info for vegetarians
Tokyo Vegetarian-friendly
Restaurant Guide
Diary - Living in Tokyo
as a Semi-Vegan
Recommended Readings
Written in Japanese
Articles about Vegetarianism
written by Hiroko Kato
Online Vegetarian/Vegan Handouts
Shopping Guide
Good News & Good News
Links for Vegetarians

- Japanese Vegan Foods Found in Oriental or Natural Food Stores
- How to Eat at a Japanese Restaurant the Vegan Way (written for Vegetarian Journal)
- A Vegan Wedding (Special to The Daily Yomiuri, June 29)
- Vegan Japanese Noodle Dishes (written for Vegetarian Journal)

A Vegan Wedding (Special to The Daily Yomiuri, June 29, 2002)

Baltimore, Md. --On a brilliant Sunday morning in May, about 80 people gathered in a 70-year-old mansion for a wedding. When the bride, Tamara Richter, appeared in her white dress, the guests whispered to each other, "How pretty she is!" The fact that the bride's dress contained neither silk nor pearls went unnoticed, but it was an important point for Richter; who is vegan.

"Many dresses are made of silk and have pearl decorations. Neither are vegan and I wanted my wedding dress vegan. My shoes are not leather, either," Richter, 28, said.

Vegans, or pure vegetarians, eat no foods derived from animals. In addition to meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and honey, they also shun leather, silk, wool and other animal products. People become vegan for various reasons, including health, ecological and religious concerns, compassion for animals and belief in nonviolence.

According to a survey conducted in 2000 by the Vegetarian Resource Group, a nonprofit educational group in Maryland, 0.9 percent of adults, or 1.7 million people, in the United States, are vegan, while 2.5 percent, or 4.8 million, were vegetarian (do not eat meat, fish, or poultry).

Richter became a vegetarian when she was 15 because she thought it was "cool." She cut out meat first, then poultry, fish, before becoming vegan five years ago. "It was hard not to eat eggs and cheese, even though I knew eating them hurt animals. But thanks to my experience working with vegetarian advocates, I don't have cravings for cheese omelets anymore. They provided me with plenty of information on how to find vegan substitutes," she recalled.

Richter herself helped her vegetarian boyfriend to become vegan. Having the same eating habits helped the relationship to grow, and the couple soon started living together. They began to enjoy a variety of vegan meals --from "vegan pancakes" for breakfast to "vegan shepherd's pie" for dinner-- thanks to his talents in the kitchen.

When they decided to marry, it was a given that the wedding would be vegan. Richter and her bridegroom, Jeff Barnes, 30, took two years to prepare their once-in-a-lifetime event so that it would be as perfect as possible.

Despite the fact that most of the guests were not vegan or even vegetarian, their parents warmly accepted the idea of a "vegan wedding."

"My mother is vegetarian, but she's not vegan. Neither my father nor Jeff's parents are vegetarians. Still, they were very understanding," Richter said. It was not easy, though, to find a caterer who could fulfill their request to serve vegan wedding dishes.

"I called all the caters in the Baltimore/Washington area. Most people I spoke with had no idea what 'vegan' meant," Richter recalled.

After a tiring search, the couple finally found someone who understood what they wanted right away. The caterer, Cuisine Catering, didn't specialize in vegetarian and vegan food, but had experience making those kinds of dishes.
"We were very lucky," Richter said. "The chef is not vegan or vegetarian, but was very creative and make an excellent menu for us. Tasting menu samples (before the wedding), we believe that our guests will be as content with his vegan wedding dishes as we were."

Richter was right. After the wedding ceremony, appetizers were served to the guests standing in line to greet the newlyweds and their parents. The finger foods, which included Spinach Phyllo Cocktail Triangles (crispy spinach pastry puffs) and Potato Puffs with Spicy Mustard (seasoned mashed potatoes in a light pastry with cranberry mustard dipping sauce), were impressive enough and no one seemed to mind they were vegan.

The reception hall was set up ready to welcome guests with more enjoyable vegan dishes: Mediterranean roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, red and green peppers, and carrots in a light basil olive oil dressing) served with humms, tapenade (a thick paste made from capers, ripe olives, olive oil and lemon juice), and pita bread; Wild Mushroom Action Station (sauteed wild mushrooms and grilled marinated Portobello mushrooms); and a Williamsburg-style platter of fresh fruits featuring pineapples filled with ripe strawberries, melons and other seasonal fruits). The drink menu was non-alcoholic at the couple's request. Organic coffee was one of the drinks served.

In addition to eating the unique wedding dishes, people also took pictures of them, often asking, "What is this?" Many had eaten vegetarian food before, but vegan dishes were still unfamiliar. Some of the guests exchanged vegetarian dining stories, saying, for example, "I ate at vegetarian restaurants many times and I like it." One enthusiastic woman asked Richter's vegan friend about the health benefits of such a diet.

One vegetarian guest confessed that she hadn't become vegan because she liked cheese. But she loved the vegan appetizers. "This dip tastes like real cheese," the chef, Avi Cohen, explained. "Instead of using cheese, I put artichoke and vegan soy cheese into the dip. Artichoke tastes like Parmesan." He said that it was not really difficult to create the vegan wedding menu. "I knew the substitutes I can use for vegans, such as tofu, seitan (wheat gluten), or tempeh (a kind of fermented soy product). I just tried to preserve the natural flavors of the vegetables, and to satisfy my customers."

The highlight of his creations was the main course: a beautifully presented Vegan Napoleon of baked eggplant layered with basil leaves, seitan, spinach, tomatoes and sliced wild mushrooms and served with a fire-roasted red pepper sauce. The side accompaniments are twice-baked rosemary sweet potatoes and lemon-scented asparagus. The fresh, but rich flavor was seductive even to guests who were not vegetarians or vegan. "They were 'different'," one admitted honestly, but said, "Still I found this one was good."

Vegan Wedding Cake


The camera flashed as Richter and Barnes sliced into the wedding cake. The lemon cake with raspberry layers was also vegan, using no dairy products or eggs. It was made by Vedika Webb of Lotus Cake Studio, who works exclusively with vegetarian and vegan brides. "Finding a vegan bakery was relatively easy," Richter said. "The vegetarian group I worked for had a list and we just selected the one we liked the best." Along with the cake, Webb prepared cute vegan petit fours, and in 15 minutes, the dessert plates were almost empty.

"I'm delighted the guests enjoyed our vegan dishes," Richter said, relieved at the compliments she received. "I think they felt more frustrated with a nonalcohol wedding."

To blessings and cheers, the newlyweds left for Hawaii for their honeymoon. They planned to stay there for two weeks, lodging in romantic --and vegan-friendly--accommodation, to round out their wedding in style.

By Hiroko Kato

Copyright 2002 Hiroko Kato. All rights reserved.

Copyright (C) 2002 Hiroko Kato, Tomoko Kinukawa(designer).All rights reserved.