Wednesday, February 07, 2007

3 years ago this month...

Thanks to this post by Theresa, I remembered that I went vegan in February 2004, and so this month is my "veganniversary." I thought I would commemorate that by writing a little bit about how I got where I am today. My journey has certainly been a circuitous one, and along the way I've learned to appreciate that things don't always go as planned.

Growing up in California, I had always had a vague familiarity with vegetarianism and healthy eating. However, the first personal encounter I had with a vegetarian was when I met my friend Kerry in high school. Later on, both she and I ended up in New York for college, and in our freshman year, we decided to go vegan together. By this time, I too was a vegetarian. This happened quite suddenly one night as I was eating some chicken, and I remember looking down at the it, with all the bumps on its skin and thinking to myself, "why am I eating this?" I remember when I first went veg., I had told myself that Fridays would be my "free" days where I could eat anything that I wanted, but I never once actually ate a piece of meat on Fridays. Kerry and I set our V-date for my 18th birthday and in the weeks leading up to that day, I prepared by eating a lifetime supply of goat cheese and ice cream.


image courtesy of mikescandywrappers.com

The day came, and we became vegans. Back in those days (the mid-90's) there were not as many vegan resources as there are today, and every time we found something vegan (who remembers Goldenberg's Peanut Chews??) it seemed like a great triumph. My first cookbook was Eva Batt's "Vegan Cooking" and I remember feeling slightly panicked at all the exotic and unfamiliar things I read about (tvp?? what is that?!). I still lived at home at the time, and my mother was good about cooking me a smaller meat-free version of whatever the family was eating that night. Health, nutrition, and cooking were far from my mind.

At the same time, I was getting into the swing of college, and not a single one of my new friends was a vegetarian. In fact, I remember getting teased and challenged on a daily basis. Without a thorough knowledge of facts and arguments, I couldn't really defend myself very well, and my veganism began seeming a bit unfounded, even to me. In less than 2 years, I gave up veganism. I remember the day exactly- the French club was on a field trip to New York City, and we stopped at a French restaurant in midtown. There were huge stacks of vegetables and charcuterie (cold cuts) on the tables and you were supposed to cut chunks for yourself, rustic style. I munched on some veggies as my friends went crazy over the meat. By the time our food was served, something inside me had switched off. As my friends sang their encouragement, I took a bite of duck. I thought it was delicious. I didn't give it a second thought, at least that I was aware of.

Fast forward 6 years. I had graduated college, worked in New York City, and moved to California to begin graduate school. This time, I had contact with many more vegetarians, I was much more aware of the issues of health and nutrition, I was more independent, and most importantly, I had access to much more information. (Thank you, Internet). In February of 2004, I decided to see if I could be vegan for one month. The timing was ideal- I was living away from Daiku and my family, and I had just started exercising and becoming aware of the effects of my choices on my body. Since I had been vegan previously, a lot of things, such as reading labels and recognizing ingredients, came back to me very easily. I was surprised at how much better many things tasted. (I think the soymilk industry has progressed by leaps and bounds in the last 10-15 years, for example). And the options! The first time I bought Soy Delicious Purely Decadent (*click on the link for coupons*)ice cream (chocolate brownie almond),I swooned with delight. I thought, "if I can have things like this, this is not going to be very hard." February went by in a flash, and I knew in my heart that this is what I wanted to be doing. I no longer wanted to put my sympathy for animals and the horrors that they live through in factory farms in the back of my mind.

Then, it was time to tell Daiku. At first, he was apprehensive. Our relationship was founded on a mutual love of food, cooking, and eating. (I had stopped being vegan shortly after we met.) We were true foodies who had fond memories of extraordinary dining experiences. We had gone to restaurants such as Jean Georges and the Gramercy Tavern. We had dined at some fantastic sushi restaurants on the West Coast, and dreamed of one day doing the same in Japan. We had eaten fresh seafood cocktails on the beach in Mexico and foot-long sausages in small towns in Germany. We had fantasized about one day traveling (Daiku's first choice: Vietnam and southeast Asia in general, Bazu's first choice, Sénégal and West Africa in general) to different countries, tasting our way through the authentic foods of each one. Would this all come to a halt?

