Vegan?

Posted by on May 9, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off on Vegan?

Vegan?

Nine days ago when my husband was working I was sitting in front of the tv, scrolling along the Netflix screen, looking for one of those options you’d watch while your partner is out.  For me this basically means documentaries about yoga, surfing or nutrition, or some kind of existential drama dripping with an elemental sadness (see: Melancholia, anything by Ingmar Bergman, films starring Nicole Kidman).  I settled on Vegucated, a documentary about 3 New Yorkers who shift from meat-heavy diets to Veganism, as I had already seen Forks Over Knives as part of my yoga training (ahimsa!) while in India.  I felt like waking up a bit to my own eating habits and knew that I just needed to spend some time with information and things would become clear.

The film didn’t shed any new light onto the issues of animal rights/factory farming, global warming or the health impacts of eating animal protein for me, but it did provide the reminder I was looking for.  I decided that I would become vegan for the month of May and assess things from there.  This would give me 30 days of indulging in new eating patterns, enough time I think to get a sense of what lifestyle changes would be required for a long term commitment.  The next morning I headed out, arms filled with bags, to The Big Carrot on the Danforth here in Toronto.  For those of you in the city, you’re probably aware of this place.  It’s like a Whole Foods, but with an indie spirit.  I picked out vegan replacements for all of the staples I use, such as Veganaise (mayo), soy cream cheese, Earth Balance (instead of butter), daiya (instead of shredded cheese), nutritional yeast (instead of parmesan), soy milk for my morning latte and almond milk for everything else milky.  I already had plenty of nuts and dates to make my own raw dessert treats, and abundant fresh organic produce from our CSA delivery.  Besides scrambling soft tofu, there was no real replacement for my egg habit, so I decided to forego them entirely.  No egg in pastries, breads, or breakfast delights.  Done.  Even eggs labelled as “free run/organic” have troublesome stories.

The first thing I noticed was how I often I reached over to clean up my kid’s plate when he’s “done” with it.  No longer could I shovel in the remainder of his egg wrap or french toast.  Gone is the last bite of his croissant.  The last piece of his pizza.  This is keeping me in check, and it has opened my eyes to just how much more I was eating than I thought.  Then I also learned how difficult it can be to eat out.  I felt a bit awkward on my first meal out to have to choose the easiest modification, and bother the chefs to alter it.  A spinach pizza on spelt crust with no cheese.  It turned out to be no problem for them, and I ate an entire pizza the size of a huge dinner plate without feeling at all heavy or burdened by the meal when I was finished.  And no vegan dessert meant not temptation to take the meal too far.  I walked away feeling light and satiated.  Pretty amazing.

I do realize, however, that choosing to be vegan in Toronto, a city of meat-heavy cuisine culture, could mean coming off as a pain in the ass to my company, or may mean that I’ll be excluded from going to those happening places you read about in BlogTO.  This, to me, is actually a pretty big deal as my family takes eating out pretty seriously.  The food culture here was a big player in the decision to move back into the city.  I may need to find some way to make as many vegan choices as I can within my own realm, even supplementing at home those elements in my husband’s and child’s diet, and find a place for leniency when it’s a Big Deal.  Like on our trip to New York at the beginning of June.  And I also wonder, if I were able to source eggs directly from a local farm where the hens are truly free to cluck around and aren’t being transported around, aren’t having their beaks chopped off, if I would feel comfortable incorporating them back in.  I think if I had my own chickens laying eggs, I could.  I can’t tell how things will change long term, but I do know that I feel pretty great and it’s just been over a week.  My complexion is clearer, my digestion is vastly improved, and I don’t feel heavy and sluggish after meals.  I’m also filling the spaces with other things, so more nuts and greens are making their way in.

I can see why people make this shift.  If it’s not because you reject the terrible conditions (the living and the killing) of factory farming and the dairy industry (far worse than you imagine, by the way… no happy cows with happy farmers pulling gently upon their teats!), then it’s because you don’t want to contribute to the way in which livestock negatively impacts the environment.  Or it’s because you’ve read The China Study, and know that as you increase your intake of animal proteins, even slightly, from a purely plant based diet, you increase your chances of becoming afflicted with a slew of serious and life threatening illnesses.  Maybe you now know that you don’t need as much protein as you have been led to believe.  And you know that there are top athletes who are vegan, competing toe to toe with carnivores who believe it’s necessary.  There are plenty of reasons.  I have to live with this for a bit, try it on for size and see what sticks.  I believe this is the best choice, and I don’t think that my appreciation for yummy cheeses and butter should trump the rights of animals.  My dietary protest may just be a single palate, but if I eliminate animal protein from my diet, I’m making a bigger environmental contribution to the planet than if I stopped driving.  At the very least, it’s something to chew on.

 

 

All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.