Because it wouldn’t be right without at least one picture of food… These are Lime Oatmeal Coconut Date Cookies I made for my friends Melanie and Garrett, who had a moving-to-Iowa gathering last night. I thought they needed some treats for the road, and, being agave- and date-sweetened, even I didn’t have to feel guilty about the last day of my no-refined-sugar-challenge when making sure they tasted good
Being new to MoFo, I thought I would start at the beginning and share a little bit about my journey to veganism, its hardships and its utterly-opposite-of-hardships.
My first conscious memory about becoming vegetarian was when I was 14, I remember going to Christmas dinner at my aunt and uncle’s, and they served up some kind of fancypants beef dish. I’m not going to go into details, but the sight of it and eating it made something click, and I stopped eating red meat after that day. Months passed, and I thought about why I felt like eating red meat wasn’t okay, but chicken and turkey was. Embarrassingly(?) enough, an early high school obsession with the Beatles got me watching a lot of interviews and specials surrounding the release of the Anthologies, especially with Paul McCartney. He related his own story about going vegetarian back in the 70s and it resonated with me. I was 15. I told my mom, a nurse, that I wanted to be vegetarian.
To my surprise and relief, my mom was so SO supportive of me. She said “Okay, let’s go buy some Gardenburgers!” because Gardenburgers were the only vegetarian protein analogue we knew about at the time, and we could buy some gigantic quantity of it at Costco. She and all her nursing friends were, as most people are, concerned about certain vitamins and minerals I might be missing out on, so I think I got off on a good foot being aware of what the potential difficulties could be. I got a much harder time from my stepdad in that awful way that parents have of embarrassing and frustrating teenagers, which is really ironic as he’s now been vegan himself for over two years!
I had a brief stint with veganism when I was a freshman in college, which as anyone who’s had a typical dorm cafeteria experience will tell you, is enough to put you off eating almost any food after awhile. And to be honest, I was always a little scared of vegans. They seemed too weird, too strict, too militant. But that was highly influenced by the general public’s view of vegans and veganism, and I didn’t actually know any vegans personally. Eggs I could do without, gelatin was already out, so mostly I thought about how impossible it would be to live a life without cheese and whipped cream, the former of which I ate on almost a daily basis, and I continued my vegetarian ways.
As fate would have it, I got to meet a few vegans when I started working at my current job (a natural foods co-op). And I also started making the connection that I had some kind of lactose or dairy intolerance. Everytime I ate ice cream or cheese, my stomach would hurt and occasionally swelled up to a rock hard ball of pain. Jackie, my coworker and one of the loveliest people I know, was the vegan who made me realize vegans aren’t scary and they can live completely satisfying lives without cheese and milk and eggs for baking. In the interest of full disclosure, I also had a customer crush at the time who was vegan, and I paid attention to the Ancho Black Bean Salad and Emerald Sesame Kale I would weigh out for her at the deli counter, hoping I wasn’t red as a beet. I started eating vegan desserts from work and discovered how much I liked them; they were less sweet and many were made with healthier ingredients than their traditional counterparts.
I didn’t dive right in; in fact, I thought I was just going to try being vegan for a month or two and see how it went. My stomach noticeably stopped hurting and I felt more in touch with my body than I ever had before. I was lucky to have Jackie as a resource for so many questions, and she was always happy to talk to me about how I’d just discovered hemp milk or what I’d made for dinner the night before. My friend got me Vegan With A Vengeance for Christmas that year, and I started going online for recipes, discovered what a food blog was, and joined the ppk.
The most exciting thing for me was realizing how the new restrictions on what I ate made me seek out all sorts of new cuisines and ways of preparing foods I hadn’t given much thought to in the past. I’m not going to say eating out doesn’t have its difficulties from time to time, or that it’s easy to try to explain anything about my diet to my octogenerian grandfather. But sharing what I find and make with people at work or my friends makes me realize how good vegan food can be and how it’s a really good fit for me. I make almost all my meals from scratch, which means I don’t have to worry about lots of unknown ingredients or creepy additives and preservatives. Not only do I cook more foods, I cook more healthy foods.
I’m the kind who doesn’t think it necessarily works for everyone, so I never try to push it on people or judge them. I think we all have the capacity to figure out what’s best for our bodies when we really listen, and being vegan for me means I am better attuned to what my body can handle. I’m really the healthiest I’ve ever felt! (Even though I could work a bit more on eating regularly during the workweek these days.) The last time I got my blood tested, my doctor said my cholesterol was “positively dreamy,” which means a lot considering both my biological father and sister have had trouble with high cholesterol.
Well, I could go on and on, but if I did I’d never get this first post posted, and that would be a terrible start to VeganMoFo, wouldn’t it? I’ll be back tomorrow with more!