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Q&A with Mayim about her new cookbook

Monday, March 31st 2014 @ 10:41 AM

Mayim Bialik has a new cookbook out, which is already getting a lot of publicity and great reviews. It's called Mayim's Vegan Table: More Than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours.

I've been enjoying her book at my house, and although I'm not a vegan in practice (just plain old vegetarian), I think of myself as a vegan at heart! I've gone through stages of leaning more toward veganism, and I do think it's the ideal—although it can be a challenge to make it happen when you're dealing with kids' pickiness and your own food habits and preferences, too. (I also believe that some people thrive on a diet that includes some animal protein, and in that case it should be good-quality, organic stuff.)

Mayim makes a compelling case for eating a vegan diet and raising kids that way. Her book offers not only a really nice variety of very real-life recipes, but also a wealth of information about vegan nutrition and alternatives to more conventional (animal-based) foods.

But vegan philosophy or not, her book is at heart a cookbook filled with ideas for healthy things to feed your family. Everyone can find lots of new ideas here that their kids would eat and enjoy. And if you are looking for a vegan cookbook because you're vegan, too, this is a great choice.

I talked to Mayim about her book and her personal approach to cooking for and with children.  


Yael: How would you describe your food/cooking philosophy—for yourself, and when it comes to feeding kids?

Mayim: Well, I think 'easy' and 'fast' are the words most important to me when thinking about feeding my kids! And obviously hopefully healthy, but it can get so hectic, it's hard to always make everything healthy all the time. I like to keep things simple and use easy sauces and condiments to keep kids interested. But food has to be fun and prepared with some consciousness I think to teach not only food as sustenance but as something to be grateful for and appreciative and respectful of. 

Why are you vegan, and how long has it been since you made that choice?

I was always an animal lover and became vegetarian at 19. I still ate dairy and eggs, but after cutting out most dairy in college, my health improved significantly. I didn't get seasonal allergies, I have not been on antibiotics or had a sinus infection since. When my first son was born, he got gassy, fussy and really miserable if I ate any dairy so I cut it out completely and that solved that problem! I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer about six years ago and after that, I cut out all trace eggs and dairy. I am vegan for environmental reasons, nutritional and health reasons, and ethical reasons. I love the lifestyle and I love raising my kids vegan.

Can you give a few tips about making healthy food fun and appealing for kids?

As I said before, dips and sauces make everything better. Talking to them about "growing foods"—meaning the foods that make you grow—and letting them know that it's our job as parents to feed them well makes all conversations about food easier in my house. My kids know I expect them to eat food that is good for them and they also know I want them to eat fun foods, too. I never bargain with them or bribe them for eating and I also don't have a lot of the rules many of us grew up with such as "no dessert unless you finish everything on your plate" and stuff like that. I have found those things don't work for my kids and we have other ways to make meals enjoyable and a success for all!

Do your kids cook with you?

Sometimes. They like baking with me, and they love pouring things and stirring especially. Neither of them likes getting dirty and when I cook and bake, I am sort of a messy cook so maybe that intimidates them!

Are there certain life-long food habits or preferences you're hoping to instill in your children?

I would love them to be kosher, and to be vegan, of course. But I hope they think consciously about what they eat and where it comes from no matter what. I want them to enjoy a variety of foods the way the Earth produces them, and to enjoy cooking for people they love! 

What are some of the recipes in your book that your children like best, or eat most often?

They like salads, like the green salad with agave (honey!)-mustard dressing. They love brussels sprouts and kale chips, and they of course love anything with Daiya cheese like pizza and quesedillas. They like any burrito I make which is good because I get to pack in healthy stuff in a burrito and everyone is happy. And of course, they like any cookie I make. And my mom's banana bread recipe!

What do you like to make for dinner when you're short on time?

A tortilla, a can of beans, a little vegan cheese, avocado if I have it on hand, and some salsa or vegan sour cream. In a real pinch, rice cakes with vegan margarine and whatever fruit or raw veggies are in the house! My boys usually protest and say "This is breakfast, Mama!" and I say, "Well, tonight, it's dinner!"

What are some of the recipes in your book that you often make for Shabbos?

I like the 'dairy' kugel for Shabbos. And the cabbage salad and any salad, really, such as the Israeli salad or quinoa. I like felafel sometimes for Shabbos, and the golden couscous is a big hit for Shabbos too. 

What is your favorite thing to cook for your favorite Jewish holiday?

Hmm. That's not hard: latkes!!!!


You can order Mayim's book from Amazon directly from these links, and support NJP at the same time:

Paperback:

Mayim's Vegan Table: More than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours

Kindle Edition:

Mayim's Vegan Table: More than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to Yours

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