Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is the author of two well respected vegan cookbooks: The Joy of Vegan Baking (2007) and The Vegan Table (2009). She'll speak about vegan diets and cooking in Madison on Feb. 6.
Being "the vegan" is not always easy, says Patrick-Goudreau in a recent phone interview. "I hear from vegans who have kind of stayed in the closet, because they'd encountered hostilities." She wants to encourage vegans to "help people see a different perspective. Have a dialogue, so we don't continue this dichotomy that tends to be created in our society - 'vegan good, non-vegetarian bad.' I think non-vegetarians assume there's a judgment on them because they're not vegan."
Cooking has become her primary form of animal-rights advocacy: "I found everybody's questions had to do with cooking. It came down to, 'What am I going to eat?'"
Although for Patrick-Goudreau the issue of animal welfare is central, eating vegan is also about eating healthfully.
"I encourage people to make the foundation of their diets whole foods. I sometimes have to explain what whole foods means, because we're really a society that's dependent on processed foods - that includes meat and dairy. I want people to get back in the kitchen and eating foods in their natural state as much as possible."
Patrick-Goudreau doesn't endorse "humanely raised meats": "We are capable of making excuses and justifications, so that we can perceive ourselves as compassionate people. So we get something that's labeled 'kind,' so we feel pretty good about what we are doing."
Patrick-Goudreau looks at it from the animal's perspective: "In the end it's the same to them. They're dying for nothing. What it comes down to is your own pleasure and your own desire to have something that you enjoy."
While she prefers whole foods, she doesn't eschew meat substitutes. "Some vegetarian meats are good transition foods. People feel comfortable with them because they have the familiar texture, flavor."
That said, she doesn't think people do well when they get "hooked on the form." Take cheese: "People get really attached to cheese," she notes. Instead of telling new vegans which non-dairy cheeses taste the best, she teaches them to think about what they're really craving. "It's most likely that you are craving fat and salt."
Instead of Parmesan cheese on your pasta, she suggests toasting pine nuts, salting them, putting them in the food processor and sprinkling them on pasta. "Now you have a whole food. The satisfaction of the fat and the salt. And it is familiar."
Another hint for easing into vegan eating - or increasing whole foods regardless - involves planning meals and chopping foods in advance. Cut tops off carrots and divide a head of cauliflower into florets as soon as you get back from the store, and if a recipe calls for one of a certain vegetable, chop two. Then the other will be ready for cooking or snacking. "You'll eat them instead of feeding the compost bin."
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau will speak at the Alliance for Animals Vegantines Dinner, Feb. 6, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the West Side Club. Tickets: allanimals.org.