u_topn picture
Corby's Table
Atlantic Unbound Sidebar
Help! My Child is a Vegan!
Hummus (Chickpea Puree)
Three-Grain Salad with Cucumber and Tomato
Heads Up! What You Need To Be Concerned About

April 28, 1999

What to do if your child announces that she or he is a vegetarian -- or, even trickier, a "vegan"? And what's a vegan anyway? A funny and helpful new book by Stephanie Pierson, Vegetables Rock! A Complete Guide for Teenage Vegetarians, answers these questions and many others with charm and practical advice. (I'm told that the original title was Broccoli Rocks! but that too many people hate broccoli, especially teenagers.) It is written for young people, but their parents could glean a good deal too. Vegetables Rock! has the freshness and enthusiasm of a friend sharing a piece of information -- whether supplements are as good as whole food (of course not), whether going without milk is a nutritional problem (not really), or a thirteen-year-old's comeback to an adult questioning why she had been a vegetarian for five years ("My choice. Your problem").

Pierson writes with the slightly wiseacre tone of the advertising copywriter she was when I first met her, longer ago than either of us would care to admit, and also with the caring, cajoling tone of the mother of two daughters she has since become. Her daughter Phoebe's declaration that she was a vegan (one who avoids all animal products and by-products, including eggs and dairy) set Pierson on her search to learn how to satsify both Phoebe and the other members of her family.
Discuss this column in Post & Riposte.

Previously in Corby's Table:

Seasons and Seasonings -- March 1999
A seasonal guide to cooking from the garden by Amanda Hesser, a young woman who knows and loves food.

Seductions of Rice -- January 1999
Selections from a new guide to the universal grain's many flavors.

A Passion for Pastry -- December 1998
Two books that will have you dreaming of the perfect holiday dessert.

Soup With Style -- November 1998
A look at the new book by Barbara Kafka, a cook who takes a fearlessly original approach to soup.

Mangia, Mangia in the Mountains -- October 1998
A trip to Abruzzo with Anna Teresa Callen, whose new book draws on culinary memories of this less-traveled Italian region.

Adventures in Grains and Greens -- August 1998
Paula Wolfert's latest Mediterranean explorations.

Vegging Out -- July 1998
The ultimate guide to eating your vegetables.

America's Favorite Crustacean -- June 1998
Jasper White gets up close and personal with lobster claws, tails, and tomalley.

A True Taste of Tuscany -- May 1998
A rare book that shows Italy unromanticized -- and more appetizing.

Comfort Food -- April 1998
New reasons not to get out of bed in the morning.

More by Corby Kummer in Atlantic Unbound.

Related links:

Vegetarian Youth Network
"A grassroots, web-based organization run entirely by, and for, youth who support compassionate, healthy, globally-aware, vegetarian/vegan living."

Vegan Action

Vegan Source

Farm Sanctuary Web Page

Veggies Unite!

Vegetarian Resource Group

Vegetarian Pages

Nutrition Navigator
The first site to review and rate nutrition sites.

Some of the book is padding and not-quite-digested information from many reliable and well-chosen sources. (Many of the book's recipes are taken from other books.) The author is best when directly addressing teenagers on what they can eat where, and she's fun to read ("Put it this way: if pasta were a person, you would marry it"). Her guide to what various sub-species of vegetarian need to be concerned about is particularly helpful, as is her list of Web sites. I include both, and also two recipes from vegetarian-friendly chefs which look easy and versatile: homemade hummus, which will make store-bought seem like fresh mortar, and an attractive mixed-grain salad that will keep for days and days and will provide a base for meals or a sustaining snack. The salad, which can be made with many kinds of cooked grains beside the three listed, comes from my favorite New York City husband-and-wife chef team, David Page and Barbara Shinn. Their Greenwich Village restaurant, Home, with its plain wooden booths and shelves of home-canned vegetables and homemade cookies as decorations, has long seemed like a home when I'm downtown in the city. This book will help bewildered parents, and beginning teenage cooks, feel at home satisfying the needs of a potentially daunting diet.

    -- Corby Kummer

Excerpts from Vegetables Rock!, by Stephanie Pierson (Bantam)

Hummus (Chickpea Puree)

Matthew Kenney
Matthew's (New York City)

He grew up in Maine and wound up being the authority on Mediterranean cuisine in New York. Go figure. And Matthew Kenney's not just a genius in the kitchen -- he's practically an empire. Currently, he's got three successful restaurants in New York (a fourth is pending) and a best-selling cookbook.

