My love, Susan, does an annual Vegan Challenge. It’s her way of helping to spread the word about good vegan food in a fun way.
She challenges her non-veg friends to go vegan for two weeks. If they agree, she cooks or bakes them something vegan. If that doesn’t sound like much of an incentive, I should mention that Susan has won quite a few awards for her cooking and baking, including Best of Show (Best of ALL baked goods) at last year’s Orange County Fair for her Vegan Coconut Lime Cake, and a 2nd Place in Fruit and Berry this year at the National Pie Championships for her Vegan Blueberry Cranberry Pie. She’s won a bunch of other ribbons, too, for items ranging from her Vegan Vanilla Bean Almond Brittle, to Vegan Sun-Dried Tomato Cornbread Muffins, to her Ginger-Soy-Lime Tofu Cutlets.
All of her recipes are vegan, and all her wins have been against non-vegan open competition. In other words, these were not “health-food” or vegan-only contests.
Nearly everyone who’s tasted her dishes (vegans and non-vegans alike) has walked away impressed, and I think she’s starting to develop somewhat of a following. It’s to the point where if she shows up somewhere with a batch of three dozen vegan cupcakes, they’re typically gone in a couple of minutes.
Last year, NINE of Susan’s friends took up the challenge, two of whom are still essentially vegan to this day!
This year, she got TWELVE, which is more than she had planned for, but she was happy to accommodate. Among the challenge takers were two married couples and one boyfriend-girlfriend couple, a former college football player/firefighter, a formally trained pastry chef, the vice president of a national construction firm, and a licensed acupuncturist/martial arts instructor. There was also one friend who accepted the challenge thinking it was only for one week as lacto-ovo-vegetarian (she had gotten the information second hand and something was lost in the message…). But she agreed to go vegan for two weeks anyway, and ended up happy that she did!
Susan thinks many people have wanted to give a vegan diet a try, but didn’t know how, or where to begin. Her challenge gives them the motivation and a little support to go for it. People have various reasons for wanting to go plant-based – improved health is a big one, but concern for the environment and animal compassion are also common. One person said he was trying to get healthy not just for himself, but for his family as well. He didn’t want to put his wife and children through the pain of having him suffer through a chronic disease that might have been avoided by changing his eating habits.
People took the terms of the challenge very seriously. One Saturday evening Susan received a text message from a friend that read “OMG! We’re at a restaurant and I accidentally took a bite of my son’s burger. Do I have to start over?” She also received an email confession from someone travelling on business who ate a turkey sandwich at the airport because he was hungry and pressed for time. Another friend ate some chicken at a luncheon, and didn’t even realize it until in the car on the way home. She promptly emailed Susan about the incident, dutifully offering to forfeit her promised Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake because of it. Susan of course gave these friends passes, saying that slip-ups happen, especially when trying to make the transition.
To help the challengers ease into a plant-based diet, Susan prepares a little packet for each person, including helpful tips on vegan nutrition, recommendations of vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in their area, vegan recipes and a list of vegan food products we really like. This year, Susan wrote to some of our favorite vegan food companies, telling them about her challenge and asking for their support. Most of them sent back not only words of encouragement, but a bunch of coupons as well, which Susan was able to pass along to the challenge-takers. A big shout out and THANK YOU to:
Whole Soy & Co.
Field Roast Grain Meats
Follow Your Heart (Vegenaise)
So Delicious/Turtle Mountain
Here are some quotes from Susan’s friends:
- “Susan you are so lovely to do this.... these home baked goodies are such incredible treasures. Thank you for your inspiration to live a little more gently on the planet.” – Jeanne B.
- "It was a very valuable experience and you and Ryan did not push it at all and had a very graceful, kind way of introducing it. This challenge has been a good one and I actually didn't miss the meat. Some people have complimented me that I look so alive -- especially in the night class I am attending." – Chris R.
- “I am having fun doing this. I really like how my body feels, surprisingly. I have more energy and my belly doesn't feel so big and heavy. I may have to keep going on this adventure or change my diet to be more vegan!” – Tricia S.
- “We really enjoyed your cupcakes, they were awesome. I saved two of the cupcakes for people at work and once they tried them they loved them too. Thanks again Susan for opening our eyes to the vegan world.” – Hakim K.
Thank you to all of Susan’s (and my) friends who gave this a try. It really means a lot to both of us. We hope that this challenge gave you the opportunity to try food that you might not have tried before, and that it was a positive and fun experience! Peace and love to all who live.