‘LL: What was life like before you became a vegan?
CG: I was on the pathway to becoming obese when I left my hometown of Brownsville, Texas. It really got bad when I moved to Dallas area. I was living a volatile lifestyle. Early in the morning, I would get up to teach and I would have a triple cheeseburger for breakfast before my first class of day. I wouldn’t eat again until end of school. Go for another triple cheeseburger or other fast food at night. Wake up and do the same thing over again. I didn’t know any better or how else to do life.
‘LL: You have said that growing up in Texas obesity and health issues were the norm. How has your family responded to your experience with veganism?
CG: I think the word “vegan” took some explaining but it didn’t take much understanding of what it was. The way I explained it to my mom was, “I eat the way we eat during Lent (no meat) on Friday.” It was like “ohhh!” A few years later my brother ended up going vegan to control his psoriases. [It’s not a new idea because] A lot of the food in Central Mexico where my family is from is naturally plant based.
‘LL: What food or dish did you change the most (ingredient wise) that still has the same taste to it?
CG: Definitely my Bandeja Paisa. It’s a Colombian dish from Antioquia. [It is ] considered the national dish of Colombia. Traditionally it includes ground beef, a large sausage, eggs, chicharron (pork rind), rice, beans, plantains and avocado. For my vegan version, I replaced the ground beef with ground seitan (“wheat meat”), the sausage with a lentil-seitan blend, the eggs with a silken tofu scramble and the chicharron with seasoned tofu fillets. Last year I took my vegan bandeja paisa on tour to Colombia (in Bogotá and Medellín) and everybody was blown away by the incredible similarities between my vegan version and the traditional meaty version.