The first day I went vegetarian, I was 9 years old. That day, my classmate gave a presentation on factory farms and how those animals, just before morphing into lunch meat, packed in little lunch boxes, are treated. There were images. Disturbing images. And there was also video footage with bone-chilling sounds.
You can only imagine how traumatizing this was for a little nine year old. By the time his presentation was over, I was in tears. My classmate had exposed me (and I’m pretty sure the rest of my classmates) to something that I had never once thought about or questioned.
I had never questioned where the meat I was eating everyday actually came from. I just always believed the labels that showed rolling green hills with cows happily grazing and chickens in cute little farm houses (this has now been proven to be false – omnivores dilemma).
Well, my world changed after that kid’s presentation. So much so that I went home and told my parents “I don’t want to eat meat anymore”, which to a Mexican family, is pretty much like saying; “I don’t want to live anymore”.
Being Mexican means eating carne asada at your cousins birthday party. It means eating your Nana’s homemade, slow cooked frijoles smothered in lard or bacon. It means eating red chili beef tamales during Christmas. It means eating chicken tacos on a Tuesday night. It doesn’t mean eating plants or ‘rabbit food’ as my dad would say.
My first experiment into vegetarianism did not last long. During those few months that I was vegetarian, I would eat tostadas pretty often. Mostly because it was one of the few things that my mom knew how to cook that didn’t have any meat at all. Me, being a 9-year-old vegetarian in a Mexican family was pretty damn hard.
I didn’t know how to get the proper nutrition without meat and neither did my family. I didn’t know about cookbooks or online recipes at the time (because for most Mexicans, you don’t follow recipes — just make dishes that you’ve learned from previous generations).
Eventually, I had to eat meat again because my dad said I was turning into ‘skin n bones’. I knew he was right, so I promised when I turned 18 I would go full vegetarian (yes, I was a very rebellious kid). So I did. And believe me, I struggled. But I did it. Now, I am mostly vegan and I think I look like an alien to my family. A Mexican, plant-based alien.
So, I hope this blog can be a resource for people who felt like me at that time, wanting to be vegetarian/vegan but not knowing what to really eat. Particularly when a plant-based diet clashes with your culturally defined diet.
I hope I can help you see that eating food, good nutritious plant-based foods, is possible even if you come from a family that eats a lotta cheese and meat. You don’t have to give up your favorite traditional foods. Well, yeah of course you’ll have to learn how to not like carne asada (which is actually pretty easy once you’re conscious about what you’re eating). You might look like, feel like, and talk like an alien from the view of family members. But soon, your family will get curious. They’ll see the colors, smell the smells, and soon enough be asking you to make them dinner. So really, do it at your own risk.
If I had these tostadas back when I was 9, maybe I would’ve teased my dad by showing him how much better my plate looked compared to his…
These tostadas are colorful, easy, the perfect summer meal, packed with fiber (so you may need extra toilet paper), packed with flavor, and MEXICAN!
They require only a few simple ingredients.
And they are topped with an abso-fuckin-lutely delicious avocado cilantro lime dressing!
I hope all you carne asada lovers and veggie goers enjoy these ‘inconvenient tacos’ (guys equipped with healthy mustaches beware, you WILL get avocado in it).
Easy Summertime Tostadas
For the Tostadas
- Small corn tortillas
- 1 can refried beans*
- Red cabbage, sliced
For the Mango Salsa
- 3-4 large ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2 mangos, finely chopped
- Bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
- Fresh lime juice
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño (some seeds left in for spiciness), chopped
- Generous amount of salt
For the Avocado Cilantro Lime Sauce
- 2-3 ripe Avocados
- 1 bunch Cilantro
- Fresh Lime Juice (about 1 medium lime)
- 2 tsps Cumin
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 2 tsps Garlic Powder
- Splash of water (to thin)
- Preheat oven to 400º.
- Place corn tortillas on baking sheet and lightly spray with oil*. Place in oven for about 10-15 minutes, flipping each tortilla after about 7 mins, bake until crisp and brown
- Open can of refried beans and place on saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Prepare the Avocado Cilantro Lime Sauce. Deseed and peel 2 large avocados and place in food processor or blender. Add bunch of cilantro, lime juice (to taste), cumin, cloves garlic, garlic powder, salt (to taste), splash of water to thin or until you’ve reached the desired consistency. Place in a jar/container to chill in the fridge.
- Prepare the salsa Finely chop tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, mango, jalapeño or add all ingredients to a food processor if you’re low on time. Add lime or lemon and salt.
- Assemble the tostadas any way you want! I layered mine in this order: Beans spread on first (duh), red cabbage, pico de gallo, topped with avocado cilantro lime sauce and hot sauce (and, of course, LOTS OF LEMON).
- If you’re wearing a nice shirt that you don’t want to get dirty, don’t forget a bib.