Today’s blog post is inspired by my lunch this afternoon with a friend from work. He knows that I went vegan a bit over a month ago. Today, I brought my lunch to work with me and heated it in the microwave in the office kitchen. As it happens, I brought a peanut-tinged chickpea curry with cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots, plus some jasmine rice. Since it was curry, the scent filled the room and – it seemed – caught his attention.
Friend – “That’s some plate of curry you’ve got there…”
This led to a discussion of a barbecue he’d helped host recently. The barbecue had vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores in attendance. He was manning the grill. (A tricky situation even for those well-versed in vegan do’s and don’ts.) The vegans and vegetarians in attendance were willing to eat vegan burgers cooked on their own section of the same grill so long as they had their own spatula and plate, etc. (I.e., no meat or meat juice touched the veggie burgers.) He was curious what my take on the above situation would have been. (I.e., would I have eaten the burgers? Would I have used the microwave? Did I care if a meat patty touched the veggie patty? Etc.) This led to a discussion about a whole array of vegan things. I’ll include some of those thoughts – and also some questions I’ve heard from others – below. This might not be the most useful post for those of you who are already eating vegan, but I thought I would post some of the questions I’ve been getting from friends and family as they learn that I’ve gone vegan. All in all, I’ve been asked some really great and respectful questions. Here we go:
Would I have eaten the burgers from the barbecue? Probably not. But not because of anything that was done to them. Thus far in my vegan experience, I’ve assumed that vegan food would not be available at social gatherings like this that are not held in a restaurant. I would probably be especially disinclined to expect to be able to eat anything at a barbecue for a group consisting primarily of omnivores – if only because I would anticipate that the whole grill would be covered in meat-related stuff – which I would not want to eat. (Moral of the story? I would probably have eaten at home before going. Had I not, I would have been happy to eat a vegan patty cooked apart from the meat.)
Sidenote: Meat no longer smells like food to me. It just smells like…burning…
What does it mean to be vegan? Well, firstly, it means that I am deliberately trying to make choices that will prevent the death and/or reduce the needless suffering of animals used for food or human entertainment and consumption. Secondly, it means that I don’t eat animals or things that come from animals including meat, dairy, eggs, cheese, or fish. (Yes, I know cheese is generally a dairy product and fish are animals, but these seem to confuse people at times…) For me, it also means that I hope to be an advocate for this lifestyle and for the animals it protects.
What made you decide to become vegan now? What changed? Well, it was almost by accident. I had become a completely devoted runner. And – in so doing – I ran myself, completely of my own fault, into an achilles tendon injury. Suddenly unable to run but accustomed to burning around 2,000 calories per week running, I thought I had to change what I was eating to prevent excessive weight gain while I was healing. I immediately cut out all animal products because of their potential to be high fat and high calorie. Immediately, I felt better. Feeling better – and managing to avoid gaining weight – I began reading about vegetarianism and veganism. I started with The China Study and found the health aspects pretty compelling. I continued reading and read Eating Animals, Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in a Nonvegan World, and Obligate Carnivore. I also read MANY vegan blogs, material from PETA and Vegan Outreach. This video is a very graphic depiction of the experiences of animals on factory farms, but I think it is important for all of us to see so that we know what we are assenting to when we eat meat, dairy, eggs, etc. After learning about all of these things – and actually thinking about animals as animals rather than as food – I just couldn’t see eating them or using them for food production any longer.
What do you eat now? Honestly, lots of things. A much wider variety than the handful of meat and/or dairy-centered meals I cycled through in my omnivorous life. Breakfast is usually a vegan cereal with vanilla soymilk and banana. If I have lots of time, I make old fashioned oatmeal with vanilla soymilk and add a sprinkle of cinnamon. Lunch is usually either a spinach salad with kidney beans and avocado (and other veggies), sliced carrots and red peppers with hummus and pita, or leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. Dinners vary, but my favorites include those focusing on chickpea curries and brown rice, bean or lentil soup, or whole wheat pasta with white beans and a good tomato sauce. I’m also a big fan of tofu. Formerly, I mostly ate meat only at dinner unless I bought a meat-based sandwich at the deli. So my evening meals have changed, but breakfast and lunch have only included slight adjustments (i.e. soymilk instead of dairy milk for breakfast, never meat at lunch, etc.) The biggest change has been with baked goods and breads. Since animal products often hide in these in the form of casein or other milk or egg ingredients, I now generally have to plan ahead to have access to these things, which – for me – seems to just prevent my downing lots of extra empty calories worth of sugar-laden baked goods.
Do you think I’m a bad person for eating meat? After spending the majority of my 28 years eating meat and dairy, I would be pretty hypocritical if I did. I don’t believe animals should be used for food, but I am aware that we have all been acculturated in a society that teaches us that this is not only acceptable but expected, a sign of prosperity and success, a tradition, and a connection to family/heritage/faith/etc. There is a lot to get around before we get to the thought that these were beings. That could think. And feel. And fear. And most of us have been told so often that a hamburger is a delicious food to share at a 4th of July barbecue and a turkey is the symbol of Thanksgiving to be enjoyed with family around the holiday table that we can’t even connect them to the animals that they were and the pain and loss that they also represent.
That’s all for tonight. Sorry the posts were few and far between. It was a busy week! We spent Tuesday night at the LMFAO concert, and I’m just too old for weeknights that run that late. 😉