My meat-and-potatoes boyfriend and I have been dating for several months. We have dined at vegetarian fast food joint Amy’s Drive-Thru (where he raves about the bean burrito), sampled everything at Veggie Grill, and explored the far reaches of Northern California for hidden vegan-friendly gems (most recently Slice of Life in Sebastopol). In an effort to not spend all of our money on eating out, we started to cook vegan dinners at his home—which he shares with his football-playing 17-year-old son. Since I have spent most of my adult years gloriously child-free, how will I ever get this snotty teenager (no, he’s actually a great kid) to eat vegan food? Luckily, I have a five-step plan.
1. Samples galore
VegNews recently attended the 2017 Natural Products Expo West—otherwise known as a massive trade show where our job was to eat as many vegan snacks as we could in one weekend. Many attendees bring an extra suitcase—and sometimes an empty car—to haul all of the snack samples they were not able to consume during the show. After an hour of scouring the Anaheim convention center for the newest in vegan food products, I turned my sights to gathering a variety of vegan cheese puffs, dairy-free chocolate bars, spicy seaweed snacks, and an entire box of vegan peanut butter cups to bring home. Upon my return to the Bay Area, I set the snacks on the kitchen counter—in a tote bag emblazoned with the Farm Sanctuary logo—and waited. The kid had a few peanut butter cups. Win.
I haven’t been 17 for at least five years (give or take a decade) and last weekend, I realized I am sorely out of touch with what teenagers eat. Aside from the raging snacking binge of last weekend, I’ve stuck to a mostly whole foods diet, which means I make tacos with lentils as the “meat” instead of more convincing meat alternatives such as soyrizo. As it turns out, 17-year-olds want nothing to do with a lentil, evidenced by the fact that I made those same tacos for the kid a few nights ago and he wasn’t thrilled. My plan? Get him to eat one of the newfangled vegan burgers from either Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods. I’ve tried both—they really do “bleed”—and they will make a veggie believer out of anyone.
So here’s the thing: I have never had a smartphone nor do I plan on getting one soon. My handheld device is a flip phone which can actually hang up on people (sometimes involuntarily) with one flick of the wrist. I do not—and actually, cannot—post anything to Instagram. However, I hear that the social media platform is huge in regard to influencing the younger generation to go vegan because it’s visually driven and most people post beautiful plant-based food (alongside their filtered faces). I am devising a covert operation where I lock him in his room and instruct him to scroll through the accounts of VegNews’ list of 10 awesome #VegansOfInstagram until he’s blue in the face and hungry for a vegan doughnut.
4. Road trip
For our first family outing, I have come up with a foolproof itinerary: First, we will head north to Portland to hit the new location of vegan tiki bar No Bones Beach Club where I will order all of the island-y appetizers including cauliflower wings (smothered in coconut Buffalo sauce), cashew and smoked poblano queso-covered nachos, and cashew parmesan-sprinkled taro fries. Next, I’ll buckle him in for the long haul and drive out to Victoria, BC to visit the newest vegan butchers on the block, The Very Good Butchers. We will stock up on Apple and Sage Bangers—their homemade seitan-based sausages—before heading out to the woods and grilling them over a makeshift bonfire (his dad promised me a good camping trip). Finally, when we’re good and tired, I will drive us back to the Bay Area, right into Oakland for an afternoon at Timeless Coffee—a vegan cafe that not only nails lattes but serves plenty of sugary vegan baked goods. C’mon kid, being vegan is so fun!
I have yet to hug this child; not because I am a cold evil person, but because the opportunity has not presented itself. However, I know that once I hug him, he will be convinced that vegans are freakishly strong, loving, compassionate, and all the great things he wants to be when he grows up.
Anna Starostinetskaya is a news reporter for VegNews and thinks the best child discipline technique is putting one bean in their shoe to annoy them until they stop doing whatever annoying thing they were doing.