By Alicia Voytek, associate vice president of campus operations and this year’s Homecoming Dedicatee
As a vegetarian and vegan for over 35 years, I’m asked a lot about why, how, what I eat and of course, how I get enough protein. 😊 So, when invited to share some thoughts in honor of World Vegan Day on Nov. 1, I thought I’d start with a little bit of my story and wrap up with some of my favorite recipes and local vegan options.
I have always had a deep connection and compassion for animals since I was a young child. While my dad was a vegetarian, I had always eaten a combination of my parents’ meals, including the meat my mom cooked. I didn’t think critically about my food until 1987 as a high school junior, when I researched and wrote a report about animal welfare for a class project. It affected me to my core, and I’ve not eaten meat since. With more limited food choices at that time eating out with friends, I continued eating dairy, cheese and eggs as a lacto-ovo vegetarian.
While cleaning my closet over winter break in 2004, I discovered some of my old books about vegetarianism. Reading them again at that point in my life sparked renewed and deep reflection. I realized I wanted my food and lifestyle choices to be more congruent with my value and connection with animals. I didn’t need and no longer wanted to consume dairy, cheese and eggs. I researched nutritional needs, healthy combinations of foods and recipes that were easy to make. I have been vegan since that point 18 years ago.
While my own choices are rooted in care for animals, there are many other reasons and benefits supporting a well-balanced vegan lifestyle. Positive impacts include health, longevity, the environment and addressing world hunger with less. Whenever someone I meet is considering a plant-based lifestyle, I always tell them to start with the reason that resonates with them first. If their reason is health-related, I recommend starting with a mental shift. Instead of considering this a “diet” focused on what you can’t have, view it as a lifestyle change that expands what you can have, supporting your progress and aligning with your core reasons.
I invite you to celebrate World Vegan Day by eating plant-based meals that day. Even one makes a difference. If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve got you covered. Here are some of my favorite vegan recipes that are delicious, quick and easy to make!
Vegan 4-bean chili
Blackened tofu with veggies
Seasoned black bean tacos
Chickpea of the sea sandwiches
Apple cinnamon cake
Quick tip—every Sunday, I prep 10 personal salads for us to eat throughout the week, saving time and ensuring we eat fresh vegetables. Colorful salads include baby spinach, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, green olives, tomatoes and fresh black pepper. They are convenient to throw in recipes, such as pouring chili over salad or adding to a tofu stir-fry.
Finally, a quick shout-out to my favorite local treats:
- Cassie Luke (director, Campus Living Initiatives and Partnerships) makes the absolutely most amazing vegan desserts I have ever had. I can’t count how many Cassie treats I have consumed, but let’s say it’s a lot. One day we’ll get her to the farmers’ market! Check out her drool-worthy dessert recipes.
- Campus Dining—Casey Fisher, Ben Hartley and team are always responsive to a range of needs, including vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and various allergens. I purchase a staff meal plan through payroll deduction to enjoy the convenience and variety of vegan options across campus.
- Macy’s—Vegan scones are scrumptious, especially the day-old discounted options! The Tempeh Avocado BLT is my favorite sandwich.
- Red Curry—Full vegan menu, but my go-to is the Three Flavors of Asia and the mango rice dessert. Yum.
- Cornish Pasty—Comfort food? Check. Several vegan pasties offered, but I love the Vegan Pot Pie. Like being wrapped in a cozy warm blanket. Mushy peas are great too!
- Karma—Good reason it’s always packed. We start with edamame and the Spicy Tofu Teriyaki, and then I gush the entire time over their signature Harmony rolls. Perfection.
Well, now I’m hungry. I hope you’ve gained a nugget of joy or a new recipe. Happy eating!