I have always been an animal lover. As a child, I had dogs, cats, bunnies, birds, fish, a horse, the list goes on. I was always trying to save the neighborhood animals, whether it was the lost cat hiding under a bush or bees drowning in our backyard swimming pool. I have also always loved to cook. From the time I was in grade school I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen, and digging out old family recipes to make on special occasions. Both my love of cooking and animals has continued into adulthood. I constantly create excuses to bake and cook, and my husband and I share our home with two wonderful dogs as well as two amazing cats.
That being said, for most of my life I definitely had a disconnect between all the animals in my life I knew, loved, and admired and those that our culture happened to label "food animals". My initial decision to make the transition to a vegan diet in February of 2008 was strictly for health reasons. After eliminating animal products from my diet, I felt better than I had in years. However, after a couple months I gradually went back to consuming cow’s milk products such as cheese and ice cream, chicken’s eggs, and eventually I also included the occasional meal with sea animals. I was sometimes vegan, sometimes vegetarian, and sometimes neither. And so it went up until the end of 2009. During this time period, I was listening to, reading, and watching anything I could get my hands on regarding health, the environment, farmer and worker rights and their relationship to the food we consume. I was convinced that a vegan diet was better for our health, our environment, and our communities. I found the information regarding the nutritional benefits of a plant based diet and its potential for disease prevention and even disease reversal fascinating. However, I very deliberately avoided exposing myself to any “potentially upsetting” information regarding food animal production. For example, when reading, say, A Diet For a New America (highly recommend) I would systematically skip over any chapters discussing veganism and animal welfare. By remaining closed off to that issue, it allowed me to easily justify an occasional “treat” (sometimes not as “occasional” as I liked to think) of dairy or fish.
In retrospect, it is easy for me to see that I avoided this information because I was afraid. I was afraid that the information I would learn would be too upsetting, I was afraid I would feel helpless, I was afraid I would feel guilty, and I was also afraid that if I learned what life was really like for our food animals I would have to make a permanent change in my life style – there would be no going back. Somehow it just dawned on me one day that deliberately avoiding the truth out of fear does not a whole person make. I decided that since I was purchasing and eating animal products, I owed it to the animals to at least find the courage to educate myself about their lives and treatment. I suspected I would learn some aspects I would be uncomfortable with and hear about instances of abuse, but what I learned about common practices in animal agriculture was in reality much worse than I expected.
I made the immediate decision to go vegan at the end of 2009. And you know what? The opposite of what I expected happened. I don’t feel helpless; I feel empowered. I know that I have the ability to make a difference every day simply by leaving animal based foods off my plate. I don’t feel guilty; I feel guilt-free. It is so liberating to know that I am not contributing to or participating in something I find anathema. Yes, it was a change. But it actually wasn’t as difficult as I thought.
Upon closer examination, I realized that several of my favorite meals could easily be veganized, and I dove head first into the world of vegan cuisine. For some reason, I think we have this mental block when it comes to preparing vegan food. To elaborate, if one wanted to learn how to cook Indian cuisine, we wouldn’t fault Indian food if the ingredients and preparation methods were different than what we are used to, right? We would simply realize we’re learning something new, so of course there will be unfamiliar aspects! It is no different with vegan cooking. Most people find that when they switch to a plant-based lifestyle, they actually eat a wider variety of foods. Suddenly you see options that you never saw before. Did you know that there are over 20,000 edible plant species? In my experience, eating a plant-based diet is actually quite expansive.
I feel so humbled and grateful to have had the opportunity to be exposed to this information. I want to encourage everyone to do their own research, and above all, know where your food comes from and how it got to your table. I certainly am not perfect, do not know everything, or have all the answers. If you are interested in switching to a plant-based diet, but it doesn’t seem realistic to you cut out all animal products at once, it’s ok. There is no vegan police force out to get you. To quote one of my favorite vegan educators, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything.”.
I started this blog because I am incredibly passionate about both food and animal welfare. I love to try out new recipes, experiment in the kitchen, and entertain. I make it a personal goal to learn something new about plant-based foods every week. I wanted to have a forum to share favorite cookbooks, recipes, creations, as well as tips and tricks with anyone interested. I hope you and your family will enjoy them as much as my friends, family, and I have.