Vegan Perfection? Or Vegan Exception?

I have been known, from time to time, to be a raging perfectionist. My dear friend and former roommate often used to catch me scrubbing the crusty nooks and crannies inside our refrigerator with a toothbrush and baking soda at 11 o’clock at night.

Needless to say, when there is a detail to obsess over or a project to make more complicated by adding lots of very specific restrictions, I’m your girl.

When I first went vegan, I wanted to really do it. Go Vegan and never look back. But a few months into my veganism, I felt like I was really missing out on a necessary and sacred New York Ritual: brunch.

Sure, I could make vegan french toast at home sitting in front of the TV in my dorm room watching Tyra on basic cable, But that is a lonely existence. Friends would suggest going to the diner on Sunday mornings, but with the sole vegan item on the menu being a defrosted fruit cup of mostly translucent honeydew, I would always sadly decline.

But then I had an epiphany!

Why can’t I be vegan with a brunch exception? All I’m asking for here is a freakin’ belgian waffle.

So I became a vegan except for brunch on the weekends and the occasional bag of peanut butter M&M’s.

Did that make me an imperfect vegan?

Yes.

But did it mean that I could finally stop alienating myself simply because I was vegan?

Yes.

Did it stop the growing resentment of veganism brewing inside of me?

YES.

I  think the most important thing to remember when you are first working towards becoming a vegan is to BE NICE TO YOURSELF.

Beating yourself up because all you want is a belgian waffle and some friends is not going to reinforce your vegan beliefs.

Over time, I stopped making brunch exceptions and started inventing my own concoctions at diners like “I’ll have the home fries with the side of steamed spinach and I’ll mash it all up together and add hot sauce.” The non-vegan belgian waffle has lost its appeal…but only because it wasn’t off-limits any more.

Often when I tell someone I’m vegan, they smile and say earnestly, “Oh, I could be a vegan…but I could NEVER give up cheese.” To which I always say, “Great! Then be a vegan who eats cheese.”

They usually give me a strange look and I explain:

Give up the animal products that you don’t care about and keep eating cheese. Why eat something so disastrously harmful to the planet and your health when you don’t really care either way if you eat it or not? If you can do without it…do without it. Don’t just continue eating the same way because you can’t figure out the right label for the way you want to eat.

My favorite quote from vegan chef and educator Colleen Patrick Goudreau is “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything.

People get so caught up in the idea that you have to be ALL or NOTHING.

As if the options were VEGAN or “Oh, I’m not picky (actually I could care less if I never eat another egg again) but sure, I’ll have an omelette because that’s what you’re making anyway.”

It think it’s time for people to stop worrying about the label of veganism and start eating using their consciousness and intuition.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last ten years thinking about the word VEGAN. Labeling myself that way has a lot of benefits. It’s a quick shorthand for being understood when I refuse a non-vegan brownie that someone is offering.

But I’m realizing that there are major drawbacks to identifying oneself with a label and then letting it do all the work for you. Sitting back, thinking, I’m a vegan…isn’t that enough?

The short answer is no.

Every time you eat a meal, you have a choice. Falling back on the label you’ve created for yourself (VEGAN VEGAN VEGAN) will only lead you to resenting veganism. So many people have said to me that they think being a vegan sounds hard, but I’ve honestly never felt that way, even in college while wanting a belgian waffle. I love being vegan for all the good it does my body…and animals…and the planet. No one says “Oh, you drive an electric car, that must be so difficult for you having grown up riding in an SUV.” People change their habits every day. If you can learn to turn off the lights when you leave a room or turn off the running water while you brush your teeth, certainly you can learn to eat in a new way. What’s the difference? Change you habits and forgive yourself the slip-ups, knowing you’re on your way to making a significant lifelong change.

 

 

 

Vegan Perfection? Or Vegan Exception?

Why I Went Vegan 10 Years Ago

I became vegan 10 years ago after my freshman year of college. With no intention of becoming a lifelong vegan, I set out on a little experiment to try to make myself start feeling better. I’d spent the year eating burgers at three in the morning and celebrating 40 oz. Fridays every Friday…

I know.

Classy.

For the first time in my life I felt lethargic and slow. My stomach was always churning…not to mention steadily growing. The top of my jeans were rarely buttoned…

I know.

Classy.

So there I was looking for a way to detox and feel better. A healthy classmate suggested going vegan and I thought why not? I like a challenge! I was vegetarian for three weeks in 5th grade! How hard could it be to be vegan for the summer?

So I decided to do it.

I didn’t have a lot of money or fancy kitchen equipment but I did have the internet. And books! I went to the Strand in NYC and bought Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis & Melissa Versanto…and completely devoured it.

These vegan people could be on to something.
I spent my summer looking up vegan recipes on the internet and testing them out in my tiny dorm room kitchen.

My first week of veganism went a little something like this:

Vegan Deli Slices? OK. Wow, that’s gross.

I guess I should try whatever this tempeh stuff is? Do I eat it just out of the package? Gross.

Soy milk? OK…it’s really that not bad.