Homemade hummus, toasted pita, black olives ... Heaven! You can substitute canned chickpeas if you don't tell Matthew; then start at Step 2.

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked at least 8 hours 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini Salt
2 garlic cloves, finely minced Cayenne

1. Drain the chickpeas and rinse well under running water. Place in a pot and add 4 cups of cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until very soft, at least 45 minutes. Drain the chickpeas, reserving any liquid.

2. Transfer the chickpeas to a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. Puree, adding the reserved cooking liquid or enough cold water to achieve a spreadable consistency. Season with salt and cayenne to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Three-Grain Salad With Cucumber and Tomato

David Page
Home (New York City)

The refreshing salad is one-step plus prep. Red rice is a Native American rice. You're likely to find it under the name Wehani rice at a health food or gourmet store. It has a pleasant nutty flavor and resilient texture.

makes 6 servings

1-1/2 cups cooked red rice, cooled 1/2 cup chopped parsley
1-1/2 cups cooked barley, cooled 3/4 cup olive oil
1-1/2 cups cooked cracked wheat, cooled 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 English cucumber, seeded, peeled, and cut into small dice Salt and pepper
1 cup diced tomato  

Combine all the ingredients; toss. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

Heads Up! What You Need To Be Concerned About If You Are:

Eating all that dairy means it's all too easy to be getting lots of fat (and calories and cholesterol) in your diet from milk and butter and ice cream. Choose the right kind of dairy: skim milk, low-fat cheese, etc. Try to eat a varied diet.

All the roughage you will be eating can fill you up quickly and the concern is that you won't be getting enough calories or fat. So make sure you don't just bulk up on lettuce and vegetables and fruit. Calcium is another concern since you're not drinking milk (get it instead from calcium-fortified products). Remember that tofu is only a good source of calcium if it has been processed with calcium -- check the label. You need to be taking a vitamin B-12 supplement since almost none of the foods you are eating contain it and only a few are fortified with it. Eat lots of grains, beans (including soy) and you won't have to worry about getting protein.

pollovegetarian and pescovegetarian
You don't have to worry about getting protein -- just need to make sure you're eating a varied diet with enough fruits and vegetables and complex carbs.

vegetarian and a jock
You need to make sure you're getting enough protein, iron, zinc, and complex carbs for all the calories you'll be burning.

vegetarian and menstruating
You need to make sure you're getting enough iron. Ask your doctor about an iron supplement.

vegetarian and cramming for exams
When you're stressed, you need to make sure you're not living on fast food and junk food. This is a time when your body needs sleep, good food, and nutrients.

vegetarian and dieting
You need to make sure you are getting enough calories and that you're getting them from the right foods. Do not live on Snackwells and Diet Coke. You also need to make sure that limiting calories (not eating meat and eating fewer calories) isn't the beginning of a body image/eating disorder.

vegetarian and growing
Getting all the necessary nutrients from your diet isn't a problem if you're lacto-ovo. But vegan teens have a harder time (vegan teens actually tend to be shorter than teens who eat animal foods). Vegans who are still growing need to be getting plenty of protein and calories, so emphasis should be on legumes, cereals, nuts/nut butters, and fortified milk substitutes.

teen veg in general
In terms of eating and getting what you need nutritionally, moderation and diversity are a good goal. Also, remember, the less meat you eat, the more complex carbs you should have. Don't obsess about protein. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. In terms of nutrients, it couldn't hurt to take a multivitamin and if you're vegan, it's pretty much essential. Once in a while (especially at the beginning), go get a check-up from a doctor or have a consultation with a nutritionist. Listen to your body.

Corby Kummer is a senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly and the author of The Joy of Coffee
More by Corby Kummer in Atlantic Unbound

Copyright © 1999 by Corby Kummer.
Recipes and links from Vegetables Rock! by Stephanie Pierson. Bantam: New York, New York, 1999. Paperback, 222 pages. ISBN: 0-553-37924-0. $35.00. Copyright © by Stephanie Pierson.
Cover Atlantic Unbound The Atlantic Monthly Post & Riposte Atlantic Store Search

Click here