Meet Heather Larson, aka @veganishmama
So, it's been a lot of food posting and reading recipes (and trying the recipes obv) these last few months. Especially with the addition of so many new vegan options. Some of my baking recipes are seriously so on pointe that when they work out I strut around the kitchen all Martha AF.
But, I first needed some inspiration. Especially since when I started looking into this plant-based way of eating I wasn't far off from having to start feeding Quinne solid food. I started to wonder how I would do it with a little wee babe who would need lots of variety and wholesome nutrition. So, as any good mom would do I started perusing Instagram, where I found the lovely Heather Larson aka @veganishmama. She helped inspire me with some recipes and ideas for meals that were more plant based! Heather's food-osophy resonates with me in the sense that it's not neurotic strict and that life allows for exceptions. (I'm currently calling myself a "sometimes-atarian.)
I reached out to her and am lucky that she took the time to answer a few questions about food but also about gratitude and how that fits into her life. And come on, how cute is she!?
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and who is the Veganish mama!?
Hi! I'm Heather aka @veganishmama. My transition to veganism began about a year ago, when I was on maternity leave from my job as a professional cheese and pizza tester. It's a real job, I'm not making that up haha! I ran the Canadian test kitchen for one of North America's largest dairy manufacturers for over 3 years, testing various cheese and pizza recipes. If you're interested, there's probably an opening there now as after going vegan, I obviously couldn't go back to my job! My husband was the one who actually started the whole "vegan thing" at our house. He was looking at the results from his physicals over the years, as he had one coming up; even though he had always been healthy, his weight and cholesterol were slowly but steadily on the rise. He decided to make a change for the two weeks prior to his appointment to see if it would make a difference, and after seeing the results, we couldn't go back to eating the way we were. A few documentaries helped for motivation, "What the Health" on Netflix, was a particularly motivating one for us. After finding a few recipes that we loved, the transition wasn't too difficult, and we haven't looked back!
I started following you on Instagram because I am more and more interested in vegan eating. I find it inspirational to see moms who are vegan with their little ones in tow because I have a perception that vegan eating is either a) very complicated and labour intensive or b) terribly boring (think veggies and hummus every damn day).
Can you walk us through a typical day of vegan eating for your house hold?
I'll be honest, we do eat a lot of hummus! My son in particular, would eat a whole tub with a spoon if we'd let him. One of the biggest differences, I think, in a vegan diet, is that we no longer eat eggs for breakfast. We do however, eat vegan BLT's made with tofu or tempeh bacon, coconut yogurt parfaits, chia pudding, smoothies, toast, vegan breakfast sausage, etc, so I certainly don't feel deprived. Lunch for us is usually leftovers from the night before. I do cook at home more that we're vegan, and I do make more from scratch, so it is a bit more labour intensive. However, I don't HAVE to, there are many vegan options available in stores now, that's just personal preference. Other favourite lunches, if we're not having leftovers, are hummus with pita and veggies, chick pea salad sandwiches (which taste like tuna salad), or vegan buffalo chicken wraps, which in my opinion, are better than the "real thing". Dinners are mostly vegan versions of what we used to eat in our pre-vegan days; tacos with either vegan chipotle crumble, or tofu, or buffalo cauliflower, or pasta with lots of veggies, vegan caesar salad, curries, sushi, vegan cannoli, and many other pasta dishes (I am married to an Italian after all). I've shared a few of these recipes on my blog :).
You wrote a blog about pumping your breastmilk and you mentioned that breastfeeding didn’t work out as planned - I can’t think of a more judgemental area than how we feed our babes, either during the infant period or when they start eating solids. Did you encounter any judgement about this or do you now with having a vegan diet in your family?
I don't think that I ever really faced "judgement" for pumping. Sometimes when I complained about the time commitment, or that I wasn't making as much milk as I wanted to, people would say "why don't you just give him formula"? This was an especially difficult question to answer when it came from a mum who had fed their babies formula. I didn't want to make anyone feel bad about their decision, I truly believe that we're all just doing our best and motherhood is freaking HARD. I definitely just stumbled my way through answering, trying not to offend anyone. As far as raising my son vegan, for the most part, everyone has been pretty supportive, even my husbands Italian grandmothers make him vegan versions of their pizza and pasta, which is so kind of them. My Grandma still offers me fish for dinner but she's trying, lol. She recently helped me veganize her famous oatmeal cookie recipe, and let me post it on my blog! We had a few comments, before our son was on solids, where people would sort of answer for us and say "of course they're not going to raise him vegan, that's crazy", but we seem to have eased them into it and everyone sort of gets it now. My husband will still have steak maybe once a year at Christmas dinner with his guy friends, but that's the "ish" in "vegan-ish" for him. I wrote a blog post all about the "ish" as well :).
So to move things over towards gratitude- Can you think of a time when you had to dig deep in order to find gratitude?
This is something that I'm actively working on. I just listened to my first audio book about gratitude called "The Universe Has Your Back", which has started to remind me to be more present, to be grateful for what I have, and to not stress so much about the future. One of the times that I had to dig deep for gratitude was probably when i was pregnant with my son. I had lost my first pregnancy at 20 weeks, and I delivered him and held him in my arms, and to be honest, my heart is still a bit broken, and I think that it always will be. When I got pregnant with my son just a few short months later, everyone was so happy for us, and I feel like a weight was lifted off of everyone else's shoulders because they felt like they didn't have to tiptoe around me anymore, like I wasn't broken anymore. Though I was so so lucky to be able to get pregnant again so easily, I know many people struggle for much longer, or aren't able to have children at all, I still struggled to be grateful for that. I just wanted to hold my baby in my arms, and I wanted answers for why he wasn't. I never got those answers, but I did eventually appreciate my next pregnancy. I can't remember if it was when the morning sickness was finally gone, or when I felt the first kick, but eventually, I started to appreciate everything that I had. My health, my husband, my family and a baby boy in my tummy.
What is your version of having a gratitude attitude?
Again, this is something that I'm sort of working to find for myself. For me this what this "gratitude attitude" looks like, is being more present, enjoying what I have right now, and recognizing how far I've come and what I've accomplished in this life so far. Being grateful that I have a roof over my head, food to feed my son, my health, my husband, and an overall wonderful life; the daily appreciation of the little things that I sometimes take for granted.