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Why I Became Vegan (Recipe Included!)
"I can't imagine ever wanting a burger so bad that I'd whack the cow myself!"
Not very poetic, but this was the exact thought that popped into my head not long before I made the decision to try being vegetarian.
The process of questioning the basic assumption that eating meat was perfectly right and proper was overwhelming to me. After all, if I concluded that it wasn't okay to eat meat, that would mean I'd have to adjust my lifestyle to better align with my convictions. And I was the kid who never ate salad, so how in the world could I become vegetarian?
As uncomfortable as the idea of trying to be vegetarian made me, I was even more disturbed by the nagging feeling that I wasn't seeing the BIG PICTURE of something that was VERY IMPORTANT.
It felt like there was something in front of me, just beyond my grasp. People eating meat was obviously unpleasant for the animals being killed, but the issues were more complicated than that. I sensed that there was more to it, that the world was complex and interrelated.
The big issues here were animal welfare/rights, human health, and environmental health. They were connected, but I couldn't verbalize how.
My Other Articles about Vegan Living
- Vegan Journey
Here are links to my numerous articles about vegan living. I've divided them into several categories: Getting Started, Family and Community, and Recipes. I've also included links to other websites.
How I Made the Transition
I was 23 years old and had recently started a new job at a local television station. That's where I met my friend, Sue (also 23 years old), who had been vegetarian since high school.
Sue was not one of those "holier-than-thou" vegetarians. Instead, she quietly went about her business, happy to provide information about vegetarianism if asked but not in the least bit pushy about it.
My big mental block was figuring out what to eat for lunch. I couldn't quite picture what - other than peanut butter and jelly - would go inside a sandwich. I know that seems really ridiculous, but I was totally stuck on what to make for lunch. Sue described to me how to make tofu salad, which - she assured me - would be delicious in a sandwich.
I tried it. I liked it. I was ready!
(Keep scrolling down for a tofu salad recipe!)
Diet for a New America - This is the book I read during my first few days of not eating meat
This book made all the difference for me! It clearly put together all of the issues that I felt were somehow connected but was unable to express myself.
John Robbins (whose family is the Robbins part of Baskin & Robbins, the ice cream company), describes the living and dying conditions of farm animals, explains the connections between eating animal products and poor human health, and educates readers about the environmental consequences of animal farming.
This book was an incredible inspiration to me, catapulting me from my life as a typical meat-eating American to a vegan who knows she is making a difference with every cruelty-free bite of food she takes!
This is the second edition, published in 2012. The one I read was the first edition, published in 1987.
The First Week
I started out with a perfectly easy, achievable goal: I would go without meat for one day.
This was certainly not a challenge, and I knew it, but this is where I chose to begin. Day One: June 15, 1992.
After a feel-good day during which I continued to read Diet for a New America, I stated my next goal: I would not eat meat for three days. This, again, was easy to do, and I felt good.
Next goal: No meat for the rest of the week.
Well, by the time I finished out that first week, I knew that I was done eating meat! The fact that I didn't miss meat, combined with the inspiration I got from the book made this an easy choice for me.
I knew I was making a difference in the wider world by what I chose to eat. The daily action of eating became a statement of my values and commitment to them.
Picturing the Animals
I was surprised by what happened during my first days and months of not eating animals: Every time I saw a piece of meat, I pictured the animal from which it came.
This is not at all something I did intentionally; it just happened. Although it made me feel queasy, I'm glad that my mind created these images because it focused my attention on what my food choices meant regarding cruelty to animals.
From Vegetarian to Vegan
Within a week or so of my becoming vegetarian, Sue and I interviewed a woman in her 50s for a documentary we were producing. The woman had been vegan at some point in her life and started telling us how cruel the dairy and egg industries were to animals.
Sue and I were astonished and horrified.
During my first week as a vegetarian, I had been very proud of myself for eating yogurt, which I figured was something every good vegetarian ate - even though I really didn't care for it. And now I realized that eating yogurt was an action that harmed animals just as much as eating hamburgers.
And so I became vegan...Mostly.
While my diet was probably 97% vegan, I did sometimes eat things like "standard" pancakes, knowing the batter contained eggs and milk. Over time, I learned to bake delicious vegan desserts and developed a system of bringing vegan fare with me to family events and outings so that I would not be tempted to compromise my ideals for the sake of wanting to enjoy baked goods.
What Do Vegans Eat? - "Anything They Want!"
What's Your Opinion? - Thinking about a difficult issue
Is it wrong to eat animals?
I stopped eating meat in 1992. Most of the time since then - including the years since 1999 - I have enjoyed a purely vegan diet.
I truly do not miss eating animals, and I feel that my dietary choices reflect my values.
Eating animals is unhealthy for the animals, contributes to our own health problems, and has devastating effects on the environment. Corporate agribusiness increases these problems exponentially, as they horribly pollute the environment, pump animals full of antibiotics and hormones (which are then absorbed into the bodies of people who eat those animals), and treat animals as inventory rather than as living creatures who can feel pain.
It is my sincere belief that each person must choose for themselves whether or not to eat animals. I think that this is a big decision to make, and it is an important decision to make, given how far-reaching the effects of our dietary choices are.
It is my hope that people will see this as an issue to be carefully considered and make their decisions based on knowledge of the issues rather than on simply accepting cultural norms without question.
And I believe that we should respect each other's considered decisions, understanding that different people make different choices. Indeed, the same person makes different choices depending on where they are in their own life's journey!
Tofu Salad Recipe
This is a highly adaptable recipe that can be adjusted to suit your particular taste or reflect the ingredients you happen to have on-hand.
I prefer to use the "tub" tofu for this recipe. That's the kind sold in the refrigerated section in a plastic tub with the tofu covered with water. For a chewier texture, freeze the tub of tofu and then thaw it before preparing the recipe. You can also use the shelf-stable tofu, which will yield a softer, "wetter" final product.
Start with a tub of tofu. Either mash it up with a fork or potato masher, or cut it into small cubes.
Add a few tablespoons of vegan mayonnaise. Mix in some mustard, if you'd like.
Add finely chopped veggies. These may include onions, carrots, bell peppers, celery, mushrooms, scallions, and/or whatever you like or happen to have available.
Finally, mix in seasonings. I often use cumin as my spice of choice, but this recipe is also fantastic with basil and oregano. Feel free to sprinkle in garlic powder, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Tofu salad can be eaten by itself, served on lettuce or crackers, or in sandwiches, wraps, or pita pockets.Enjoy!