Ten days of the Swedish Invasion are over, and I may have some semi-converts on my hands!
My boyfriend’s parents recently made their first-ever trip across the Atlantic to explore Canada and spend some time with my family. I was, of course, honoured and excited to be hosting their first visit to Canada, but it was also an incredibly intimidating task…
You see, the Swedish diet, as I have touched on briefly before, is about as un-vegan as you can get. The local grocery store generally has at least four large aisles of every dairy product known to mankind, and most people wouldn’t dream of cooking a single meal sans-meat or dairy. Of course, there are some exceptions, and Swedish vegans DO exist, although they are a rare and misunderstood breed. Vegan “meat” is also nonexistent, and the suggestion of cutting cheese from the diet is akin to cultural treason. So, you can understand how a vegan such as myself could feel a little nervous about cooking for a group of confirmed meat-eaters for ten consecutive days without alienating them completely, but I was determined to make a solid effort! The great news is, though, that it was a complete success!
I think the trick to cooking for “carnivores” is to ease them into vegan eating with dishes that have an element of familiarity. Desserts are always a great place to start, because vegan ones can be completely indistinguishable from their animal-product counterparts. For example, for dessert on their first night, I baked a vanilla cake from Chef Chloe’s amazing vegan cookbook, and crumbled it in a bowl with alternating layers of vanilla coconut whipped cream and mixed berries to make a delicious and decadent trifle that everyone devoured.
Other meals that everyone came to enjoy were a simple spaghetti with a vegan bolognese, my own chicken(less) pot pie, simple Yves veggie hotdogs and burgers with a side of my grandma’s famous bean salad, and even home made vegan pizza with daiya mozzarella! My boyfriend’s mom even opted to use coconut milk on her cereal each morning, and his dad surprised himself by discovering that he does not hate beans after all. Notoriously the “picky eater” and meat-lover of my boyfriend’s family, his dad miraculously discovered a love for faux chicken strips, and he even went so far as to ask where he could purchase something similar back in Sweden!
Of course, when you are a tourist in a new country, you also want to see what the restaurants and local food places have to offer! I sometimes dread these outings, as my meal options are at the mercy of whatever restaurant everyone wants to try that day, but we had some surprising success finding vegan-friendly options! At a street meat vendor in Toronto, for example, they served vegan veggie dogs. At Yogen Fruz, (which I obviously always used to walk right by without a second glance) they now have completely dairy-free options. I even managed to find some amazing avocado spring rolls that were dairy and egg-free at a local restaurant. While most of these places are not the type I would visit on my own time, it was nice to know that I could follow along with the group and still find food options that I hadn’t even considered.
I think one of the most encouraging things about the visit from a food perspective was the enthusiasm and change in outlook that our guests seemed to experience over the ten days that they were here. Simply exposing people to delicious vegan food without any agenda, pressure, or desire to “convert” anyone is often enough for them to start turning towards the meat-free direction on their own. Good food is good food, and when people realize that they can eat well while also improving their own health and being compassionate to others, vegan eating starts to feel like a much more possible and positive option. Both of our families had an amazing time here in the Great White North, and I’m already eagerly anticipating the next Swedish Invasion! :)
(Top picture: my cute parents on the left, my Swedish veggie-meatball himself, yours-truly, and the bf’s lovely parents on the right).