It's World Vegetarian Day, the start of Vegetarian Awareness Month, when we celebrate and explore the benefits of a meatless life. Some of us have been celebrating and exploring all year by having sex. The proof is undeniable and it's everywhere. What better way to celebrate World Vegetarian Day than by welcoming more vegetarians into the world?
"There is really a vegan baby boom," says Marisa Miller Wolfson. The director/writer/producer of "Vegucated" has been busy co-hosting baby showers for her meatless friends including Kelley Wind of the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food. Wind just returned the favor and with Tara Lynch and Camden McDaris Black, co-hosted a party of 30 to celebrate the radiant and extremely pregnant Wolfson.
A vegan baby shower differs in some ways from your standard American baby shower. "There's a lot more consciousness," says Wind. Wolfson's baby gifts are, as they should be, majorly adorable, but they're also cruelty-free and eco-friendly, like BPA-free bowls and organic cotton onesies, including one that says, "Future Activist." That goes for the party favors, too (vegan soaps and lip balms).
It's also "waaay greener than other friends' showers," says Wolfson.
Wind and her co-hosts used compostable serveware. After the party, it went into a compost bag, along with any bits of fruit that didn't go into the fruit salad, and was hauled to the neighborhood green market compost center. Instead of cut flowers, they decorated with fresh potted plants that go on living long after the party's over.
"Vegans see themselves as being within this web of life, not above it," says Wolfson. "We do not think the animals and the planet are here for our use. We want to respect that. We tend to have a larger message of caring for the environment that's reflected even in a party."
Yes, but vegans want to kick back and party, too. Like traditional baby showers, Wolfson's offered an abundance of estrogen, advice and woman trading stories of how long they'd been in labor. There was cooing and sighing as Wolfson opened the sweet-as-anything baby gifts. Vegan and omnivore alike, all the guests felt glad to be part of this festive afternoon.
"Attending a baby shower or hosting, you're really giving of yourself," says Wolfson. "You've taken the time to think what you want for this baby, this mommy, you bring that intention and love with you." Lovely, but you want to eat well, too.
As someone who's been both host and honoree of a vegan baby shower, Wolfson has some advice for nervous hosts. "Don't worry about what your guests are going to think. It's one afternoon, people aren't going to miss their animal products, and for many people, it's their first experience with vegan food -- they're often surprised and delighted."
At Wolfson's shower "we had chimichurries from Candle 79 sandwiches from Terri and wraps from Blossom du Jour," says Wind. The co-hosts made kale, quinoa and fruit salad, provided vegan fortune cookies and homemade vegan cupcakes. Topping it off, vegan pastry queen Fran Costigan dropped by with truffles and cookies. "We had some some of the best food in New York City."
No one was shy. Everyone ate, from the co-hosts to the guest of honor. "I always eat, I never not eat, especially when there's delicious food." Being vegan, though, goes beyond what you eat.
Wolfson gazes down at her belly and smiles. "Veganism isn't just about you, it's about everything."
Fran Costigan's I Fixed My Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies
Celebrate World Vegetarian Day with cookies by world class vegan pastry chef Fran Costigan.
From Fran Costigan's "More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally"
3/4 cup organic granulated cane sugar, divided
1/2 cup organic all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons organic canola oil or mild tasting 1/4 cup any nondairy milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to the strainer. Stir with a wire whisk to sift the ingredients into the bowl and whisk to aerate and distribute the ingredients.
Combine the peanut butter, oil, nondairy milk, vanilla, and vinegar in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is smooth; it will be very thick. Add the dry mixture to the peanut butter mixture and pulse a few times, only until the dough begins to hold together.
Transfer the dough to a bowl and press and squeeze with your hands until the dough is smooth and shiny.
Put the remaining 1/4-cup sugar on a plate. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the sugar and place 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets. Use the back of the tines of a dinner fork to press each cookie horizontally, then vertically, to flatten them into the traditional peanut butter cookie shape.
Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time on the center rack for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cookies are lightly browned. The hot cookies will be soft, but become firm as they cool.
Set the baking sheet on a cooling rack. Wait about 3 minutes until the cookies are firm enough to move and allow them to cool to room temperature on the rack.
Tip: The cookies sometimes puff up during baking, making the crisscross pattern disappear. (This seems to happen sometimes but not always.) If this is the case, remove the cookies from the oven after 8 minutes, and press the design into the cookies again. Bake another minute or two.
Makes 30 (2-inch cookies)