Thursday, September 9, 2010


 In moving toward a plant based diet, I have encountered a lot of people’s stories. Some I have already mentioned, like Alicia Silverstone and Christina Pirello. But my absolute favorite was Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. As a language nerd, I was immediately delighted by the title; is the present participle being used as a verb, or an adjective, or both? Sorry…back to what I was saying. But I was overwhelmingly inspired by Foer’s story. When his first son was born, Foer was troubled with serious concerns about what we put in our mouths, what it does, where it comes from, and what are the most responsible choices we can make. It is one thing to make choices for our own bodies, but another thing entirely when your child faces the consequences. Like many others who have embarked on this investigative project, Foer came out the other side a vegan. What resonated with me so deeply about Eating Animals was Foer’s honest and forthcoming depiction of his vacillation between vegetarian, and not. So, taking a page from Mr. Foer, I feel it my responsibility to share my own waverings along this path as well.

I am not a 100% vegan. After some negative experiences during my Lenten experiment, I have gone no longer than six days being entirely vegan. I typically eat one or two meals a week that have some dairy in them. As of two weeks ago, I have given up fish, my last remaining form of animal flesh. Now, I try to be vegetarian all the time, and vegan most of the time. I am 100% vegan in my home.

The reason I share this with you is because eating this way is a choice I make every day, not once a few days, weeks, or months ago. Jonathan Safran Foer explained it best for me in his section on Sentimentality: “We call vegetarians sentimental, but what’s sentimental about wanting a hamburger and calmly choosing not to eat it?” I got my new Bon Appetit this month and there was the most delicious looking cheeseburger gracing its cover. I wanted that cheeseburger. But, I also know where that cheeseburger comes from, and what it does to our environment, not to mention to my body. So, once again, I decided not to eat a cheeseburger. Just as on Tuesday night, when out to dinner, I chose not to eat the highly recommended shrimp enchiladas. However, I did choose to eat pasta with a pesto cream sauce. So I hope that this serving of candidness has relieved some of the pressure for you. I did not write this blog to pressure people, but to inspire them. I do not expect everyone who reads it to give up all animal products today (although that would be awesome). I hope that each of you will try just one of these recipes. I hope that what you read here debunks some of the scary myths about vegans and veganism. And know that no matter what, every meal you eat is an opportunity. An opportunity to relieve, even a little, the swift march of global warming, the suffering of animals, and the stress on our bodies.

Life is all about balance, so it is important to find a proportion that works for you, whether that is every other month, once a day, or everyday before 7:00 pm. One of the things people ask me a lot is, “Are you allowed to eat that?” and I reply, “I am allowed to eat anything I want.” Veganism is not a sentence, or a mandate. There are no vegan police. The only person who can make you feel guilty for your food choices is you. When I embarked on this adventure, I felt like an “accidental vegan.” I didn’t want to be vegan forever; I love tagliatelle Bolognese, and chicken enchiladas, and eggs Benedict. Yet, I didn’t know how to unlearn what I know now. But, my friend Megan, who has been vegan for several years now, put me at ease when she told me that being vegan is about creating your own definitions. The goal is to feel like the best possible version of yourself. For me that means giving up tagliatelle Bolognese and chicken enchiladas (for now), but, it still includes eggs Benedict when I know the eggs come from chickens living happy lives. I hope this will give you a little push to think about your own eating identity, and what the best possible version of yourself might look like.

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