Fresh Organic Carrot Juice that cost me $12 at Whole Foods? Yum! But help me…I’m poor.
Nutritional Yeast? What?! YEAST???? Ew…but maybe if I just sprinkle a little…yum? OK. Fine. Yum. Yes. Yum! I…think I like this Nutritional Yeast stuff. But I still have this giant container of it. What should I make? Some random Vegan Cheez sauce recipe that I unsuccessfully tried to spread between two slices of bread as a “Grilled Cheez”? Hauntingly gross. Ok, putting away the nutritional yeast and not using that sucker again for another year. (True Story)
Salad. Okay, I got this. I love salad. I’ll put some Ranch dressing on it! No ranch dressing, you say?! BUT WHHYYY?!?!!! That’s the only dressing I like!! My fantasy as child was that dandelions were filled with ranch dressing when you snap the stems in half! I live for Ranch dressing…
Other dressings? Veganaise? Please. That is not a solution.
Goddess dressing. Ugh, I’ll never feel like a goddess with this rancid garlic breath.
Olive oil and balsamic. Yawn. OK. Meh.
Lemon juice and olive oilSimple & surprisingly delicious.

Zucchini brownies! HOLY HEAVEN THESE ARE DELICIOUS!

Pita sandwiches stuffed with flavored tofu and veggies and sweet mustard. WOW!

Tofu scramble with Gimme Lean Veggie Sausage?? HELL YEAH.
Piping hot Falafel from down the street??!!!? BRING IT ON MAMMOUNS!

Okay this really isn’t so bad…I think I can do it and maybe button the top button of my jeans on a regular basis by the end of the summer!

 

Annnd flash forward to today 10 years later. Full on committed vegan with a penchant for tempeh, tofu, nutritional yeast, flax meal, chia seeds, berry smoothies, raw kale salads, soba noodles, almond milk, miso dressing, and yes: VEGANAISE! I can eat that stuff right out of the jar with a spoon. But. I don’t. Haven’t I mean. I have never done that. Except when I make crispy breadcrumb-topped mac n’cashew cheese. Then I eat big spoonfuls of it with each bite. But now I can button my jeans! So there.

During a bridal shower game a few years ago, my heart melted into a puddle on the floor when my fiance (now husband) said that “Vegan French Toast” was his favorite thing that I’ve ever cooked for him. He generally hates french toast but loves it when I make it (using cinnamon raisin bread and coconut oil!)

I never gave up eating vegan because I never stopped finding exciting and delicious new foods to try. I’ve found so much joy in reading about food, trying new recipes, eating all of it and sharing it with friends. I love to cook for people who unsure of vegan food. They don’t realize that they eat vegan food every day…just usually alongside other foods that aren’t vegan.

I also never gave up eating vegan because I learned the true spirit of Veganism: consciousness. I’ve awakened my mind and my body to what I’m eating. I always know what is in the food that I eat (unless it’s at a restaurant because then who KNOWS what’s in that). Now there are no more ranch-dressing style surprises. I read the labels when I shop. I google ingredients that I don’t recognize. Generally, I try not to eat foods with a lot of mysterious chemicals but there isn’t always a choice. If your mom is making you a Thanksgiving gravy and texts you a photo of the ingredients in Knoll’s Veggie Bouillon cubes…you gotta ask: What the heck is TBHQ? And then you google it and are horrified.
Consciousness means not being afraid to ask WHAT THE HELL IS THAT REALLY? I’m no longer content to be complacent about what happens to our planet and the beings that inhabit it. I feel a responsibility to make a difference. And when doing so has become so easy, why not? Our world is becoming more connected, more available, more abundant.
And then there’s the biggest reason of all: compassion. For my body. For the animals. For the planet. I know that for me, there is no other way of being that can do more good, effect more change, create more happiness in the world than by leading my own happy, healthy vegan life. I don’t need to preach or proselytize. I can lead by example. And I have. I have vegan friends now. Not many…but enough to know that the world is changing and people are waking up to the powerful damage that our system of food processing creates.
I have the luxury of choosing to eat vegan. Many people in the world do not have a choice of what is available for them to eat. But I do and if you are reading this at a computer…most likely so do you. If we live in one of the most food abundant countries on the planet and can afford to shop at a grocery store that carries 7 different brands of garlic salt, it is our privilege to choose what we eat. I choose to eat vegan because I love how it makes me feel and how it affects the world that I live in.
Every year, billions of animals suffer because we are too afraid to learn the truth. We are too afraid to make a choice. What kind of world does that create? One where we blindly fend for ourselves and let the rest of the world fall by the wayside. That’s not what I want for us. I know we can do better.
So what made you go vegan? I’d love to hear your experience. And if you’re curious but not yet vegan, what prevents you from taking the plunge?
Why I Went Vegan 10 Years Ago

Going Normal.

Welcome to THE NORMAL VEGAN– a vegan blog for NORMAL people! I say normal people with a twinkle in my eye…but since this is the internet, you weren’t able to tell.

By normal I mean, you can be a vegan that eats at restaurants and goes to birthday parties and shops at any old grocery store.

Normal vegans can go to a dinner party and not alienate the entire room.

Normal vegans can comfortably be the token vegan friend and lead effortlessly by example.

Normal vegans speak sensitively and passionately about their beliefs, allowing other to learn bit by bit how they can contribute to creating a more compassionate world.

If you want to go vegan but keep your sanity- this is the blog for you!

Check back soon to read all about my experience of going vegan ten years ago…

Going Normal.