The Manzers

The Manzers


by Rebecca Hess

Please list your family members’ names and ages along with something special about them (occupation, favorite food, favorite past time, etc.):

  • Gretchen is 25 and vegan. She is a stay at home mom and enjoys traveling, running, and eating out!
  • Bart is also 25 and is serving in the US Navy. He loves being active and outdoors.
  • Caden is 2 and is 200% boy! He is always running, jumping and bouncing off the walls. His favorites are soymilk, fruit, and French fries.

Is everyone in your family vegan and if not, what’s that like?

Gretchen cut out meat 11 years ago and went vegan 4 years ago. Bart has been vegetarian for 2 years and Caden has been vegan since birth. We all wish Bart could make the jump into veganism but it is nearly impossible being in the military. When he is out at sea he has no choice but to make do with what the ship serves. Unfortunately there would be nothing to eat if he didn’t at least eat dairy.

Were your kids raised vegan from the start or did your family transition into being vegan?
Caden has been vegan since birth and I am amazed at how healthy he is compared to other children. He was 8lbs. 15 oz. at birth and his weight and height have been right on track ever since.

Are extended family and friends supportive of your lifestyle? If you recently transitioned to veganism, how did they react to your change in lifestyle?
Our family and friends have been wonderful about our choices. They are always willing to try our food and we even catch them buying it for themselves! Veganism is very contagious and we see other people making healthier choices because of our influence. Of course there will always be those one or two people who seem to wake each day thinking of inappropriate comments to throw at us but we mostly laugh it off and try to remember that some will just never get it.

Is vegan food easy to obtain in your area?
Being vegan in Sicily has its challenges but we make the most of what we have. Going out to eat is actually easier here than in the states because there are plenty of oil and tomato based pasta dishes and we often order pizza without the cheese. Potato and spinach dishes are also popular here. The difficult part is usually finding vegan mock meats. I have yet to find a health food store on par with those in the states so I usually end up ordering a lot on-line. The military commissary has a decent selection of Morningstar Farm and Boca “meats,” but as I’m sure everyone knows most of those products have egg bases. We try to have fun experimenting and it has even made us more thankful for the few vegan products we can find.

How do you handle holidays and birthday parties?
Well, we love Tofurky, but it’s impossible to find in Sicily so we make do with side dishes at holidays or maybe make seitan. We did Caden’s 2nd birthday party completely vegan. I made PB&J sandwiches for the kids and we grilled vegan burgers for the adults along with pasta salad, chips and a fruit and veggie tray. I’ve tried many recipes for birthday cake but I’m not too much of a baker and I wasn’t satisfied with any of them, so I made vegan sugar cookies and tofutti ice cream. Everyone was pleased and impressed with the food.

Do you have any favorite recipes or cookbooks?
We try a lot of recipes from, but it’s hard because most of the time we can’t find the ingredients here in Sicily. Our favorites are soy tacos and Philly cheese steaks.

Please describe any social or emotional issues you’ve had to deal with in raising vegan kids.
Because Caden hasn’t hit school age yet we really haven’t had to deal with any social problems. I am a stay at home mom so he hasn’t been to day care either. Our friends occasionally watch him, but they completely understand our choices and are familiar with what he can and cannot eat.

Have you met any resistance (or ignorance) when dealing with doctors and/or teachers?
So far our doctors have been very supportive about his diet and never suggest anything negative about it. We are not given many medical care choices here because we are limited to the military facility. I often wish I could consult with a pediatrician or dietician who is familiar with veganism because there are a few issues that I don’t feel satisfied with.

Do you have any words of advice to offer other vegan families or families in the process of transitioning to veganism?
I would just say take your time. I think veganism is a lot more of a challenge than vegetarianism, and for me personally took a lot of time to transition into. It’s something you need to be sure of and be ready for so that you don’t ever have to go back or constantly be tempted. I think everyone agrees though, the more you don’t eat it, the less you want it.

Rebecca Hess lives in New Jersey with her husband Steve and their crazy cats. She holds a masters degree in theatre and loves being part of vegfamily and getting to try so many great vegan products!


Author: VegFamily

VegFamily is a comprehensive resource for raising vegan children, including pregnancy, vegan recipes, expert advice, book reviews, product reviews, message board, and everyday vegan living.

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