In Washington, DC – the strange and somewhat unhip city I’ve called home for almost six years – I’m lucky to have a few good friends who have embraced a love of food and an interest in veganism. We often have potluck-style dinners – a great way to socialize and make new recipes. In potlucks’ early days, we’d have a theme, sometimes as simple as “salads,” sometimes as simple as “Mexican.” We’re a super original bunch.
But there was almost always a heavy animal protein component. Back then, many of us were “healthy eaters” by normal definitions: low fat, high protein, minimal to no dairy, lots of oats, beans, and lean turkey breast, sometimes the occasional fish dish. We were the product of a Clean Eating, Women’s Health, Fitness magazine generation, raised on Halle Berry promises and 5-meals-a-day mantras.
And that was all fine and lovely except for a few things.
I know, I know.
I’m always going around ruining things.
Seriously, though. Maybe that kind of eating works for some. And yes, there’s merit to the claim that a “clean eats” diet is healthier than say, a vegan diet full of processed fake meats and dairy substitutes (ahem, Oprah). But for me, it wasn’t a “healthy” life.
And that’s because I’d never truly realized that what we eat does matter for our physical and our mental health. I choose to eat vegan not just in terms of health and nutrition, but also in terms of living a compassionate life, one that doesn’t falter at the post-baby Gisele photos, one that doesn’t get swayed by diets or what everyone else is doing.
On that note, it’s time to come clean again:
Hi, I’m Katie, and I’m a vegan.
See I don’t believe vegan is a dirty word. Sure I’m not super fond of “labels,” but I also know that I’m not going to let my fear of judgement hold me back from saying that I don’t believe we should eat animals.
I don’t believe we should eat animals.
I don’t believe in the inhumane slaughter of animals, whether they were “raised with care” or not. Personally, I don’t believe free range, cage free, grass-fed, or locally raised necessarily means you’re absolved of all eater’s guilt. I don’t believe farm-to-table should equal a menu full of animal dishes prepared with animals from the local farm.
I don’t eat animals. Period.
Has this belief cured me?
Has this belief created miracles?
Has this belief made me a more compassionate human?
I like to think so.
Will this post get me a few less readers?
This topic has been on my mind for a while now, spurred by the recent debate about veganism and dating over at Choosing Raw. But it wasn’t until this past weekend, when my friends and I threw a party in celebration of “real food,” that I understood how veganism can get lost in a sea of not wanting to offend or upset.
We prepared a massive feast of bite-sized treats, from Gena’s Cashew Cheese with Meyer Lemons and Dried Cherries to Averie’s Raw Vegan Peanut Butter Cups to VegNews‘ to-die-for donuts to our own favorite recipes. All of the food was vegan, of course, but most of the guests were not. In fact, I may have been one of the only guests, if not the only, to call myself 100% vegan.
Don’t misunderstand. My fellow hostesses with the mostess are incredibly supportive and invested in a vegan lifestyle, but I think it’s safe for me to say that they stop short at labeling themselves vegan, if solely because they don’t like the term or because they may eat a non-vegan item once in a while. I suppose they’re Oprah’s definition of “vegan-ish.” And I think it’s great. I’m so happy to be able to share food and friendship with them.
Our party was meant to expose skeptical non-vegans to the deliciousness of veganism without offense. I think we probably succeeded. The donuts were a huge hit. I’m guessing that many of our guests left with a further inkling that veganism doesn’t have to equal hippy-dippy tofu and beans. I’m hoping they saw that veganism can indeed mean Spinach, Grapefruit, and Fennel salad in martini glasses or my L.A. Story Hummus (recipe to come!) in endive leaves.
But I fear failure in one area. We never talked about animals. I understand the tactic of being low-key, celebrating “real food” instead of vegan food, trying not to offend while still showing the vegan love. Yet I can’t help but feel like I chickened out (pun intended).
Yes, veganism has made me feel better.
Yes, I’m healthier and happier.
Yes, I’ve lost weight with minimal effort at home and at the gym (no gym membership for this gal).
No, I don’t miss meat.
And you want to know the reason?
It’s not because I’ve just gotten used to it. But rather because I don’t believe in eating animals.
I don’t want to start up a chain of hate mail. Obviously we all make our own choices about what we eat and why. And everyone should have that right. I’m glad to spread my love of veganism around, but I know it’s not for everyone. At the same time, I’m not going to let myself shy away from coming out as a vegan out of fear that someone might immediately label me a militant hippie.
Maybe they should get to know me first.
I might even share some of my chocolate mousse (another recipe to come! such a tease, am I!).
I think that’s a win for all us, whether human, plant, or animal. Vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore.
Curious to know what you all think. C’mon out of hiding readers! Please! Don’t make me beg.*
*Though I could be persuaded to pull a “bake and bribe” with mini-donuts.