Dilip Barman Interview
I grew up in Southwestern Connecticut and have made Durham, NC my home since the 1990s. My parents are immigrants from India and for generations the family on both sides has been culturally vegetarian. I wasn’t always vegetarian but in college when I had to cook for myself, I saw raw meat in the store and made the connection that if I ate meat, that meant killing an animal. I didn’t then know much about nutrition but I did know that it was entirely possible to be vegetarian and eat well, so I returned to my vegetarian roots.
I now host the country’s largest vegetarian (all vegan) Thanksgiving, but my first exposure to veganism was at Brown University as a graduate student when I was invited to a vegan Thanksgiving. The literature that I picked up made sense; fast forward a few years to when I moved to North Carolina and started running Triangle Vegetarian Society. I would lecture about veganism (it made logical and scientific sense but I was addicted to cheese!) but would tell people that, though I “believed” it was the right way to go, I wasn’t yet there. That didn’t last; I became a vegan and only wish I did so sooner, enjoying feeling better about myself and rarely getting sick anymore.
Do you have any interesting stories to share about your vegan lifestyle?
I met my wife in May 2004 and, at least as of this writing when I’ve known her for over 16 years, I have always cooked a unique dinner for her every night. We do eat out once in a while but I cook the great bulk of our dinners and find it exciting to not repeat for her. It’s all vegan and mostly whole food plant-based with no added fat. It’s a fun challenge and forces me to constantly look at new foods in the grocery store and farmers’ markets, and new ways to prepare them.
What is your favourite thing to cook?
I love coming home with a new (to me) kind of produce or other food and exploring how to prepare it. If I were on a deserted island, one item I’d like to have is tofu as it is so versatile, healthy, and tasty. But a favorite food to cook? Maybe seitan. My lime-marinated jerk seitan [https://www.delectableplanet.com/recipes/dilips-lime-jerk-seitan] is something I could eat every week and I’ve even had it made for our big Thanksgiving.
Who inspires/inspired you with cooking?
I guess that would be my mom. Wherever we lived, she quickly became the talk of the town for her tasty Indian cuisine and big dinner parties. In terms of the health focus I now have, it would be PCRM; I’m honored to be a Food for Life instructor and learned about cooking without oil (it’s pure fat - I’d rather eat other more tasty foods when I want to eat fat!).
Why do you enjoy being involved with So Many Cooks?
This was an idea that I came up with during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. I just raised it as something that maybe we could do; I am good at coming up with often terrible but creative ideas, and am not always so good at bringing the ideas to fruition. A wonderful group of fellow Food for Life instructors quickly took the idea, refined it, and before we knew it within a few weeks we had our first show. The Cooks in the Kitchen have quickly become a community that I love being connected with for support and for how much I learn from the members.
What do other people think of your cooking?
People say nice things in general. Well, a possible exception is my elementary school aged daughter. She generally likes what I make but sometimes complains that she would rather have more (all vegan, of course) macaroni and “cheese”, grilled “cheese” sandwiches, and finely mashed guacamole (I like it chunky). She could eat pizza, pasta, and tacos just about everyday.