Somewhere around 2006, at fifteen years old, I decided that I didn’t enjoy eating meat. As a lifelong animal lover, suddenly it just seemed wrong to be eating the animals that I loved. I had a stuffed animal cow, pigs were my favorite animal, and yet they were both still on my plate everyday. I told myself that I was only going to eat chicken, thinking that eliminating red meat and pork products would be enough to soothe my guilty conscience, but a year later I completely lost my taste for chicken as well and thought “hey, I guess I’m going to be a vegetarian now.” That’s all it took. I haven’t had any meat since the beginning of 2007, when I think I became a vegetarian, but honestly I can’t be sure that my timeline is right. It was never a decision that I marked on my calendar. It wasn’t some huge thing. It was just me responding to what my body and my heart was trying to tell me.
The same thing happened at the beginning of 2012, when out of nowhere I became a vegan. I had just gone to the grocery store and restocked my kitchen with my staples: milk, cheese, eggs, etc. I realllllly loved my cheese. I was living in an apartment for the first time, and my roommate and I were starting to cook more and get more comfortable making our own vegetarian meals, but I was eating very basic food that mostly revolved around cheese. I made delicious omelettes, legendary cupcakes, and melted cheese on pretty much anything. I wasn’t planning on becoming a vegan at all. A friend of mine went vegan in high school and I remember thinking that she was CRAZY. “Cows need to be milked and chickens lay eggs,” I thought to myself.
And without any warning, suddenly that logic didn’t work for me anymore. I think I watched Forks Over Knives or Food Inc. but I really can’t remember what it was that made me rethink all of my beliefs. One second I was happy eating animal byproducts and the next second I couldn’t imagine drinking another glass of milk. The thought that animals had to suffer (and I mean really suffer) for my food suddenly made me sick. I thought of all of the fear that must have been coursing through the cow’s body, how her babies were immediately taken from her, the males killed for veal and the females imprisoned in the same dairy industry-supported hell. All for me to have a glass of milk? When there were plenty of other delicious milks made by things like almonds and coconut? It was a no-brainer to me. My mind was made up but I quickly learned that I needed to really learn how to cook vegan food! The first vegan cookbook that I bought was Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Appetite for Reduction and I remember flipping through the pages, fully realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to rely on easy meals built around cheese. It was equal parts liberating and terrifying! I was excited to start this journey though because my heart felt aligned with my actions. There’s no greater feeling than that.
So I cooked. And I cooked. And I cooked.
I learned how to make cookies without butter. And I drank them with a side of soy milk. I made spaghetti and bean balls, made with tempeh and black eyed peas. I made coleslaw with vegan mayonnaise and tried marinating tempeh in a spicy buffalo sauce. I started blending up my smoothies with spinach. I learned how to make my pancakes without eggs or milk. And I really started experimenting with things like cabbage and seitan. It was a whole new world of food and it felt like I was opening up this door and on the other side were all of these things that I didn’t even know existed. I started to really love cooking. I wasn’t necessarily good at making my food look good, or photographing my food, but that comes with time!
By the time summer rolled around I was faced with an ethical dilemma: could I realistically keep eating a vegan diet at the summer camp I was going back to work at? The answer was, unfortunately, no. I was still relatively new to vegan eating and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get what I needed from the camp kitchen and from the relatively slim pickings in rural Maine (Ultimately that changed for me over the years as you can see in my What I Eat: Downeast Maine post from last October). But in 2012 I was still learning and decided that I would go back to eating cheese for the summer. I still bought my own almond milk and had that with my cereal because I couldn’t fathom eating or drinking straight milk anymore, but cheese was my comfort food for when my job got to be too hard to handle. I was able to eat out with my friends on my nights off and not stress about what food I could eat. It worked for me. But by the time summer ended I was eager to return to my fully vegan diet and since then I have never strayed.
I still consider my veganniversary to be in January, although I suppose that’s not fully accurate. But for me, the majority of my big dietary changes have occurred in January and I like the symmetry of it all. I never thought of them as new year’s resolutions, because they never felt that way. Instead they always felt like natural progressions, like they were destined to happen. My body and my heart just had to catch up.
If you’re reading this and you’re not vegan, then something tells me that this way of living appeals to you in some way, shape or form. You might not even realize that it appeals to you! You might be like how I used to be – unaware of the true reality of what happens to animals who are raised for their meat, eggs, and dairy. If you’re interested in learning more, then check out some of my favorite resources:
Those are the only references I’m going to list for now because I know how overwhelming it can feel when someone throws a huuuuge list of resources at you and you realize all there is to learn. When I’m thinking about what helped me the most in my understanding of veganism, those two books and three documentaries stand out in my mind. In addition to these resources, my big recommendation to anyone who is interested in eating more plant-based meals is to check out vegan cookbooks from your local library or go to a bookstore and peruse some until you find meals that look good to you. Or, find a vegan or plant-based food blog that appeals to you and follow them on social media. Once you see pictures of delicious looking food pop up on your feed, it will be hard to resist!
Lastly, take a page from Jessica Murnane, whose food philosophy revolves around a simple goal: start by eating one plant-based meal a day. You don’t have to go cold turkey like I pretty much did! Jessica also has a really awesome cookbook coming out at the end of February that will give you alllllll the planty food goals! Be on the lookout for a review and a sneak peak of the book, One Part Plant, coming in the next couple of weeks. Trust me, guys: it’s a beautiful book and Jessica is doing some awesome stuff for all of us plant-based foodies and endo sisters!