Just because you don't eat meat, doesn't mean you have to sit  out                                          of summer cookouts

With barbecue season coming up, many adults and teens are rushing with excitement to get back to grilling their favorite foods, as well as getting together with their friends and family to enjoy Grandma’s mac and cheese, Auntie’s potato salad and Dad’s famous barbecue burgers.
However, for many vegans and vegetarians, this is a dreadful time of year restricted to second-hand sides and trips to tasteless veggie platters.
Meanwhile, the market for vegans and vegetarians is steadily growing. It’s time Uncle Willie learned how to make a wider variety of barbecued foods.
I am a vegan, which means I exclude all animal products from my diet. I believe that eating a plant-based diet benefits animals, the environment and people’s own personal health. I’ve been a vegan since October 2017. That’s when I did research on the lifestyle and decided to commit.
I have always had a passion for cooking. I loved to make food with my mom for bake sales and cookouts. As soon as I was old enough, I was making dinners, desserts and breakfasts on my own. When I went vegan, I wasn’t worried about cooking or what to eat because I had read articles, watched YouTube videos, downloaded a vegan app and looked for vegan recipe blogs, so that I knew what I was doing. For new vegans, I would highly recommend that.
[Tia Dantzler standing in front of a plate of food: iGeneration Youth reporter Ayisat Bisiriyu, 15, who is a vegan, and Jeremy Reed, executive chef at Wheelfish Tavern in Pittsburgh, Pa., show off the meatless meal Reed taught Bisiruyu to make when Bisiriyu reached out in advance of barbecue season.] © Akshay Amesur/iGeneration Youth/TNS iGeneration Youth reporter Ayisat Bisiriyu, 15, who is a vegan, and Jeremy Reed, executive chef at Wheelfish Tavern in Pittsburgh, Pa., show off the meatless meal Reed taught Bisiruyu to make when Bisiriyu reached out in advance of barbecue season.
Last summer was my first as a vegan, and I wanted to make extra sure I was not starving at cookouts, so I worked with two chefs to learn how to make meatless barbecue dishes. First, I interviewed Steven Raichlen, host of the PBS show, “Project Smoke,” and author of 31 books including international blockbusters, “The Barbecue Bible,” Planet Barbecue, and “Project Fire.”
Raichlen got into cooking when he was pretty young. He is very interested in all facets of cooking, but specializes in the barbecue and grilling category.
“My interest in food is an intersection of food and history and culture,” he says. “Grilling is the world’s oldest cooking method. Every culture grills, but every culture does it differently.”
Especially interested in American barbecue, Raichlen’s professional mission “is to help people grill better, and help people grill in a more interesting way, and simultaneously in the process of doing that make their life richer and more satisfying.”
Raichlen gave me instructions on how to make a real crowd-pleaser — grilled pound cake with berry salsa and whipped cream. This recipe was very easy to make and something I think everyone should make for their next cookout.
[a person cooking food on a stove: Bored with second-hand sides and trips to tasteless veggie platters, iGeneration Youth reporter, Ayisat Bisiriyu, 15, who is a vegan, reached out to Jeremy Reed, executive chef at Wheelfish Tavern in Pittsburgh, Pa., for help. Bisiriyu sautes a mirepoix mixture, while Reed adds cayenne pepper to make a creole tomato sauce to top a smoked eggplant dish.] © Akshay Amesur/iGeneration Youth/TNS Bored with second-hand sides and trips to tasteless veggie platters, iGeneration Youth reporter, Ayisat Bisiriyu, 15, who is a vegan, reached out to Jeremy Reed, executive chef at Wheelfish Tavern in Pittsburgh, Pa., for help. Bisiriyu sautes a mirepoix mixture, while Reed adds cayenne pepper to make a creole tomato sauce to top a smoked eggplant dish.
