Vegan blogger Sarah-Mai Miller loves food and travel, and she combines the two in her blog Eat Pure where she writes about wherever she’s been, from Chicago to the Bahamas. Growing up in the Midwest, Sarah-Mai is out to prove that great cruelty-free food is available anywhere in the world, you just have to know where to look (and how to ask).
Allison Rivers Samson: What’s your vegan story?
Sarah-Mai Miller: Vegetarianism came easy for me.When I was a kid, my father had allergies and I was constantly hearing my parents ask about ingredients. One day I happened to ask my mother what was in a hamburger. When I made the connection that a living, breathing, warm and fuzzy cow had to be killed, that was it for me. I’ve never understood why something has to die for me to eat. Becoming vegan wasn’t quite as simple… it took me twenty-five years to fully make the transition. I stopped eating eggs about ten years before I was able to completely stop eating cheese. I thought I’d never be able to give up cheese, but once I did, I had no idea what took me so long. (My parents also eventually went vegan, and now have a vegan restaurant called Ely’s To Go in Ohio!)
ARS: You live in a “mixed” household, where you’re vegan and your husband isn’t, how does that work for your relationship?
S-MM: When we cook at home, we simply make two versions of whatever we’re making. Luckily, my husband eats vegetarian at home (and loves vegan butter and mayo), so the only variations are eggs and cheese. And this month he has gone vegan as a 30 day trial… so we’ll see how it goes!
ARS: Do you cook at home often or do you prefer to eat out?
S-MM: I get all kinds of recipes and inspiration from my parents, so my husband and I eat in a lot. Yet, living between New York and Chicago, we love to eat out, too. They are two of the very best cities for vegan eats.
ARS: So I’ve heard. Someday I would love to take a tasting trip to both of those places. What are your favorite meals?
S-MM: For savory, it would have to be my mother’s Bánh Xèo, a traditional Vietnamese dish (above). A pan fried rice flour pancake is filled with mung beans, bean sprouts, mushrooms and green onions, served with fresh lettuce, herbs, cucumbers and vegetarian nước chấm (a light dipping sauce). For sweets, I have two favorites… Mint chocolate chip ice cream from Lula’s Sweet Apothecary in New York and Coconut Cream Pie from Karyn’s Cooked in Chicago.
ARS: As far as eating at home goes, do you have a favorite quick-and-easy recipe for folks on the go?
S-MM: Here’s my mom’s killer recipe for Tempeh Chickenless Salad that people go nuts over. It’s great as a sandwich, but I especially love it on crackers: 8 ounces tempeh, cubed 2 tablespoons rice or white vinegar 2 tablespoons soy sauce 4 tablespoons water poultry seasoning, to taste 2-3 tablespoons green onion, diced 1 celery stalk, diced 2/3 cup vegan mayo 1/4 cup red pepper, diced (optional) 2 tablespoons parsley, minced (optional) Bring the tempeh, vinegar, soy sauce and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and use a fork to mash the cubes into smaller bits. Season with poultry seasoning and set aside to cool. When the tempeh mixture is cool enough to handle, stir in the remaining ingredients. (My mom always adds 1-2 tablespoons of ketchup and mustard for flavor. I actually prefer it without.) Enjoy!
ARS: That sounds delicious, I can’t wait to try it! Your blog, Eat Pure is about vegetarian/vegan eating and travel. How do you connect the two?
S-MM: Whenever I travel, I like to document all of the incredible vegan eats I encounter. For one, it’s my response to the age-old question, “What do you eat?” I think most people would be amazed at the array of options available to vegans and vegetarians, in all parts of the world. Secondly, I hope for Eat Pure to become a resource for everyone (vegetarians and omnivores) while traveling. I only feature positive experiences – nothing negative. I’m not a food critic, I just want to let people know where they can find stellar food while traveling.
ARS: When traveling or eating out near home, do you seek out veg-friendly spots ahead of time or figure it out when you arrive?
S-MM: I always try to research beforehand. However, when it comes to last minute dinner plans, I very sweetly ask the server if she/he has any suggestions. I have yet to run into a restaurant that wasn’t willing to make something vegan for me. Many times, it turns out to be the best dish at the table.
ARS: What’s a great travel eating tip for vegans?
S-MM: Ethnic food is the way to go. You’ll find lots of amazing veg options at Indian, Korean, Ethiopian, Thai and Mexican restaurants, just to name a few.
ARS: What’s the most surprisingly veg-friendly town you’ve ever visited?
S-MM: Omaha, Nebraska. I lived there for almost two years and I was constantly amazed at how vegan friendly it was. And since I left, it’s become even more so. Now, you can go to Caffeine Dreams for a vegan meatball sandwich or a polenta and vegan cheese kolache. Block 16 offers vegan schnitzel and Philly sandwiches along with a monthly vegan special. For brunch, McFoster’s has a vegan benedict complete with hollandaise. There’s even vegan ice cream from Ted + Wally’s, with a different flavor every month. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Thanks Sarah-Mai, all this talk of travel and exciting food makes me want to get on a plane to somewhere new and exotic right now!