It was my friend Michael’s doing.
I’ve always been a huge fan of animals – I’m the one who shuttles the spider in my living room onto a slip of paper and releases her outside. But I’m also a huge fan of food.
When I was nine years old, and on a cruise to Alaska with my parents and my younger brother, my Dad let me try his frog legs appetizer. It was delish. So he gestured a waiter over and ordered another. When it came out, the waiter placed it in front of my Dad, who then pointed at little 9-year-old suburban me. “It’s for her,” he said. Needless to say, the waitstaff fawned over me for the rest of the trip.
Since then, you name it, I’ve eaten it. Garlicky escargots, monkfish liver sashimi, oysters on the half-shell, steak tartare. I can pan-sear a mean grass-fed rib-eye (see pic at right for my current thoughts on that). I loved me some farm-fresh scrambled eggs over buttered grits. (Once when I listed my favorite foods as lobster, artichokes and popcorn, it hit me that it was melted butter that really had me.)
When I was in my 20s, I went vegetarian; it lasted a year. Bacon did me in. I just couldn’t. Not. Eat bacon. Which, as everyone knows, is a gateway meat. Soon I was eating cheeseburgers, fried chicken and carnitas tacos again like that pork was born in a corn tortilla. (You can take the girl out of L.A. . .)
In my 30s, I basically had to give up dairy, because it started giving me asthma. So no more thin-crust pizza or mac ‘n cheese. (Sad face.) I later heard that the year I started having asthma attacks was the exact year the U.S. dairy industry started using bovine growth hormones.
Anyhoo. Back to my friend Michael. He made being a vegan sound FUN! I’d follow his Facebook posts showing him happily doing marathons or whatever with his “Vegan Power” teammates; mingling with chickens on a farm sanctuary (and writing music about it); and kvelling over the vegan chocolate-chip pancakes with coconut cream he’d discovered at a new spot. Then he posted this 3 1/2 minute video. It is NOT graphic AT ALL, but something clicked inside me:
And that was it. That was the day I decided to start aligning my behavior with my values. I mean, how could I say I loved baby chicks if I contributed to what happens to the male ones at egg hatcheries? (And yes, it happens in the U.S. as well.)
Many months prior (like 25), an acquaintance had asked me after a performance of Waste Management: The Show if I eat meat. She casually mentioned that going vegetarian is the best thing one can do to prevent climate change. (But . . . bacon.) It’s true, though. According to the Worldwatch Institute, livestock and their byproducts account for the biggest piece of the greenhouse gas pie. (Here’s how.) But it was the baby chicks that sealed the deal. I said to myself, “Ya know, I think I might be able to survive without eggs. At least for a day.”
So I created the hashtag
I would try going vegan for ONE DAY, and post about it on ye olde FB. I wouldn’t commit to anything beyond today. Like an alcoholic, the idea of NEVER eating a Bistro Burger for the rest of my life was too much. It was one day at a time.
And the next day, I tried it again. And so on.
Well, I just had my one-year anniversary. So I guess it’s official!! With very rare exception (I ate fish while sailing in the South Pacific last September, and I occasionally have a chocolate-chip cookie or a piece of birthday cake), I am a vegan.
People ask me, “How do you feel?” “Do you feel different?” I have news: there’s vegan junk food. If I eat it, I feel like crap. If I eat healthy, I feel good. Same as before. Digesting all those high-fiber beans is challenging for my not-20-year-old colon; probiotics helped a little, but I’ve found taking an enzyme supplement every morning really does the trick.
Mostly I feel super happy that I’m not contributing to the mistreatment of animals. No pigs are being crammed into a semi without food or water and trucked across the country for slaughter on my behalf. (Hang in there, reader.) No calf is being taken away from his mother a few days after birth to be given formula until he’s slaughtered for veal, while we take his mother’s milk until she’s ready to be artificially inseminated again in her small pen so I can have a Klondike bar. (Almost there!) You don’t want to know about what happens to chickens (although you should). And certainly no male baby chicks are being ground up alive because they can’t lay me an omelette.
Did you get through that? YAY!!! (The rest of this post is very nice.)
Here’s a photo of some delicious vegan ice cream to cleanse your palate:
The cool thing about being vegan, besides saving 200 animals a year*, is that it opens up a whole new world for a food lover like me! Giant grilled oyster mushrooms and kale over risotto with truffle oil and crispy chickpeas (that was the veg option at the Moth Ball this year). Homemade miso soup with sautéed tempeh and scallions, drizzled with chili oil. Tempeh tacos with avocado, hot sauce and edible flowers. Cherry-rosewater-cardamon-cake vegan ice cream (swoon). See my little collage at the end of this post for more nummy things I’ve made and/or eaten.
*(200 is the number of animals that the average vegan saves per year. 200! Think if you went to your local animal shelter and freed 200 dogs that are on death row – each year! How psyched would they be??)
As I read in the New Yorker this week, “The vegetarians are winning.” It’s on trend – which makes it super easy to get by in a town like NYC. But I even discovered a pro soccer team in the U.K. that serves all vegan food to its players and fans. A vegan football stadium!!
Before I wrap this up, I’m going to admit something. My life is such that I do takeout far too often (esp when working). Which in turn means I’ve been creating WAY too much waste. Here’s a wee quiz: Can you tell me which choice I got right here, environmentally speaking?
Leave your answer in the comments. (For the record, I normally make old-fashioned oats rather than instant – and who knew Trader Joe’s oatmeal came in PLASTIC packets?? Guys!!)
Now here’s the good stuff. I think it’s quite pretty, considering my complete lack of food photography skills. I made about half of the meals myself (hover for captions):
Tell me what you think in the comments. Have you tried it?? Wanna do #veganforaday? Pleeeease let me know if you do. And scroll down to the bottom to FOLLOW this blog if you want to know when the next post happens.
Happy eating!!! Let’s save the world! Whoop!!
(p.s. My favorite vegan website is OhSheGlows.com – her recipes are seriously awesome.)