13 September 2011

Three 3s

The lovely ladies at Our Hen House gave a talk at the PA VegFest, and mentioned their Three 3s, which is three reasons to go vegan, three tips to transition to veganism, and three favourite resources. For the Hen House ladies, they needed to give a talk, and needed to keep it short, so their Three 3s were like little sound-bites. For us, we'll likely ramble a bit more, because this is me you're talking about, and I like to ramble. Feel free to skim, or read it all, or add your own!
Mind you, these are my own personal reasons, and don't reflect everyone here at Chow, or every vegan. Each vegan will have her or his own opinions. Get three vegans in a room, and you'll have five opinions on the same subject. :)

Three Reasons To Go Vegan
1. It's really fun & easy! Once you realise that eating vegan simply means opening up your eyes to the vast array of plant life (most of which is stunningly delicious), you start discovering new and interesting ways to fill your tummy. Once I went vegan, I began to introduce myself to vegetables that I'd ignored in the past, and began trying grains and pulses that I'd ordinarily pass by because they're "too expensive".
Cutting out the animal products made it so that I could afford a higher quality of food, and not really worry about watching myself carefully. Yes, quinoa can easily run about $3+ per pound, but how many pounds of quinoa can you really scarf in one sitting? That stuff expands like mad, and it's very filling. Splurge and enjoy it!
2. Animals are not there to be used by humans; they have their own wants, needs, and lives, and my life shouldn't interfere with theirs. This thought of peaceful co-existence spreads to my desire to see to it that all people, regardless of the shape they take in this lifetime, deserve to be treated fairly, and it's my responsibility to see to it that I do my best to reflect that. I'm not always 100% successful, but to strive for that is a noble goal.
3. I feel more at peace with my life, and the choices I make on a regular basis. When I was a vegetarian, and ate eggs and cow's milk, I always had an uneasy feeling in my soul that something wasn't quite right. Why was it OK for my needs/wants/desires to trump the needs/wants/desires of those animals to be left alone? Why is it OK for a system of living to thrive where the things that I consume are the products of suffering, of both human and nonhuman animals? It wasn't. I didn't feel comfortable with it, which is why I made the leap over to the vegan side.
I couldn't comfortably answer the questions of "what happens to the male cows, male goats, male chickens, who don't "produce" the products (milk, eggs, etc) that people want to eat?" I couldn't comfortably answer the questions of, "What happens to "spent" chickens, goats, or cows?" I was vegetarian from birth, for religious reasons, so I'd never really examined the reason to be a vegetarian until I got to school, and the other kids were asking me why my lunch didn't have any meat in it. Once I began to question my parents, and we all sat down to discuss it, I realised that my religion disallowed the eating of animals, because killing animals for food is not OK.
I was comfortable at that point, until I kept asking questions, like the ones that made me uncomfortable. When I finally came to the conclusion that the questions I was asking /are/ valid, and that silently continuing wouldn't do anymore, I made my change. Again, I'm not perfect, and won't ever say that I am. However, I'm striving to live by my ideals, and it makes me feel much more at peace with myself and my conscience.

