I had the chance to interview my favorite TV actor Mayim Bialik about her vegan kids and her cookbook, Mayim’s Vegan Table.
Besides being an Emmy-nominated actor, Mayim has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, which corresponds to the career pursuits of her current TV character, Amy Farrah Fowler, on the Big Bang Theory. She has two boys, aged 12 and 9.
Mayim Bialik combined her two loves for Jewish food and vegan cooking in her new book, featuring simple and easy-to-do vegan recipes of delicious foods anyone can make to increase their consumption of vegetables and to move toward a cleaner, healthier and a more balanced diet. She talked with me about her favorite recipes, her favorite cuisine and what she eats on set of The Big Bang Theory.
Yael: As a vegan, what is the single biggest source of protein that you and your kids consume?
Mayim: We eat a lot of avocados. We also eat soy. I try not to give them too much soy, but in general you don’t need as much protein as we have been told that we need. I talk about it in the book. The actual amount of protein that you need can be acquired from a small amount of beans, fortified soy or avocados.
Yael: What is the toughest thing about raising your children vegan?
Mayim: Social things are hard, things like work dinners or large functions or weddings. When you travel with kids, who are vegan, you need to absolutely always have snacks on hand. Teaching children to appreciate simple food is a wonderful thing that we all should do, but especially for vegans because if you go to parties or events, sometimes the only vegan option is a fruit platter or a veggie platter, and if your vegan child doesn’t like eating fruits or vegetables, your child may not have anything to eat. So that’s kind of a neat thing to raise children to appreciate fruits and vegetables. If that is their only choice, and they already know how to eat it and enjoy it, your child will be satisfied with that option.
Yael: Did you ever have any doubts about raising your kids vegans? Any concerns about their nutrition?
Mayim: Sure. We have a pediatrician who happens to be vegan is also a pediatric nutritionist, and so that is really helpful. I know most people don’t have that, and like almost every other vegan family, but my ex and I got a lot of challenges from people surrounding us, including our families, about nutrition. However, with a little reading and a little preparation, it is not hard to raise children vegan at all. They are very healthy. They have never been on antibiotics. They’ve been breastfed until they were over one and they have shiny hair and all their teeth. They grow, they run and they jump. You can raise vegan kids for sure, and you don’t need to be rich to do it. It’s not about buying expensive food.
Yael: I really love your book I can’t stop raving about it. I need to know what is your favorite recipe in the book.
Mayim: Oh gosh, it’s hard to say, you know… There are favorites that I have that are easy and there are favorites that I have that are more complicated. Obviously, the Jewish recipes are sort of how the idea for this book came about. There is a recipe for vegan sufganiyot [blogger note: jelly doughnut prepared for Hanukkah], which are a bit more labor intensive, but I think it really is worth it in the end because Hanukkah could be a difficult period of time for a vegan.
There is also the Hamentashen [cookies] and the strudel [apple pie]. I also really like the chili, which is one of my stand-by recipes, as well as the vegan Shepherd’s Pie, which is something I make all the time for my kids. But it is so hard to pick! I love the baked Ziti: it’s the one thing I always make if I have a lot of people coming over. Clearly, I have a lot of favorites!