Next, I reached out to Jeremy Reed, culinary arts professor at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and executive chef at Wheelfish Tavern in Pittsburgh, Pa. I asked him to help me make Stephen Raichlen’s recipe, since I didn’t have a smoker. He agreed and helped me prepare Raichlen’s tasty grilled dessert plus smoked eggplant and grilled veggie tacos, two dishes from Wheelfish’s menu. He also taught me a simple stovetop/oven method for smoking foods.
[a person standing next to a suitcase: Bored with second-hand sides and trips to tasteless veggie platters, iGeneration Youth reporter, Ayisat Bisiriyu, 15, who is a vegan, reached out to Jeremy Reed, executive chef at Wheelfish Tavern in Pittsburgh, Pa., for help. Bisiriyu takes notes while Reed explains how they will make smoked eggplant, an easy-to-make dish that can become a barbecue staple for meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters alike.] © Akshay Amesur/iGeneration Youth/TNS Bored with second-hand sides and trips to tasteless veggie platters, iGeneration Youth reporter, Ayisat Bisiriyu, 15, who is a vegan, reached out to Jeremy Reed, executive chef at Wheelfish Tavern in Pittsburgh, Pa., for help. Bisiriyu takes notes while Reed explains how they will make smoked eggplant, an easy-to-make dish that can become a barbecue staple for meat-eaters and non-meat-eaters alike.
Reed also started cooking at a young age, but for very different reasons.
“I grew up in New York and we didn’t really have much. I thought that if I went the direction of being a chef that I would never have to worry about being hungry,” he said.
He started working at a local pizzeria folding boxes and soon realized that when he worked, he was able to get free pizzas. This allowed him to help feed his family.
Reed expanded on his cooking skills from there, and his experiences eventually led to positions as a chef and educator, teaching in higher education and mentoring younger students like me.
Most people know how to prepare only meat-based dishes and have no idea where to start with creating plant-based meals. Vegetables can actually be a versatile, hearty meal. As long as you know how to prepare and season it, you can make practically any vegetable taste delicious.
[a slice of cake and ice cream on a plate: Bored with second-hand sides and trips to tasteless veggie platters during barbecue season, iGeneration Youth reporter, Ayisat Bisiruyu, 15, who is a vegan, reached out to chefs for help. Stephen Raichlen, award-winning chef and host of the PBS show, “Project Smoke" gave her tips for making grilled pound cake with berry salsa and whipped cream, from his book, “The Barbecue Bible," and Jeremy Reed, executive chef at Wheelhouse Tavern in Pittsburgh, Pa., helped her to make it.] © Akshay Amesur/iGeneration Youth/TNS Bored with second-hand sides and trips to tasteless veggie platters during barbecue season, iGeneration Youth reporter, Ayisat Bisiruyu, 15, who is a vegan, reached out to chefs for help. Stephen Raichlen, award-winning chef and host of the PBS show, “Project Smoke" gave her tips for making grilled pound cake with berry salsa and whipped cream, from his book, “The Barbecue Bible," and Jeremy Reed, executive chef at Wheelhouse Tavern in Pittsburgh, Pa., helped her to make it.
Reed emphasized the importance of knowing what foods you’re working with.
“Meatier, heavier vegetables do really well in terms of texture,” he said. “Eggplant definitely fits into this box and is a great meat substitute when vegetarian grilling.”
Other vegetables that can really work well for meat substitutes are Portobello mushrooms, bell pepper and cauliflower.
If you’re setting out to make your grilled vegetarian recipe, don’t be afraid to experiment. Do research on textures, flavors, and spices of plant-based foods, Reed said.
“When you have those robust flavors, you’re satisfied, and that’s what a lot of people don’t realize — the more layers of flavor you build, the more satisfied you are holistically with what you eat.”
If you don’t eat meat you don’t have to starve. There are many barbecuing and grilling recipes that are super easy and simple to make. Even if you are a meat eater, it is easy to accommodate your vegetarian and vegan friends by just doing a little research and experimentation. When provided with the right tools, you can learn to make plant-based recipes that even carnivores can enjoy.
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ABOUT THE WRITER
Ayisat Bisiriyu, 15, is an iGeneration Youth reporter living in, Pittsburgh.
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