Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

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Avoiding Potluck Pitfalls

question.gif - 1.4 K Please address a particular situation my family and I often encounter: the omnivore potluck. Yes, we do bring one or more vegan dishes for ourselves and to share. However, is there any tactful way to ask the proverbial question, "Is there meat in this dish?" Another concern is how long the prepared foods usually are left out. More often than not at potlucks dishes remain on the table for long periods of time uncovered and unheated. Is there any problem with this practice?

answer.gif - 1.3 K Potluck gatherings and parties are lots of fun and a great opportunity to taste new recipes. Unfortunately, omnivore potlucks can be a challenge for vegans. They also can be a perfect breeding ground for foodborne pathogens. Soups, casseroles, spreads, dips, pasta, potato salads, and many other foods typically sit on buffet tables at room temperature for hours on end. Because with most potluck meals the host doesn't have control over what dishes guests bring, there is little control over how foods are prepared, handled, stored, or served. This is true of vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore potlucks.

Food sensitivities are rampant today. As a result, potluck meals can be particularly frustrating and even dangerous for people with special dietary needs. Not only are foods rarely labeled with a complete list of ingredients, there is the additional hazard of cross-contamination of both food allergens and foodborne pathogens caused by improper handling or using a single serving utensil for various dishes.

Most potlucks do not provide ways to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, so the pathogens that can cause illness frequently abound. Contrary to popular belief, vegan and vegetarian foods are just as capable of causing debilitating food poisoning as animal products. Often people don't associate a headache, gastrointestinal upset, or vomiting with food they ate at a potluck, because food poisoning symptoms can take many hours and sometimes even days to appear. Consequently, safety measures should be taken with every potluck, whether or not meat is being served.

Remember that food spoilage in progress is almost impossible to detect. It takes only an hour for bacteria to grow to dangerous proportions in warm, moist conditions. This growth does not alter the taste, odor, or appearance of most foods at the time they are being served. Take extra precautions with high-protein and moist high-carbohydrate foods.

If you are the host of a potluck gathering, here are some recommendations to keep you, your children, and your guests safe from foodborne illness. If you are not the host but are attending a potluck event, pass on these suggestions to the appropriate person in charge. (The following information is excerpted from the book Raising Vegetarian Children. The book contains a comprehensive section on food safety, if you would like to read about this topic in greater depth.)

  1. Food display and service should be well planned in advance so that potentially hazardous foods are handled, stored, and served properly and at the correct temperatures.
  2. Hot foods must maintain an internal temperature of 140°F or higher (preferably between 140°F and 160°F).
  3. Reheated foods must reach 165°F or higher and then be reduced to 140°F or higher for holding or serving. Soups should be heated to boiling; they then can be transferred to a covered electric slow cooker (Crock-Pot) for serving. Casseroles must be reheated to an internal temperature of 165°F and can be kept hot (140°F or higher) on the buffet table with warming trays, chafing dishes, or slow cookers.
  4. Cold foods must be maintained at 40°F or colder during service or storage. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice.
  5. Use a "stab thermometer" for checking the internal temperature of food (such as casseroles and loaves or chilled dishes) and disposable gloves to cover cut or scraped hands (or long or painted fingernails).
  6. Maintain a list of the names, addresses, and phone number of each person who brought an item to the event, including what they prepared. Foods should be transported to the event in a clean vehicle with proper temperature control.
  7. Make sure that every dish served is accompanied by a card that lists the ingredients in full. Be sure that guests understand the importance of listing every ingredient, as some foods can be extremely hazardous for people with food sensitivities. Of course, this is also a good way for vegans and vegetarians to find out which dishes are acceptable for them while alleviating the pressure and awkwardness of asking questions.
  8. Food handlers should not be ill, have an "asymptomatic" illness, or open cuts or wounds. Handlers should not be permitted to use tobacco or eat or drink while handling foods.
  9. Proper hand washing should be strictly enforced after restroom use, smoking, drinking, eating, or handling garbage or dirty dishes.
  10. Have only one person designated to serve. Do not permit self-serve for adults or children. Do not allow children to handle or serve food.




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