Variety of concerns bring guests to the table for vegan potluck


January 10, 2002|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SUE ANDRESEN never saw herself as a vegetarian, but Saturday she found herself having a vegan dinner party at her Clarksville home.

"I never thought I would become a vegetarian or vegan because I don't like that many veggies," Andresen said. However, she learned that eating vegan is more a way of life than a love of vegetables.

In July, Andresen's daughter, Amy Smith, and Smith's boyfriend, Chris Bolt, both 18, moved to Clarksville. They had recently become vegans - meaning they eat no animal products, including the hidden ones, such as whey and casein, as well as the obvious ones such as cheese and eggs, Andresen said.

Andresen said she began cooking vegan much of the time for her family - which also includes a son, Mark, 14 - because it was easier than cooking two meals. "I found that vegan cooking isn't nearly as difficult as I had assumed," she said.

But she was disappointed in the limited options for vegan eating, aside from cooking in her own kitchen.

After Andresen and her husband, Brand Fortner, attended a Thanksgiving dinner held by the Vegetarian Resource Group in Baltimore, the couple had the idea of holding a monthly vegan potluck in their home.

"We anticipate it as being an opportunity to meet people, socialize, share food and recipes, and promote a healthy lifestyle," Andresen said.

So she posted notices in health food stores and newspapers inviting people to her dinner. Vegans, vegetarians and others met Saturday to share recipes and exchange ideas about healthy eating. Dinner guests gave ethical and health reasons for their interest in being vegan.

Rebecca and Dave Pille and their son, Chris, 16, of Laurel, dined with Andresen and her family that night. "There are a lot of ethical overtones to veganism," Rebecca Pille said.

"Modern food industry practices are harmful to the Earth and to the animals, and to the people who eat the animals," she said. "It's not like the olden days when we were pioneers. There are many foods around now to choose from."

Others are concerned with the negative health aspects of eating animal products.

Adrienne Trost of Baltimore attended the dinner with her daughter, Robin Bounds, who lives in Clarksville. Although the pair are not vegan, Trost is concerned about her cholesterol level and hopes to learn more-healthful ways of preparing food.

Andresen and Bolt said that most of the cholesterol in a person's diet stems from animal products.

Guests savored dishes such as zucchini curry, mushrooms and rice, red curry tofu, and cabbage leaves stuffed with tofu. Desserts included peanut butter-and-chocolate balls, rice pudding, fresh fruit and chocolate chip cookies. Everyone seemed pleased with the food and most enjoyed seconds.

Vegans Katie Smallwood of Baltimore, Kevin Hall of Bowie and Ginger Farnham of Bethesda met Andresen and her family at the Vegetarian Resource Group's Thanksgiving dinner and were delighted about the idea of feasting with them again.

Smallwood, 20, and Farnham, 22, have been practicing vegans for about a year and a half, while Hall, 20, converted recently. The young people say they don't miss the old way of eating.

"I don't think about what I don't have," said Smallwood. "I just don't like the way animals are treated in milk production."

Like many vegans, Smallwood and Hall started as vegetarians. "Veganism is more like an animal-rights thing, more than vegetarianism, which is a health thing," Hall said. "For vegans, it's half health, half animal rights."

Although Andresen and Fortner don't always eat vegan, or even vegetarian, they sympathize with those who choose to keep a vegan diet. "I can see the wisdom in it. If more people did it, it would make a difference," Andresen said. "When you look at how much land it takes to feed animals, if we just used that for growing food, we would all be much better off."

Andresen and Fortner plan to hold a dinner on the first Saturday of each month in the foreseeable future. Anyone is welcome; you don't need to be vegan or vegetarian.

Information: 301-854-0147, or send e-mail to

Hound-happy holiday

The Happy Hounds 4-H Club held a holiday party Dec. 13 at Karianna Barr's home in Fulton. Everyone brought a gift to exchange. But the gifts were for the dogs, not the humans.

Club members also made canine gift packets that were donated to the Humane Society to be given out with each dog adopted during the holiday season. Packets contained treats, toys, a "thank you for adopting me" card, and a flier about the club.

The group elected new officers at the meeting. Amy Frasier is the group's president, with Karianna as vice president. Olivia Yancey is secretary, and Heidi Frasier is treasurer of the dog-loving group. Robyn Roogow, Sarah McCarthy, Laura Tindale and Suzanne Wollen will share the job of historian.

The new officers will be installed at the group's meeting tonight.

Information: www.fourfooters. com/happyhounds/happyhounds4h. shtml.

Scholars and scholarships

Four River Hill High School students have been selected as semifinalists in the 2002 Coca-Cola Scholars program. Suneel Bhat, Megan Morales, Palak Parikh and Shelby Yu are among the 2,000 students who advanced to the semi- finals phase of the program out of about 91,000 applicants.

Coca-Cola will narrow the field to 200 regional winners, who will receive $4,000 college scholarships, and 50 national winners, who will receive $20,000 scholarships.

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