I am not a vegan. Feel free to judge me if you want, but I thought it should be clear. I’m not an obligate meat eater, the sort of person that must have meat in every single meal. From early in elementary school, we kept kosher (largely because I demanded we do so but also because school required kosher lunches). This meant that we very rarely had meat in breakfast or lunch, and only had meat dinners about half of the time. It’s safe to say that my mom isn’t much of a meat-eater. So when I declared at age 13 that I was a vegetarian, it was less of a strain on my family’s eating habits than it has been in many a family. I was a vegetarian for quite some time (about 13 years).
I admit I would have been unlikely to have ever given up dairy. But then I got sick, and struggled valiantly with diet to try to calm my constant stomach problems, and when I came out on the other side I realized I would be giving up dairy and gluten for good. Unfortunately this was the siren song for my vegetarianism. I had already given it up a short time before due to a relationship with an obligate carnivore, but I might have returned to it at some point. At the time of my celiac diagnosis, I was a first year medical resident and in a relationship with my current husband, who was not a vegetarian, and it was far easier not to struggle. I let him cook me meat. Sometimes I had to eat meat in the cafeteria because it was the only thing available on a 36 hour shift and even though I often packed my own lunch I drew the line at packing dinner and breakfast and then lunch again the next day. So I just settled in to the occasional meat eating and can’t quite get off my metaphorical butt to change that. Family harmony and convenience are pretty compelling. On the other hand, giving up dairy has introduced me to the idea of a real vegan meal. In the past I would have used a lot of dairy in my meatless meals, now I am forced to rethink this and explore dairy replacements and meals that never needed dairy in the first place. So in a way, I eat vegan a lot more than I used to.
So, if I’m not a vegan, why participate in VeganMoFo? Possibly shameless self-promotion. But really, I am a huge proponent of eating vegan at least sometimes. Probably 75% of the food I cook and certainly 90% of the recipes I wind up inventing are vegan. Why? Because I beleive in thoughtful eating. And I cannot thoughtfully eat meat all the time, for many reasons, but mostly because it’s not that healthy. Also the way animals are farmed is on the whole appalling to me. I used to live near enough the stockyards. Enough said. (If you’ve never been near a stockyard, find a way to just drive past sometime. You will understand why our beef industry pushes so hard to continue to allow antibiotics. You may never want to eat meat again.) Even the organic, free-range animal products are still not farmed in the most ideal situation. So if I’m really thinking about what I eat, I tend to shy away from animal products. I plan on following a vegan diet throughout the month (Although the Jewish High Holidays may derail me a bit. Already mentally working on vegan noodle kugel and possibly gluten free vegan brisket.)
In the spirit of thoughtful eating, my theme will be “home-grown”, celebrating the bounty of my home garden. I intend that every recipe I create or share will have at least one ingredient grown in my yard. (This will mean a lot of spaghetti squash). I think everyone should have a home garden. It might be the best way to get organic produce to every family in america. Plus, it is also a great way to understand foods. I have noticed a tendency (at least in the USA) for people to live a sort of unexamined food life. We don’t really know where our foods come from. This has been painfully driven home to me by the tendency of people to tell me things along the lines of “it’s not wheat, it’s white flour” when I ask about gluten. We are so far removed from the production of our foods that some people don’t realize that white flour is just bleached wheat flour. We don’t know what we are eating! I mean, really, do you have any idea what a potato plant looks like? Or even what a tomato plant looks like if it weren’t fruiting? But plant a garden and you suddenly understand all sorts of things. Like why the peaches and avocados at the store have to be so underripe (ripe ones bruise like crazy in transport). Or why some fruits and vegetables are so expensive (did you know it took 3 years to get asparagus to begin producing?) and others are so hard to grow organically (everything loves to eat strawberries). And you start to appreciate how HARD it is to farm, because even growing just enough for one family takes a fair amount of space and time and energy. Plus there must be a ton of waste, because half your crop might be perfectly tasty but funny looking and would never sell at a grocery store. But all that work is completely worth it because fresh produce is so much more delicious. Unless you have a huge space and a fair amount of time, you will likely not be able to give up store-bought or CSA produce, but growing your own garden will make you a more educated and understanding consumer.
As a bonus, if you want to get your kids to eat more veggies? Put them to work gardening. This is a practice that is taking off with large organizations trying to get kids to eat more healthfully. But it’s something you can easily do at home with only a small garden. It gets kids interested in vegetables and gives them pride over their produce, making them more likely to try stuff they might otherwise have rejected out of hand. Now my toddler loves strawberries anyhow, but when she finds a ripe strawberry on the plant it’s like she won the jackpot. She even gets a glint in her eye as she gathers armfuls of ripe tomatoes (which she has only recently finally stopped calling potatoes).
So if you navigate here because you are vegan, or because you want to be vegan, or because you just want to eat more mindfully, welcome and I hope you enjoy!