Cooking for Carnivores

The joy and the hassle of feeding carnivores. Ugh. It’s important to do, because serving a great vegan meal is one of the best outreach tactics I know of. But it’s so darn hard! It’s hard because the meat-eater is bound is determined to not like what you make. If they can convince themselves that veg food is icky, then nobody will blame them for staying with their cruelty-to-animals diet.

I think the most important thing to remember in these situations is that you are NOT cooking for yourself. You can’t. You need to make and serve something that you may not find very appetizing. This is particularly important if you’ve been vegan for years, and/or if you eat a very healthy, low-fat vegan diet.

If you compared your tongue to a meat-eaters tongue—which I don’t suggest, by the way, I mean I would never kiss a carnivore—but if you did, you would see some big differences. You can taste food. Meat-eaters taste fat.

A normal meat diet contains concentrated amounts of fat, salt and sugar. I am talking intense blobs of ickiness. Take a stick of butter, pour two tablespoons of salt on it, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and eat it. Just like that. I see that you’re not eating it, and you’re looking a little green. But that is a cheese pizza. That is a cheeseburger and milkshake. That is a non-vegan chocolate cake. Hand grenades of fat, cholesterol, sodium, sugar. Carnivores have taste buds that have been coated with this stuff, taste buds that are deadened.

If a meat-eater goes from her regular diet to brown rice and broccoli overnight, she will hate the brown rice and broccoli. Her taste buds will not have adjusted, she’ll be totally disappointed, and she’ll consider veg foods unsatisfying from that point on.

When we cook for meat-eaters, we need to remember that. We need to cook with oil, with Earth Balance, with salt, with sugar. Yes, we may be serving food we don’t consider healthy enough to eat—but by doing so, we could be helping someone get over their fear of veg food and make the change. We owe it to the animals to serve meat-eaters what works for them, not us.

Dessert is easy: The good old chocolate-cream pie, or the chocolate-pecan pie. Don’t tell them the cream pie has tofu in it until after they’ve eaten it (I’m not kidding).

For the main course, I think Italian is best. You may want to offer one sort of vegan meat, but don’t serve a meal that focuses on it. Some people love it, some people hate it. Don’t risk it.

I like to start dinner parties for carnivores with two appetizers: Gardenburger BBQ riblets (the most foolproof faux meat I know of) and a naturally vegan dip like hummus, tahini “cheese,” or salsa and guacamole. This reminds the carnivores that—gasp!–they already eat and enjoy vegan foods on a regular basis. Who doesn’t eat chips and salsa?!

The simplest main course I know of is lasagna, garlic bread, and a big salad with Annie’s Goddess Dressing. Do not substitute another dressing. Only the Goddess. I have yet to meet a meat-eater not crazy about it, and amazed that it’s egg and diary and cheese-free.

If you like to cook, you can have fun with risotto or polenta, bruschetta or gnocci. But if cooking’s not your #1 passion in life, then make the lasagna, the pie, and the garlic butter the day before the event. An hour before guests arrive, pop the lasagna in the oven, spread the garlic butter on good bread, and make the salad. Your dessert is already done and in the fridge.

Italian tastes familiar to people. It’s comfortable. It’s often vegetarian anyway. And…it gives you the chance to make the brilliant connections between:

1. Meat-eating and impotence
2. Vegetable-eating Italians and their reputation for love
3. :-)If you’re cooking for meat-eaters, you may as well have some fun with it.

Tofu-Spinach Lasagna
Garlic Bread Spread
Chocolate Mousse or Chocolate Mousse Pie
Chocolate Pecan Pie

Tofu-Spinach Lasagna

If you’re wary of replacing the dairy in your recipes, never fear—blended tofu makes a great substitute for soft cheese.

1/2 lb. lasagna noodles
2 10-oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 lb. soft tofu
1 lb. firm tofu
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup soy milk
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

3 tsp. minced fresh basil
2 tsp. salt
4 cups tomato sauce

• Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
• Squeeze the spinach as dry as possible and set aside.
• Place the tofu, sugar, soy milk, garlic powder, lemon juice, basil, and salt in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Stir in the spinach.

• Cover the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of noodles (use about one-third of the noodles). Follow with half of the tofu filling. Continue in the same order, using half of the remaining tomato sauce and noodles and all of the remaining tofu filling. End with the remaining noodles, covered by the remaining tomato sauce. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Garlic Bread Spread

This is not low-fat. In fact, it’s pure fat. Perfect for meat-eaters! Keeps for a long time in the fridge. Make it, chill it, then spread on bread and toast until golden brown.

½ tub Earth Balance vegan butter, softened

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh chopped garlic (about 8 cloves)
1 Tb dried garlic
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 Tb dried Italian herbs

–Mix well.

Chocolate Mousse or Chocolate Mousse Pie

Rich-and-smooth chocolate mousse is perfect when served in a chilled parfait glass with a strawberry on top—or pour into a pre-baked vegan pie shell and chill for 4-6 hours.

12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips or bars
2 pkgs. Lite silken tofu
½ cup sugar

1 ready-made vegan graham or chocolate cookie crust (optional)
Raspberries or strawberries
Mint sprigs or orange slices

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler and remove from heat.

Put the tofu, sugar and salt in a food processor until it’s creamy smooth. Add the melted chocolate, and process until smooth.

Transfer into a crust or small individual serving dishes.

Serve topped with raspberries or strawberries and garnished with mint or orange slices.

Variation: add a chopped banana to the food processor when you process the tofu and chocolate together.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

1 pre-made whole wheat, vegan pie crust (found in freezer sections)
or make your own, I recommend Meredith McCartney’s book “Sweet and Natural” for excellent vegan baking recipes.

2 cups pecans

1 cup maple syrup
1 Tb vanilla
¼ tsp salt
2 Tb arrowroot
1/3 cup soymilk
1 cup melted vegan chocolate chips

• Stir the maple, pecans, vanilla, and salt together.

• In a separate bowl, whisk together the arrowroot and soymilk.
• Add to the maple mixture.
• Whisk in the melted chocolate.
• Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. You must let cool before serving–it will firm up, but it needs about 6 hours to do that.

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