I just said goodbye to my dad, who we lovingly nicknamed Papa Kale while he was visiting from Michigan. My dad was raised in a typical American omnivorous family with meat and potatoes and good old comfort foods on the menu often. In fact, I think a lot of us millennials were raised that way, too; research about plant-based living is relatively contemporary in the grand scheme of human existence.
Thankfully, amid overwhelming evidence that a plant-based diet is substantially healthier than an omnivorous one, it is becoming increasingly popular to ditch animal products. Check out any menu at a respectable food establishment: vegan—or at least vegetarian—items are popping up everywhere. It’s never too late to eat healthier, to educate ourselves, and to educate generations prior. I don’t try to convert anyone; I just share what I know when people come to stay with me. You might eat hamburgers, but they’ll never be flyin’ off the grill chez Witzke. 🙂
My dad earned the title Papa Kale because he really embraced what he calls “how the other half lives.” Ha! Although skeptical at times, my dad cleaned his plate—and went for seconds whenever possible—of all of our vegan food. I’m still new-ish to the plant-based eating scene (four and half years in), but for real, my food is delicious. As you know, every party or get together we host at our house is 100% vegan…and no one goes hungry…ever.
I’ve written before about how making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle takes time and patience, but truthfully, that’s much easier that pleasing those that have little or no intention of changing their diets long-term, but simply want to survive staying with you. 🙂 Whether you have out-of-town guests or are trying to convince a persnickety spouse or children to consume healthier foods, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t start with something extreme. Items like kale and tofu aren’t likely to win anyone over on the first try. A green smoothie or edamame? Same ingredients, different story.
- Offer variations of popular comfort foods. Classic dishes like chili and pizza (two of my dad’s favorites, vegan or not) are generally winners in everyone’s book. Make a vegan version and blow minds.
- Dispel myths about how bland and boring vegetables are. Yes, frozen, crinkle-sliced carrots that are heated, salted, and served can certainly be unappealing. In addition, I think that when Americans picture “salad,” they often see iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, and ranch dressing. Travis and I whipped up these two salads (above and below) for my pops and vegetables were the main event. (The top salad is a combination of kale, cucumber, millet, red grapes, and slivered almonds. The bottom includes fresh tomatoes, grilled corn, avocado, lime juice, green onion, and black beans. Both salads were loaded with herbs/spices, too.)
- Have sweets on hand, too. I have literally never made a bad vegan dessert—I’m not just saying that! So far, they have all turned out fabulously, despite the gambling I’ve done with substitutions for animal-based components. My brownies are always a crowd pleaser and my dad enjoyed my first-ever dessert smoothie, which I make all the time, and not just for dessert.
- Most importantly, foster a supportive, judgement-free zone. Plant-based living isn’t totally effortless for anyone. I’ve been very frank with you about occasionally splurging myself and it takes time to break those habits…IF they are ever totally broken. No worries—making an effort to do better is what matters…and we can ALL do better.
Moral of the story? I can’t prepare chicken or steak for my dad—or anyone—in good conscience now that I know what the potential consequences are. So, I continue eating and living how I always do and end up keeping my guests full and happy in the process. Good luck—not everyone is as easy to please as Papa Kale. 🙂 Miss you, Dad!