Vegan Foods

Lina Hidalgo has been vegan for 10 years but still finds great food in town

welcome to How Houston eats, a food-obsessed series that asks Houston personalities what, where and how they like to eat. Today, Chron speaks with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

Hidalgo, a Democrat, has been the chief executive of the nation’s third-largest county, which includes the city of Houston, since 2019. She became the first woman and first Latina to be elected to the position when she defeated the Republican outgoing Ed Emmett. in 2018.

The county judge moved to Houston when she was 15. She was born in Colombia and lived in Peru and Mexico City as a child, then in Thailand after earning a degree in political science from Stanford University.

Hidalgo prepares her meals before and after the race, where she finds good vegan food in Houston, and more.

Chron: You are an avid runner. What’s your favorite meal before a marathon or long run?

Lina Hidalgo: I have this smoothie that I love to make with spinach, peanut butter, almond milk, and a banana. I recently discovered Peanut Butter Jelly Oatmeal, which is actually a great invention. I will usually try to have this in the morning. And maybe it’s psychological, but I appreciate the night before filling up on carbs, just to eat pasta or something a little more decadent.

And then, is there something you like to eat to reward yourself after a race?

Immediately after, I’ll take a banana or something like that. The last two races I have been to Mo’ Better Brews, which recently opened in the Museum Quarter. They have vegan cookies dipped in gravy, it’s like vegan soul food, it’s so good. I usually like to eat something, take a shower, and then go to a restaurant and have a really good, hearty meal.

How long have you been vegan and why did you start?

It will soon be 10 years. If you had asked me growing up if I would be vegan, it would have been a definite no. I grew up in Katy and have a friend, we used to save our allowances and every Friday after school we would drive along Westheimer from Katy and just try a new restaurant. You can throw a dart at the list of amazing restaurants we have and not go wrong.

But at one point I was just finishing college and had a bad experience with a meat sandwich I bought at the airport. I was like, I don’t really need to have meat unless it’s really well cooked, why not leave it at that until then. And then I realized that I didn’t really miss it that much. Then somehow I learned to be vegan and decided to give it a try. I felt so much better. My body just reacted better to being vegan.

My grandfather is a vegetarian and growing up I would roll my eyes. Now he and I are the two vegetarians in the family and we are very proud of it.

What are your favorite takeaways in Houston when you’re feeling too lazy or too tired to cook?

One of my favorite restaurants in town is Kiran’s so I order from there even though it’s a treat to go there. I’ll make my own fancy dinner at home. Sometimes I come home very late, and there’s Ethiopian food that’s open late, Thai food.

What other restaurants have you discovered in Houston?

I love going to Vietnamese vegan restaurant Quan Yin. I love going to Shiv Sagar, which is Indian food. I wish it was easier to know which non-vegan places have really good vegan options. For example, Uchi happens to have this amazing vegan menu, including a vegan dessert. I’m always learning more about new vegan places popping up all the time like Mo’ Better Brews.

When you take the time to make it, what quick and easy weeknight meal do you like to cook yourself?

I order one of those box sets that comes with the ingredients and instructions. There are quick recipes and more exciting recipes. I usually do something from there. If it’s a tough situation at home, I choose chickpeas, maybe rice, spinach, or shredded Brussels sprouts. I am not a great cook. I’m very clumsy, I do stupid things. I like to try food as I cook it. If I have to cook, it’ll be like a project, you know, with someone or listening to a podcast while I’m doing it. But it’s not something I can cook up and it still tastes good.

What box service do you get?

I do Purple Carrot, which is a totally vegan subscription box. I try to do it a few times a week. It usually doesn’t look as good as pictured, but it tastes pretty good.

Tell us about the child care program you encouraged restaurant workers to apply for.

We have funds available for people in all kinds of industries, especially the service industry, retail, restaurants, and even artists. It’s funding that, if people don’t take advantage of it, goes away. When we promoted it a few weeks ago, we saw a huge increase in people asking for it and actually using it.

Overall, child care is the most effective public investment we can make. Children have fewer problems. They end up having higher graduation rates and higher incomes if they had an early education. But part of this isn’t just about the child and the future of the community, it’s about making sure parents can pursue what they want. If they want to be home with the kids, they can. But there are so many parents who want to be able to work and who cannot. And so we want to make sure that we give them that opportunity.

Finally, what snacks are in your hurricane stash?

HEB offers the snacks at TranStar, they just stack this room full of snacks for all of our staff, which is great because you have these first responders day and night, exhausted, and they are able to find fantastic healthy foods. I can’t eat a lot of these, but they always give me these little chocolate chip muffins and these little vegan blueberry muffins. Oh my god, they are amazing. It’s like my positive memory of the emergency.