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Mayim Bialik.

Though she is best recognized for her television roles, including schoolgirl Blossom in the early '90s, and neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on the current hit comedy, 'The Big Bang Theory,' Mayim Bialik is making an impression beyond the screen by promoting veganism. Her most recent endeavor is a cookbook entitled Mayim s Vegan Table, which she hopes will help families feel comfortable with making easy vegan dishes.

The book stemmed from her popular blog on the Jewish parenting website, Kveller, where Bialik details her journey as a Jewish mother, which, no surprise, includes a lot of talk about cooking and eating. Because Bialik is a vegan, her blog quickly became a resource for vegetarian Jews looking to align their beloved culinary traditions with their modern vegan values. Writing about veganism and Judaism flowed well. "Being vegan is not a religion, but sometimes there is a religious kind of consciousness to it," Bialik said.

After posting vegan recipes like Kosher for Passover Mini Potato Kugels and Sofganyot (jelly donuts traditionally served on Chanukah), and infusing them with humor and stories about cooking with kids, Bialik was inundated with requests for more. "People can't imagine celebrating holidays after making a transition to being vegan or vegetarian," she said.

Originally, her plan was to turn her recipes into a pamphlet, but it ended up being 200+ pages, with more than 100 vegan recipes in addition to relatable chapters explaining the rationale behind plant-based eating. "I literally took the recipes that I make the most often and the ones that are the most reliable. I didn't want to do a fancy celebrity cookbook, because Fm not a fancy celebrity," she said. To add a nutritional voice to the book, Bialik collaborated with Dr. Jay Gordon, a pediatric nutritionist and pediatrician.

Bialik became vegetarian at age 19, and slowly began cutting out dairy in stages. But when her first son was born, she discovered that he had an adverse reaction to any trace of dairy in her breast milk. "He was fussy and gassy and really just miserable, so I cut out all dairy, which solved the problem very quickly," she said. "Then I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, which changed everything for me. That was the end of any trace dairy or eggs in candy bars, pastries, everything. I didn't know where to draw the line, so I simply erased it."

Though Bialik is involved in and lends her name to several vegan causes, she calls raising vegan and conscious kids her "personal activism." She promotes veganism when taping The Big Bang Theory. "On tape nights we have a live audience and I wear crazy loud vegan t-shirts so that when we go out for curtain calls I'm advertising that I'm vegan ... I like the 'Kale Yeah I'm Vegan!' one from PETA," she said. "It's a couple hundred people getting to see it each night; it's what I like to wear when I know people are paying attention. I hope that people will say, 'Oh, she's wearing a vegan shirt. She's a vegan.'"

In addition to promoting veganism out of costume, Bialik (who holds a PhD in neuroscience like her character, Amy), makes sure she has plenty of vegan food on set. "Whenever we have food scenes, which there are a lot of, our propmaster knows to make me a vegan version," she said. "We recently had a lasagna scene ... Unfortunately, it was the propmaster's first time ever making a vegan lasagna ... it was OK. I told him I need to introduce him to Daiya."

Bialik likes easing people into veganism, always keeping busy moms in mind. "I know I'm very lucky to live in a city where I can easily get amazing vegan food...I know that's not the case in many places in the country, so in the cookbook I try to present things that are able to be made inexpensively and quickly," she said. "I wrote the book on a very broad platform, which makes it easier to hear the lessons and motivation behind veganism."

Samantha Gendler is the Senior Editor of The Vegetarian Journal.
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Title Annotation:Vegetarian Action
Author:Gendler, Samantha
Publication:Vegetarian Journal
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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