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.
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.