FOOD & LOVE – Ms. Grace Wong
Vegan Mama Kitchen FacebookFACEBOOK
For this issue, we are excited to invite Grace Wong to talk about her family’s love of food with us. Grace – also known as Vegan Mama on her Facebook page Vegan Mama Kitchen and her cookbook ‘Simply Vegan. Simply Grace’ – is the mother of Tegan and Grant Yiu. She also teaches cooking classes at various venues to promote healthy eating for children and their families. Below is a recent chat between CAISPA’s Teresa and Grace.
Teresa: Thank you for spending time with us Grace, like all parents we all have busy schedules, and we appreciate your input. I know you are a Speech and Language Pathologist. To start, please tell us how you got so involved with running a cooking blog on Facebook.
Grace: Thank you Teresa, it’s my pleasure and thank you for having me. I have always loved cooking since pre-teen. My mom would ask me to join her in the kitchen and help out, starting with small tasks like washing and cutting. As I grew, she would get me to help with the actual cooking, and help her to come up with dinner menu when we had guests over. I became a vegetarian, then vegan since 1992. I would say I have always wanted to be innovative in creating vegetarian versions of all the dishes my mom would prepare just so my dad and I would not feel missed out. Now that I have my own vegan family, no doubt I would want my children to feel happy and proud, and not to feel left out with their dietary choice.
Teresa: That’s interesting. You said going vegan was their own choice?
Grace: Yes it was. Tegan and Grant made their own choices of going vegan at the age of 5 and 3 respectively – for the sole reason of their love of animals. But it’s not just about vegan. Tegan and Grant are responsible for all their own choices when it comes to food – be it snacks, meals or drinks.
Teresa: What is so special about their food choice then?
Grace: Well, they know how to break down the foods or beverages they are about to consume into raw ingredients. They also know how to read the labels on the package. When they realize that a pack of candy or a box of juice is simply made of white sugar, artificial color and flavor – they are in charge of whether or not to put it into their own system. This makes the choice prominent and much easier.
The kids also know how to distinguish between real and processed foods. They learn that real foods are grown naturally in the soil, while processed foods are manufactured. For example, oranges and broccoli are real foods, whereas sausages and fish balls are processed foods.
I could still remember the time when I got to go to Tegan and Grant’s classes to do a simple chocolate truffle demonstration (vegan version, of course). According to their classmates, the definition of ‘vegan’ is a person who does not consume any sugary or fatty foods such as candies, cookies or cupcakes (chuckled…) Where did all these come from, I thought to myself?! Yet, that was when I knew my children were simply making their own choices on the foods they were offered.
Teresa: Can you explain what the difference between a “vegan” and “vegetarian” diet is?
Grace: In general a vegetarian diet does not involve any meat. A vegan diet goes one step further to omit all products that are derived from animals, namely eggs and dairy, including cow’s milk and cheese. In other words, a vegan diet is completely plant-based. There are also other hybrid diets such as “Pescetarian” – people who do not consume meat but takes seafood, or “Pollotarian” – people who do not eat meat but would take poultry. Another term that has become quite popular in recent years is “Flexitarian” – who are flexible and eat meat occasionally.
I don’t want to over-complicate the terminology, and there really are no fixed rules. I believe the end of the day, diet is a personal choice.
Cooking Class for Grade 6 (Dec 2017)
Teresa: Wow! That’s so amazing! But how is it possible given we are always surrounded by all types of temptations?
Grace: I agree it’s not easy. My husband and I are blessed that Tegan and Grant are still sticking to this principle at this age. And I guess this is where Vegan Mama comes into the picture. It all started with my desire to create dishes that are as tasteful, visually-appealing, and of course ‘organic’, meaning without the unnecessary “add-ons”. In the beginning, people would ask me for recipes after I posted pictures of dishes that I prepared for the family on Facebook. After a while, I decided to start a FB page to share my recipes. So I guess Vegan Mama helps to neutralize the desire for the ‘tempted’ foods you referred to. But as parents, we also demonstrate how we make our own food choices as models.
Teresa: So do you involve Tegan and Grant in the kitchen, like how your mom did?
Grace: Of course! And like me, they also started with simpler tasks when they were younger. They are now at the stage where they would help with cutting, wrapping, seasoning and stir-frying. They are also involved in the buying and cleaning processes. Lately we started a “restaurant” that is open on weekends, and it’s only opened for families. Tegan and Grant would help design the menu, buy and cook the food, decorate and set the restaurant table. We found that the more they are involved in the preparation process, the more they would respect and appreciate the food, and hence no wastage.
Teresa: That sounds like a lot of fun for the family! And I couldn’t agree more with you about the importance of not wasting food. It is such a gigantic issue for us as a city.
Grace: Indeed. A big part of it is our relationship with food. When we talk about love of food, it doesn’t just end with the way the food is prepared or their nutritional values. We spend a lot of time talking about how much resources are spent in the making of the food – from the moment the seed was planted in the farm, all the way to how it ended up on the table. As a society we talk about protecting our environment a lot, and it is very important for the kids to realize that a large chunk of global energy resource and pollution are related to the production of food. Wasting food equals wasting global resource. Again this goes back to being models for our children. Often times when we go out for meals, the servers are impressed how there is no food wasted on our table. Of course with Grant having a huge appetite always helps(cackled).
Teresa: That’s fantastic. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there is no leftover food being sent to landfills just because people over-order or do not pack leftovers away with them?
Grace: Certainly and I think we can achieve it if we all play our part. Food plays an important role in everyone’s life. The love of food is a life journey and our relationship with food evolves over time. I truly believe we can be an influence to our children. We can show them how we make appropriate choices, for our health and for our environment.
Teresa: Thank you very much for sharing with us your insight!