3 Tips to Transitioning to Veganism
1. Find other vegans, and soon. If you live in the middle of nowhere, get online, and start subscribing to blogs, news sites, and podcasts. Find every vegan cooking show, food blog, website that you can possibly find, and read them voraciously. Find vegan forums, and start making friends there. This goes double if you're in a place that's hostile to vegans. If you're a teen vegan, this is especially important, because your family may make you feel like you're stupid, or too young to know any better, or find any number of reasons to belittle you and your ideals. There are others out there like you, and they're just a few keystrokes away. We're here. Find us!
2. Start finding recipes that are already vegan to begin with. I haven't eaten cheese in well over five years. If I have a Daiya grilled cheese sandwich, it tastes and feels just like what I remember. Why? Because it's been a /very/ long time since I've had the stuff, and eating the stuff now reminds me of the experience enough that it's not going to be off-putting for me. The same thing goes for soy milk. I hadn't had dairy milk in a very long time by the time I tried soy milk, and found it to be satisfying. (For the record? Nowadays I find that I like the taste of Trader Joe's Almond Milk far more than any other nondairy milk for just drinking. I've heard the same from other folks.)
The point is, that if you look at this as a "OK, now I will be exploring all those things I'd ignored in the past", rather than "I can't have ____", you'll feel like you're on an adventure, rather than on some kind of great big self-denying, self-sacrificing, martyr thing. It becomes fun. Indian, Chinese, South American, African, and even some Eastern European cuisines all have excellent foods that are vegan to begin with. They also often involve ingredients that you can find relatively easily. If you can't find specific spices or ingredients, substitute! I've found that with cooking, it's easy enough to have some wiggle room, as long as you've got a bit of confidence in doing so.
This is why I suggest that you join those vegan forums and cooking websites. Ask questions! People are very eager to share what they know, and will be more than willing to guide you along the way.
3. Take food with you. I've gotten into the habit of taking food with me regardless of how long I anticipate the trip to be. Why? Because vegan food can get pricey, if you're not prepared. For example, if I were to go to a typical Falafel Hut on MacDougall, and snag myself a vegan falafel sandwich, I can pay about $2.50 for that. It's tasty, and reasonably filling. However, water costs another $1. We're at $3.50. For that same $3.50, I can buy an onion ($0.50/lb), some beans ($1/lb), some brown rice ($1/lb), and spices (I'd only need a few scant pinches of this and that), and put together an entire dinner for me and my husband, with leftovers. Mind you, it's nowhere near as fast as paying that $3.50, but it starts to add up rather quickly.
And the $3.50 is the best case scenario. Often times, while running around, the cheapest option is a bag of potato crisps (very unhealthy, very salty so I need more water) for about $1. But then, I'm hungry again fairly quickly. I'd sooner spend that same money, and buy some unsalted nuts, some seeds, some raisins, and toss them together as a sort of a trail mix. If you're feeling a bit more extravagant, throw in some dates, some almonds, some dried fruit of various sorts, and you've got yourself a much more nutritionally dense snack that will keep you moving.
If I am to stop somewhere and pick up individually wrapped snacks of some sort, I'll spend a fortune. If I buy the large packs at the store when they come on sale, I can wrap them up in my own little reusable containers, and not pay nearly as much.
Why do I mention this? Because often times, when I was a freshly minted vegan, I had trouble finding places that had something that I could eat. Then, on the way home, I'd feel hungry again, and feel tempted to stop somewhere and snag something. I'd think, "It's only a couple of bucks here and there", and think nothing of it. All of a sudden, I'd look at my expenses at the end of the month, and have a heart attack over how much I'd spent on random junk I bought outside. It was ridiculous! There was absolutely no reason for it either, because my house was always well stocked.
Even if it means that you buy some bread, some peanut butter, and some sandwich bags, packing a peanut butter sandwich is way cheaper than you'll ever spend on anything from outside your house. Throw on some banana, or strawberry, and you've got a serving of fruit, protein, and grain all in one. The point is that if you set yourself up for success, you'll find yourself keeping on top of your needs more, and you'll see your vegan lifestyle go much more easy than if you depend on the kindness of strangers.
Mind you, I say all this even though I live in New York City, where the local bodega has like three different brands of soy milk, and pretty close to /every/ restaurant you walk into will have vegan options. I just don't fancy spending that kind of money, or going hungry. You wouldn't like me when I'm hungry!

Three Favourite Resources
1. Vegweb.com is an excellent resource for anyone who's into cooking. It's where I learned to make my own bread. It's where I learned how to make pineapple upside down cake (that even the omnis were pleased with). It's an enormous repository of information.
2. Google. I'm serious. Type in "vegan _____ recipe", and see what happens. I've gotten to where I don't bother with cookery books so much anymore, because the Googles is so good at ferreting out good finds for me.
3. Bryanna Clark Grogan's Vegan Feast. This is like your aunt who's a mad vegan scientist. She has made recipes for so many things that I lost count. She's a complete genius when it comes to cooking, and making things work. Give her site a shot, and see what you find.