Creamy Chickpea Salad

I have a confession to make. For nearly four years I was vegan. Yes, you heard me right, I just  dropped the “V-bomb”. During my early twenties I was one of those obnoxious, militant vegetarians who shunned not only flesh, but any and all animal products. I shook my fist at dairy of all sorts. Goodbye Brie, so long Swiss, see ya later Cheddar. I referred to eggs as “liquid chicken.” I stopped making my all time favorite breakfast of coffee and eggs over-easy and in exchange guzzled wheatgrass juice and algae smoothies and fists full of sprouts. I consumed my body weight many times over in tofu  and became all too familiar with the world of meat analogues (and if you ever need advice on meat analogues, I got some).

There are plenty of jokes and angry rants about the fascist-vegan-birkenstock-wearing-crunchy-granola-hippy stereotypes of herbivores.  I can understand where some of it comes from having been one myself.  There were times when I was overwrought with grief and confusion as to why anyone would slaughter another life simply to indulge their hedonistic whims that I acted out in embarrassing ways. For example,  I once smooshed a Reese’s peanut butter cup in my roommate’s hand out of sheer anger and frustration  (sorry, Lani). It was very rude.

Of course, times have changed and I realized that my life was on a completely different track when I caught myself on a Chicago rooftop bar scarfing a grilled bratwurst slathered in kraut. Veganism can be a tough sell in a culture of meat consumption. All of the dinners I was invited to that I couldn’t partake in, all of the baked goods brought to work that I couldn’t sample made for a very sad vegan indeed. Without a solid community of other vegans, I fell back into meat eating big time.

My former-vegan self still occasionally haunts me and one thing I learned from all those years of algae smoothies is this:  it just feels better to eat veggies.  I feel sluggish and lethargic after a heavy meat or dairy laden meal. I never, ever feel that way after, say, a carrot or an apple.  So I listen to my body and I give it those veggies and only on occasion do I let the little meat demon who sits on my shoulder have his way (and yes, he is made out of meat).

Creamy Vegan Chickpea Salad

14 oz chickpeas

1 large carrot, peeled and grated

2-3tbsp tahini

1 red pepper, chopped

1/4 cup chopped red onion

The juice of 1 lemon

1/2 bunch of parsley, minced

Salt and Pepper to taste

 Mix the ingredients in the bowl and voila!

This salad is a vegan’s dream, it’s rich in protein from the chickpeas, high in vitamin C from the peppers, beta carotene from the carrots, calcium from the tahini and it tastes awesome. The tahini in this recipe gives the salad the creaminess of mayo with no cholesterol. In fact, if you’re looking for an amazing plant food that mimics the creaminess of milk products, nuts and seeds are your best bet. They are fatty and silky and have that unmistakeably full bodied texture.  I’ve suffered from lactose intolerance since early adolescence and I can tell you first hand how tough it can be to go without cheese, mayo, milk or cream. I always keep tahini on hand when I want a robust, fatty flavor.

If you go to a barbecue this summer and/or  you meet a sad vegan, bring along a bowl of chickpea salad. They will probably give you a hug.

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