About the Vegan Chop House
When I became a vegan, I struggled to find a connection to the food and to the fine people that were creating most of the conversation and recipes about vegan food on the internet. It’s not their fault. I just didn’t look like them and the food didn’t talk to me. And, in fairness I’m probably not their intended audience.
I love all the good-looking people in the vegan food world that wear leggings and yoga pants and look good in them. I love what everyone does and I’m okay with being different from them. I’m okay with being me. It’s a huge vegan world out there that needs a lot of different voices. Taste everyone’s food and listen to everyone’s opinions – that’s what I think.
But, I didn’t connect with the twenty and thirty-year old, slim, manicured women talking about health and food. I tried. I scoured the web, and the bookstores, desperate for something I could connect to – because I was a clueless vegan trying to make sense of it all, while trying not to have Blythe (my daughter) and I starve in the process. I was a complete greenhorn in the vegan world.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t going to last long being a vegan. I’ve come to understand there are at least two types of vegan. There are those that hold animal rights and the health of the planet as the highest priority which defines their choice to be vegan, and there are others that hold their own personal health as the primary reason for being vegan. I love both types.
But, and it was a big but; I was a foodie and loved to cook before I was vegan and that was going to be an obvious problem for me. It was as if I had to give up the expectation of eating great food because I was vegan.
That wasn’t going to happen. I love great food. I love crazy good food, and I’m not about to lower my standards or my expectations. I was born an omnivore. I, like most of us, grew up eating plants and meat, fish… Anything that was put on my plate. I grew up eating fruits and vegetables. Become a vegan and they’re suddenly called plants! Whose brilliant idea was that? Not quite so appetizing a thought!! Have a plant?!
I started flipping the recipes I shaped over the years and then started creating others. I needed a full repertoire of recipes, dishes that friends and family would eat. Dishes I would eat if I wasn’t a vegan. And so, the Vegan Chop House was born. In my head.
I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that both Blythe and I were part of a much bigger audience for vegan food than the one we’d entered into. When people find out you’re a vegan, there is a never-ending line of people that tell you how they tried being vegan, wanted to be vegan, wished they were vegan, would eat healthier if it tasted good, wanted to eat healthier… What seems to be the main point of failure? The food. It’s not the lifestyle that gets ridiculed. If someone’s being reasonable, there’s nothing to ridicule about a vegan lifestyle, no matter what kind of vegan you are. The food on the other hand, in my limited experience, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s why people don’t make it as a vegan.
It doesn’t compute for me that vegan food should be less flavorful and with less texture than any other foods. It’s one dish and one plate at a time.
The Vegan Chop House food is supposed to please the eye, the taste and the appetite of everyone. Not just vegans. If we can create “crazy good food” we don’t have to sell the virtues of being vegan. We don’t have to make a full court press for animal rights and the effects on the planet. If we can win the eye, the taste and the appetites of all people, one dish at a time, we will have a greater positive impact on all things.
About the vegan guy – Ian Dolby
The Vegan Chop House is a recipe in itself. Yes, there’s me – the vegan guy – Ian Dolby. I am a pure-blooded proud to be Englishman of a Welsh mother and Irish father, that’s lived in the USA for well over twenty long years. I became Vegan a few years ago, about 5 minutes after Blythe. “Dad, if you turn vegan, you’ll live longer and you won’t even be half way through your life yet”. That’s the goal at least. For me when your teenage daughter tells you, you should be a vegan so that you’ll live longer, it doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room to say no to. So, she and I turned vegan with no great thought process on my end. No great contemplation. Just dived in with both feet. Someone should have put water in the pool first.
I was born in the best place in the world. Highnam, a small village in Gloucestershire. I grew up in farm country and farm I did. I followed my grandfather and best friend into the farmyard. Milked cows, made hay, raised sheep. Did all the things that you do growing up wanting to follow in your grampie’s footsteps. But, fast forward along a long stream of steps that no one ever saw coming that led me across the world – it’s fair to say that I have had a very full life. One filled with enough downs to sink a large ship a few times over, and enough ups to keep the spirit very much alive.
About Blythe and Molly
I may be the main ingredient in the Vegan Chop House, but on my own, the Vegan Chop House loses what makes it special. In the mix along with me there’s Blythe. My vegan daughter, who doesn’t cook, but loves to eat and loves to give brutally honest feedback! Did I mention brutally honest? Blythe is the pepper in the Vegan Chop House. You want it a little spicy, some of the time. It was Blythe that had a major opinion and impact on the Vegan Chop House logo. It’s Blythe and a bunch of her buddies that I’ve loved to cook for, for years. I’ve been watching Blythe, Carlyann, Ashley, Maggie, Shea and others laugh for years while they happily devoured what’s been placed in front of them. Friends and family is why I cook. I don’t cook because I’m hungry. I cook because I love to give through the food I make. If everyone else brings the laughter and the joy, I will make sure I bring something that will keep everyone and everything just where we want it to be. I don’t cook so that friends and family can discuss and compliment me while they’re eating. No, I’m waiting to see the cleaned plates. I’m waiting to see people sit back in their chairs after they ate more than they should, while they rub their bellies and tell me “that was really good”.
There’s another ingredient in the Vegan Chop House. She must be the salt, because she makes everything taste better. Molly, AKA the Blonde Sicilian, is the voice of reason behind much of what’s taken shape at the Vegan Chop House. Molly’s not vegan, but as she says, “she loves great food”. She also eats her fair share of vegan dishes, because of all things Vegan Chop House. Molly is also a great cook that started with a toe and ended up with a foot in the vegan recipe world. The Blonde Sicilian cooks for the same reason I do. I have to admit, it was comic relief to listen to Molly torture herself over the challenges of cooking and creating vegan recipes – when you’re not one. I’m glad Molly’s now more relaxed being out of her comfort zone. For a while I thought her head was going to implode. Molly started helping me to convert some of her own Italian recipes, and in the case of the Banana Bread, Minestrone and Farmhouse Barley soup – no help needed. She nailed those with no help from me.
I may be the main ingredient, in the Vegan Chop House but without salt and pepper to taste – well the Vegan Chop House wouldn’t taste quite right.