Q&A with the Authors of “Seagan Eating”
After publishing their first book—The Vegan Cheat Sheet—together, authors Amy Cramer and Lisa McComsey decided to rethink their “cheat” in a way that really caught our eye. We are all trying to eat healthier and more eco-conscious, but veganism isn’t necessarily a great fit for everyone. This is what makes Seagan Eating so brilliant: it’s a cheat sheet for vegans who want to stray… the healthy way.
Amy: I was the first. I became vegan for health reasons. My husband has hereditary high cholesterol and was tired of being on medication for it. At the time, we were living in Cleveland and knew Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, the world-renown doctor at the Cleveland Clinic, who believed that if you ate a hundred percent plant-based diet and eliminated oils you could reverse heart disease and lower cholesterol to the point that you wouldn’t need to be on meds. So, we did it and my husband has been off the meds for 10 or 11 years now.
Lisa: Amy was my inspiration. About nine or 10 years ago I was about to embark on a family get-fit competition. As a freelance writer at the time, I was in between jobs and very much in need of winning that pot of money. I called Amy to wish her a happy birthday and she told me how delicious eating vegan was and all these great meals she was making. I have always been very interested in health, fitness and nutrition and was eating a primarily vegetarian diet at the time. I thought I’d give it a try for a month because, well, you can do anything for a month, but I was sure that I would hate it. My perspective about a vegan diet was that it sounds horrible, boring and deprivational. It took a few weeks to get into the groove but once I dove in and learned how to cook vegan food I fell in love with it. I won the family competition and I felt fantastic.
And how did you both decide to start eating seafood?
Amy: It turns out that we both started eating seafood separately but didn’t tell each other about it at first. I think we both felt a little guilty and were afraid to admit that we were eating seafood. For an ethical vegan, eating seafood is a mortal sin, but we feel that there is room for all types of ways to eat. We understood why we weren’t eating chicken or cheese, but we realized that we didn’t understand why we weren’t eating fish. The type of omega-3s you get from fish versus from flaxseeds or other plant-based foods is far superior. Your body does confer the ALA that you get from flaxseeds into DHA and EPA (the three main types of omega-3s), but as with any conversion it’s hard work on the body so it’s not efficient. It made sense healthwise to adopt the seagan diet (plants + seafood) versus the vegan. We became vegan for health reasons, and we became seagan for health reasons as well.
What was your goal for Seagan Eating?
Lisa: The goal for the book was really to simplify the process of shopping for and preparing food and to also show people that it’s not difficult to eat simply, healthy and affordably. It just takes a little effort but you will adapt and learn, and soon you will find this new way of eating as easy as the old.
Amy: Another goal for the book was to reframe the gold standard for a healthy diet. There are a lot of people who believe that the vegan diet is the best way you can eat, but for many, it’s just too much. If you add fish to a diet full of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and whole grains it makes eating a plant-based diet more accessible to everyone.
Let’s talk about cashew cream of which there is 20 mentions in the book. What are your favorite ways to use cashew cream with fish?
Amy: I don’t believe in deprivation. I believe that everything should be rich and delicious and bursting with flavor. My favorite thing to make from the book is my Shrimp Bisque, which is something most people haven’t eaten for years as it’s usually made with heavy cream and considered a treat. If you substitute the cashew cream directly for heavy cream you remove a nutritional hazard and replace it with something that is nutritionally brilliant—raw cashews.
I also love making mushroom port wine sauces that give fish a meaty feel. I just take some mushrooms, cook them down with shallots and garlic, add some port wine to glaze the pan and finish it off with some cashew cream, cracked black pepper and a little sea salt.
What are your all-time favorite ways to prepare fish?
Amy: In addition to the Shrimp Bisque, I also love the Seafood Newburg [both recipes are in the book]. But my go-to preparation, that I do almost every week, is a fish in foil. Take a piece of any fish you want, throw in some herbs and wine, tent it in foil and cook it in a frying pan, on a grill or in an oven—it doesn’t matter. No cleanup and it’s super easy.
Lisa: I should probably point out that I am a complete ignoramus in the kitchen. Prior to this book, I’d never prepared a fish dish for myself or for anyone else. I found it intimidating, I didn’t know how to shop for it, and I was afraid I would screw it up in the kitchen. I’m still working my way through the recipes in the book—which I find very easy for a non-chef—and I too love the fish in foil. I also really enjoy Asian flavors, specifically the Thai Curry Haddock in Foil and the Soy-Ginger Halibut with Bok Choy in Foil.
What are your top three tips for shopping for fish and cooking it for someone just starting out on their fish journey?
- 1) Talk to the guy behind the fish counter.
- 2) If you walk into a fish store and it smells like fish, walk out. Fish should have a clean, briny smell. The eyes of any whole fish should be convex not concave and the pupils should be clear, not cloudy.
- 3) Know what you’re looking for and what questions to ask: Where is it from? Is it sustainably sourced? Is there a lot of bi-catch? Is it a high-mercury fish?
And as far as preparation goes, when in doubt: fish in foil. You just can’t go wrong.
To learn more about the Lisa and Amy and this book, visit the Seagan Eating website.
Considering going vegan? It may not be as environmentally friendly as you think.