Mayim Bialik plays a lot of roles in her life, including mother, actress (you probably know her best from Blossom and The Big Bang Theory), author, blogger, and, unofficially, a spokeswoman for vegans all over.
Her new vegan cookbook, Mayim’s Vegan Table, out just last month, is sure to become a favorite for plant-based eaters everywhere, adding yet another role to Mayim’s growing list of awesomeness. With its simple, approachable, family-friendly feel, Mayim’s book offers seasoned vegans a different spin on comforting foods and gives new vegans a nice primer on the tools and cooking tips we all need to get started on our vegan journey, especially for those seeking plant-based tips and recipes with a family in mind. In celebration of Mayim’s new venture into the land of vegan publications, One Green Planet recently had the opportunity to talk with Mayim about her new cookbook, vegan parenting, celebrities going vegan, and her own plant-based journey.
Mayim has been a vegetarian since her teenage years: she was “an animal lover who was always uncomfortable eating them,” she said. She says she never knew it was an option not to eat them – and then realized at 19 that it indeed was and is an option.
She made the transition and then began to cut out dairy. Cutting out most dairy “literally changed my health,” she said, attributing the change to a subsequent significant decrease in sinus infections and allergies. “That was kind of amazing,” she said.
After becoming a mother, Mayim learned her son was allergic to any dairy, and this “sort of confirmed even more that human babies are not made to process cow’s milk.”
Ultimately, she became fully vegan after making these and other observations. She notes reading a book called Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safron Foer, which was the “nail in the coffin in terms of the environmental impact.” Now, she said, “I’m just vegan. I don’t have to think about it.”
For Mayim, of course, being vegan extends much further beyond just a diet. “To me, it’s more of a lifestyle decision.” She has concerns about the nature of farming, including potential issues with conventional farming methods. “You can pay now for organic food, or you can pay later for the healthcare costs,” she said. She is also concerned about a government that’s “not protecting us in a lot of ways about the food that we eat.” She mentions documentaries such as Food, Inc. and The Future of Food for those interested in learning more about these issues.
As an actress with a schedule packed full of appearances and events working in a largely non-vegan industry, keeping to vegan fashion can be a bit more challenging for Mayim. As a celebrity, she is often asked to wear other peoples’ clothing for events, photo shoots, and filming. She mentions she has talked to her stylist about finding vegan clothing and shoes when possible.
Despite any challenges she finds being vegan in the entertainment industry, Mayim believes that any attention brought to the vegan lifestyle via celebrities is good. When Jay-z and Beyonce recently went vegan for 22 days, for example, Mayim believes this is still all positive attention for veganism. “There are different kinds of vegans. To me, I don’t knock that. Any positive attention towards eating differently – not just becoming vegan or becoming vegetarian – but just the notion that the way we’re eating is not working and is not good for us. It started with some very brave authors and now extends to every major medical organization acknowledging that we can’t live this way and expect to be healthy,” she said.
Thus, for all of us, it’s just about making the most conscious decisions possible. “It’s not like it’s an all or nothing story,” Mayim said of veganism.
Nonetheless, at least trying plant-based eating these days shouldn’t be farfetched or particularly hard for most; Mayim believes it’s something everyone can try. “It’s not like we’re saying hang by your ankles upside down for 5 hours a day. We’re talking about something that has been suggested by medical major organizations. It’s not that crazy to consider eating less dairy, meat, and processed foods.”
And Mayim walks this talk, even with her largely non-vegan family. While Mayim admits this can be hard at holiday gatherings, her tactic when dining with extended family is to “just find something wherever we go” and not insist on going to vegetarian or vegan restaurants, a strategy many of us fellow vegans know very well. Dining is a bit easier with her parents, though, who became vegetarian after her father retired.
In her own home with her children, living vegan as a lifestyle is even easier. Mayim has raised her kids as vegan, and notes she hasn’t found doing this to be particularly difficult. She does acknowledge the fact that her children are homeschooled and that it’s probably easier, “But you don’t have to home schooled to keep your children vegan,” she said. Social situations like parties can be more challenging, she notes, but she also devotes an entire area in her book about suggested ways to handle these situations.
Bottom line, Mayim said, it’s about teaching kids that “animals have feelings and experiences and lives.” Also, “it’s about not going to zoos and about being very clear with my children that Momma gets sad at zoos…momma doesn’t go to the circus. These things won’t work for us.”
A self-proclaimed “hippie mama,” she also makes her kids’ shampoo and avoids commercial cleaning products.
While Mayim believes in these more holistic methods for her own life, in her new cookbook, she focuses primarily on making veganism accessible to the widest audience possible, and therefore she only touches upon many of these related issues very lightly in the book. “I wanted to appeal to people who are really possibly making their first strides toward even considering changing the way they eat or think.” While she encourages people to learn more about the holistic methods she mentions, she says she understands issues of accessibility and availability, and believes that any single move people can make toward a vegan lifestyle is a good one.
This might begin with her book, Mayim’s Vegan Table. Mayim mentions the most crowd-pleasing recipes in her book that could easily win over anyone, vegan or not, including the “baked ziti, all the desserts, and risotto, which is very creamy, and kind of buttery and cheesy without the butter or cheese.” Overall, she’s found that “people can’t believe you can make those things vegan so easily.”
The book also will please anyone interested in the veganization of traditional Jewish dishes, like matzoh ball soup and kugel, “The Jewish recipes are really fun,” she says. You’ll also find an array of Mediterranean and Asian-inspired meals in her book, too.
A large portion of the cookbook, which includes more than 100 recipes, are veganized versions of her mother’s recipes that Mayim helped make as a kid. In addition, you’ll find some recipes that Mayim has picked up over the years from various cookbooks and placed her own spin on them. A friend also contributed a few of the recipes. Overall, though, the recipes are quite accessible and don’t require many processed ingredients. You’ll find an array of ideas for breakfast through dinner, alongside pediatrician-approved nutritional advice, a list of vegan pantry essentials, and tips and strategies for meal planning and dining out. In sum, Mayim’s book seeks to help families find meals everyone can enjoy and attain for “a balanced lifestyle that’s inexpensive and fuss-free.”
You can pick up Mayim’s new book, Mayim’s Vegan Table, here. Also, be sure to check out One Green Planet’s exclusive sneak peek recipes from Mayim’s book:
Mayim’s Vegan Reuben Sandwich
Mayim’s Big Bang Vegan Chickpea Burger Patty
Mayim’s Hot Pretzel Challah Bread
Mayim’s Secret Dark Chocolate Cookies
Mayim’s Turtle-Shaped Bread
Lead image source: Mingle Media Tv / Wikimedia Commons