Updated: May 28, 2022
As vegans, we’re not only saying goodbye to the food itself, we’re giving up a seat at a table in which we were once a valued guest of honour. Food is connection, community and belonging. We still wish to be part of the fullness of feasting.
We didn’t grow up vegan. In fact, we spent years enjoying the food we no longer eat today. And perhaps we hold these memories in our hearts, the traditions that punctuated our childhood and those pre-vegan years.
My childhood was blessed with family gatherings and celebrations that were lively, colourful and filled with sensational food. The large pockets of homemade ravioli stuffed with ricotta and parsley. The custard-filled cannoncini for dessert, glistening in yellow and chocolate-brown. Dainty delicacies at birthday parties: jelly slices, butterfly cakes, brandy snaps. Sweet and savoury zeppole, soft and juicy with oil. Pizzas stacked high, arriving at our front door wrapped like a parcel in a tablecloth. Nonna’s pasta sauce in tupperware containers and old ricotta tubs, stacked in the freezer. Antipasto platters and champagne at weddings. I could go on and on.
Do you ever feel a hint of sadness giving up your traditions? Must we be content with something far less exciting, while the rest of our family, friends, workmates enjoy an uncompromised feast?
There is a loss, almost a grief in this. As vegans, we’re not only saying goodbye to the food itself, we’re giving up a seat at a table in which we were once a valued guest of honour, part of the inner circle. Food is connection, community and belonging. We still wish to be part of the fullness of feasting.
The good news is, we don’t need to miss out.
First, we must grab hold of our traditions, our heritage and acknowledge how much we value these. And then, start bringing our best fare to the table. If no one else will do it, we certainly must. Armed with the best recipes of veganised celebration and festive food and the ever-growing plethora of quality plant based products - we can honour the feasts of our past and reignite them with joy and flavour.
When we combine our heritage with cooking, the fun really begins. Creativity and discovery flow. Our kitchens, tables and taste buds once again join in the celebration. We align our values, culture, history and soul. All are invited.
Our feasts can be rich, creamy, indulgent, luscious. Hearty, satisfying, familiar. Elegant, sophisticated and innovative. Gather all the dishes you grew up with, the specialties you enjoyed at Christmas and special occasions. The food of your cultural heritage. Make a list.
You deserve to celebrate and feast. Set the table and share with others. Lay out your creations. At a recent family Christmas, I brought along my vegan tiramisu and proudly laid it alongside three traditional versions. And yes, mine was indeed gobbled up. Vegan cuisine always deserves a place at the table.
Being vegan has brought me the greatest cooking and feasting joy of my life. And honouring my food heritage has since added the heart and soul. Stripped away of any guilt, with food that celebrates life, this is pure pleasure. May you know this pleasure too.