(not just) for kids

It’s been longer than it feels since high school—seems like yesterday, but I’ve got tattoos older than most high school kids. One thing I’m sure hasn’t changed is kids being challenged for their beliefs. You rip on your closest friends for anything that makes them stick out…at least my friends and I did, and we were the skaters and punks. Sticking out was what we did best. Yet a diet for any reason other than weight loss was met with rolled eyes and sarcasm that can only be birthed in Chicago.

As a “vegetarian” in the 80s (the quotes are a nod to the fact that I occasionally ate chicken and fish on the advice of doctors—remember, I was a kid), I didn’t know a single other “vegetarian.” There was no Internet, and vegetarian cookbooks were for hippies (and punks and hippies did not mix). That was no kind of help! As a result, my first transitional diet was bland and dairy-heavy. My usual breakfast was Carnation Instant Breakfast in skim milk and some toast. Salads and peanut butter, that’s how I lived. Tofu was gross, and tempeh was a city in Arizona, and not until I was in my 20s did edible-looking vegetarian foods start showing up in my grocery store.

Ah, if only today’s resources had been around when I was a kid. So many more vegetarian and vegan cookbooks on the shelves, without flowers on the covers. Blogs, cooking shows, and news stories spreading the veg love…so jealous.

When I was working at Penguin, Puffin had just put out The Teen’s Vegetarian Cookbook, by Judy Krizmanic. I got a sales sample copy when they were cleaning out the sample closet. I so wish I’d found this book ten years earlier. It has nutrition information, 150 pages of recipes (most of ’em super simple), a glossary, loads of sidebars, and even a section for college students. The most important aspect of the book is its resistance to judgment. Throughout, Krizmanic repeats the idea that everyone has to make choices for themselves, that we’re all trying to make a transition. Also sprinkled throughout the book are quotes from other vegetarian teens, tips and encouraging stories.

It’s not the coolest-looking book, as it was before the rocksplosion of vegan chic, but for veg-curious kids or those who interract with veg-curious kids, it’s worth having on your shelf.

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