Thursday, January 24, 2013

Going Vegan Part 3


I recently received a reader request. I love those! My reader/friend asked me to share a little bit about my journey into veganism. I am happy to oblige in a series of posts spread over the next week or so, leading up to an announcement in the vegan vein. Here is part 3 of my vegan journey:

For many the hardest part of going vegan is simply letting go of certain meals, particular habits, or giving up one food item/group. Food is far more than simple nourishment. We gather around dinner tables as family and friends. We have memories tied to food. We use food as a comfort. We teach our children treasured family recipes. I am here to promise you that being vegan does not mean that you have to let go of all of that, it just changes a bit. Below I will touch on a few of those issues and how I made adjustments to fit my vegan lifestyle.

Giving up a particular food item
Everyone has it, their one thing that is just so hard to let go of. Maybe it is burgers, seafood, condensed milk---who knows. For me it was dairy. I had milk with every meal, lots of it. I ate cheese like it was going out of style. The idea of letting that go was incredibly hard for me. How would I ever enjoy food ever again?!  I tried the available vegan cheeses in 2000 and they were bad, real bad! 

Ultimately I had to make a decision. I could eat cheese or I could make the choice that I felt was right. Nobody said that the right thing is always the easiest. So, I gave it all up. I drank water at meals. I had no cheese. I think the first couple of weeks were weird, but then it was over. I realized that the hardest part was letting a habit die.

Don't get me wrong, I don't eat flavorless paste, vegan food is good. Really good! The adjustment was purely mental. Once I put cheese on the same list as tires and garbage--it just was not an option--I was open to explore an entire world of food. Eventually I realized I wasn't looking for ways around cheese, my menu no longer revolved around it. This is true of any non-vegan hang-up.

Incidentally, vegan cheese and other vegan alternatives have made leaps and bounds in their taste and texture. I would be happy to make recommendations for brands if you are curious.

Dinner with family and friends
I will be the first to admit that dinner with family and friends can be awkward at first. I had to give my loved ones the benefit of the doubt as they learn to accept that I'd made some changes.  They have every right to be confused. I just keep it simple, explain my choice, and go on with my business.

I have had family members wave their non-vegan meals in my face. Usually they think they are being funny and I try to remember that they just don't understand. I have discovered that the best reaction is none. Now that I am over a decade into this vegan thing those occurrences are rare, people mostly get it at this point.

My plan of action when invited to a dinner is to never assume that there will be vegan options. I will offer to bring some food and I have never had a host refuse my offer. Then I grab my best recipe and wow the crowd with my tasty vegan dish. If you don't know how to cook there are some amazing vegan cookbooks and food blogs out there. I can make recommendations if you like

Food as comfort
I don't know what your comfort food is. Ice cream, nachos, pizza, soup, etc. I guarantee there is a vegan version. Try the internet...Pinterest anyone? My first reaction to some of the substitutions was disappointment. It wasn't that they tasted bad at all, but they weren't just the exact thing I always had. I told myself to quit being a baby and eat my comfort food. Over time the new foods were exactly what I craved.

Family recipes
When I got married I received an amazing gift, a stack of old family recipes. What a treasure and not a one of them was vegan. Did I toss them? No way!!!! I veganized them. I substituted soy milk for regular milk, Egg Replacer for egg, etc. All of them have been veganized and many of them made much healthier (they used a lot of lard back in the day gahhh). If you need tips, hints or help with a veganization I'd be happy to help.

I am going to go back to regular blogging for a few days and then finish up this series next week. Please feel free to ask any questions or let me know of topics you are interested in.


Anne Marie said...

I imagine going vegan would be a lot like going gluten free; a lot of research is necessary. You're not sure what animal products may be hiding in foods or even just simple ingredients. I was surprised to learn the difference between vegan and regular sugar!

Emily said...

I am loving these posts! Thanks for sharing so openly! :)

Holly said...

Thank you so much for sharing! My husband and I started eating organic on top of eating Kosher and it was a very very tough adjustment. It's nice to hear from someone who went through something similar. :)

Anonymous said...

I have to wait until next week for Part 4? Waaa
I am loving this! I can relate, especially with the family shoving non-vegan meals in my face. I just pick and choose what I can eat and if I am still hungry, I eat when I get back home. I have cooked for my mother and baked some muffins which she loves!
It's amazing how much MORE food choices there are when you go vegan!

Sarah Purdy said...

The biggest thing I've learned about veganism from you is how easy and simple it really is. There are so many resources online and so many great substitutions that nothing is really off limits. Looking forward to next week!

Anja said...

I love these posts since I am a new vegan and a new mom I am very interested how you coped with feeding your children, where and how you got information about nutrition and how you check if your children get all the nutrition and vitamins (e.g. omegas, b12 and D). How you introduced them to food and the like. Cannot wait to read more!

Rachel said...

Really enjoying you sharing your journey!! Thanks so much. I think what trips me up is replacing healthier options/foods in recipes. I sometimes feel overwhelmed.

Kate said...

I almost cried here. Every single one of these posts has resonated and each time I've found one (or more) sentences that I cut and pasted and put on my suck-it-up-Kate board (my version of a boost when I'm glum, lol!) But this "Ultimately I had to make a decision. I could eat cheese or I could make the choice that I felt was right. Nobody said that the right thing is always the easiest." I have to say thank you. I'm not even finished with the post and you've already hit it for me. I flipping love cheese. I am disgusted about how margerine is so close to plastic (in molecular structure), but I've found a great alternative, (I think). I bought 3 bags of vegan chocolate chips (at $21, I'll be cutting down on how often we eat cookies. Not a bad thing, necessarily.) But cheese. How was I to let go of gouda? Of brie? I just ... do it. Remarkably, (to me) when I was a vegan so long ago, I didn't have an advanced palate as I do now, so I don't remember lamenting anything. Now, as an adult, I will learn not to want quiche, cheese pizza, or omelets. And I can, because it's a choice. I choose to do the right thing.

Incidentally, my friend who is a new vegan tried Daiya cheese tonight. She wasn't horrified. Yay!

affectioknit said...

I LOVE your going vegan stories!

Have a lovely day!

elizabeth said...

these are great posts, M.

we have, over the past three years, drastically changed the way we eat. and i'm still in progress.

today, i threw out almost all my makeup (not a lot compared to what some people have, i'm sure, but everything i use) and bought some new items. i have to be gluten-free, and i just got thinking about my makeup . . . and read my mineral powder ingredients - which included oat flour - not gluten-free . . . which got me looking at all of my makeup . . . and starting over. i've also been changing out our lotions and soaps.

i wonder how it would work to be gluten-free and vegan . . .

anyway, i like how you said that you came to the conclusion that you just quietly eat the way you need to and let other people ask questions if they wish. that's the best, isn't it.

and about people asking rude questions - people are going to ask rude questions about how we eat and parent and school our children and all sorts of things. if we can answer (or sometimes even keep silent) with grace, we win every time. :)

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