If you picked up the January/February 2007 issue of VegNews, you may have already met lifelong vegetarian Alli Marshall. She was the featured reader on the last page of this great magazine. I was intrigued as I read her profile and then was stunned to discover that she lives right in my town! How could I not feature her as this week's Veggie Hero?! When not being the subject of veggie interviews, Alli is a features writer for Asheville's killer newspaper The Mountain Xpress.
Vegetarian or vegan?
I've been a vegetarian my whole life and a vegan off and on. CurrentlyI'm eating a little dairy (I blame it on the Amish and their deliciouscheese), but I avoid eggs.
How long have you been veg*n?
34 years -- my whole life! My parents lived in San Francisco rightbefore I was born and were introduced to the vegetarian diet by afriend. When they moved back to the east coast, they decided they wantedto try a natural, whole foods-based vegetarian lifestyle. They evenopened a natural foods co-op in the 1980s.
What inspired you to go veg?
Since I've always been veg, I guess I wasn't inspired, but there have been lots of inspiring vegetarians in my life. For example, my fatherand his wife are very involved with their community, educating studentsabout vegetarianism and growing a huge organic garden.
What's your best story of trying to find veg food?
When I was a child vegetarian food wasn't too common (luckily, I grew upnot too far from the Moosewood Restaurant). When we'd take vacations,we'd usually pack boxes with staples like wholegrain bread, peanutbutter, tofu pups and granola. But when I traveled to India in my 20s, I was delighted to learn thatvegetarianism is widely accepted there. In fact, a majority of thecountry is Hindu and do not eat meat or eggs. So, when I'd go intosmall, local restaurants there'd be one menu that said "Veg" and anotherthat read "Non-Veg," and the veg menu was usually larger! One time, my mother and I were in India visiting a Jain temple in themiddle of nowhere and we were really hungry. There were no restaurantsaround, but we learned that the Jains (a religous sect who practicetotal non-violence) run a cafeteria of sorts. We stopped in and sat down at a long table with a group of strangers and were immeditaly served steaming plates of dhal, curried vegetables and freshly made pooris. Fantastic!
How do you handle family holiday dinners?
I'm lucky, because both my parents eat a vegetarian diet, and my husband has "converted." But when we visit my in-laws it's tricky. For Thanksgiving one year, I prepared a feast of lentil loaf, mashedpotatoes, green bean casserole and vegan pumpkin pie. Then we brought itall to my sister in-law's house were we offered to share with anyone who was curious. The pumpkin pie is always popular.
What's your favorite veg food?
There are so many to choose from, and I'm always seeking out newrecipes. I love the simplicity of Jamaican ital dishes (a stir fry ofcabbage and greenbeans served with coconut rice); the spice of Mexicancooking (chickpea stew with chilis and fried tofu) and the hot and coolflavors of Thai (lemon grass coconut soup). One of my all-time favoritesis the Ethiopian vegetarian plate served with lots of injera (sourdoughbread).
Do you have a favorite veg book?
I just got "Delicious Jamaica: Vegetarian Cuisine" by Yvonne McCalla Sobers for Christmas. It's a lot of fun.
Tofu or tempeh?
Tofu. I like tempeh, too, but I *love* tofu.
What did you have for breakfast today?
Homemade (by my stepmother) granola with soymilk and a banana, blueberry, apricot and apple juice smoothie.