatless world in seven days. “Thirty years later, I’m more realistic,” she says. “The meat thing does not go away.”
Neither does she. “I’ve survived a lot of bad food fads,” says Asbell, breezily. “Margarine — everybody was supposed to eat this hydrogenated fat that was killing people, the fat-free thing, then there was the no-carb thing — that was terrible.”
Growing up in farm country, she’s also seen some of the bad food fad underbelly, from factory farming to industrialized agriculture. “I was aware pretty early there were not so wonderful things going on.” Not so wonderful from the production end and not so wonderful for consumers, either. People raised on a steady diet of processed food have a hard time with the concept, even the flavor of natural foods. “You’re so used to this shouting in your mouth,” she says.
Preparing your own meals, preferably meatless ones, helps you turn down the noise in your mouth and get you off the processed food habit. Because it is a sort of addiction.
Asbell, who lives in Minnesota, has concluding that eating “is a very complicated thing.” It doesn’t have to be. “Just stick to natural, real, whole foods. Steer away from anything that’s too manipulated. Get into grains and beans,” she says. They’ll save you money, boost your health and make for terrific eating.
If Asbell no longer foresees the vegan revolution happening with a curry-scented bang — or in her lifetime — she’s learned to be Zen about it. She advocates evolving, taking small but positive steps, “a gradual decrease of meat consumption. Come at your own pace.”
She still holds on to the hope of a brave new meatless world, of a not-too-distant future where we can say, “We passed through a dark phase of allowing industrial food to dominate, there was a great renaissance in eating whole and natural foods.”
Big Vegan may help get us there. “It’s great food, it’s good for you, you’ll feel good and you’ll want to eat more of it,” she says. “We can save a lot of cows that way.”
- Follow this link to Robin Asbell’s Sweet Potato and Edamame Shepherd’s Pie.
- See more of Ellen’s Meatless Monday Musings on VegKitchen.