Neither of us knew the answers, but we both knew that we were willing to adapt and compromise for each other. When we once again began to live together, we agreed that we wouldn't have meat in the house, but that I wouldn't pressure Daiku when we were out. I can't say that it has always been smooth sailing (I can't help but get angry sometimes when he eats meat, and he can't help feeling betrayed and defensive) but we have both grown from the experience. So far, since going vegan, I have managed to successfully eat vegetarian in Montréal and Rio de Janeiro, but I'm not sure what I'd do in other countries. There is a fine line between respecting your ethical boundaries and closing yourself off to new experiences. I will just have to negotiate that line anew with each coming experience.

How am I different now than when when I was first an (unsuccessful) vegan? I know how to cook, and thanks to the Internet and especially all of your wonderful blogs, I have more choices about what to eat than ever. I know much more about the factory farming system, which has strengthened my resolve to resist it and what it stands for. I have realized that, in a lot of ways, egg and dairy production involves much more suffering than that of meat. I have learned to not strive for perfection (as you know, I do consume honey and occasionally things with small amounts of dairy in the ingredients list) and instead strive to always learn more. I have 2 cats that remind me every day that animals have souls. I am much more concerned about food and agriculture, and the influences of capitalism and special interests on what we eat. I am convinced that eating an animal-free diet is a sure way to combat environmental degradation. And darn it, companies like MooShoes just make is so easy to buy cruelty-free!

So that's my long-winded way of recognizing this month as the month where I decided, once and for all, that I want to live a life of compassion, as free of cruelty, dominance, and suffering as I can make it. I am not done learning and expanding my knowledge, and I thank all of you who have taught me so much and been a part of my journey.


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25 comments:

Emmy said...

Congrats on your 3rd Veganniversary!!! I really enjoyed reading how you came to be a vegan. I couldn't agree more about how soymilk and other veg products have progressed in the past 10+ years. It's amazing how far veg foods have come.

Pixie said...

Thank you so much for sharing and congrats on your veganiversary. I just wanted to say that
"Our relationship was founded on a mutual love of food, cooking, and eating." sounds so much like my husband and me. We are/were huge foodies and love to travel and experience different cultures and food. We, too, are working with this and find comfort to hear that you are doing so successfully as well. Again, thanks for sharing.

meesh said...

Congratulations on your veganniversary! :) Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It's nice to hear how other people have arrived at their decision to be vegan and how they have met the challenges. I know I sometimes have a hard time getting people to understand about my dietary choices too. Time and experience have helped with that as well.
I can't be perfect either, but I do my best. That's all any of us can do, I guess. :)

laura jesser said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story--it gave me chills! I think the best part is how you and Daiku have grown to accept and adapt to each other's choices. That's what it's all about! I wish you success in finding vegan food in all the wornderful places on the globe that you are able to visit. And I agree with you--So Delicious Purely Decadent makes it possible!

February is my first anniversary as a vegetarian--thanks for reminding me! Wow, how fast a year does fly by...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your veganniversary! I am so impressed with your journey. I've been vegetarian for 8.5 years now, but my first attempt at veganism only lasted about 6 months. The rest came in pieces (i.e. I gave up dairy 6 years ago w/ the exception of occasional soy cheese w/ casein and then gave that up a year or so ago when I became vegan again). It's so inspiring to know that others have had similar journeys. :-) I also really like how you and Daiku have dealt with the fact that he's an omni, which is an issue I've also dealt with for close to 8 years. Thank you so much for sharing and for being so open.

~vegyogini

Midwest Vegan said...

Happy veganniversary!! I enjoyed reading your post. It's fun to see how/why other people went vegan. I'm glad you and Daiku were able to find a happy medium. I agree that there are a lot more products on the market that make being vegan a lot easier. Thanks for sharing your story.

Urban Vegan said...

Happy Veganversary! Mine was on Feb. 1. Thanks for sharing your story, It was fun and inspiring to read.

As someone who has traveled a lot vegan (or vegetarian, in the past), I can tell you that traveling vegan is not as hard as you would imagine. I thought when I went to India and Nepal that I would consume a ton of ghee--but everyone made their food in oil at my request (and some of it just came without ghee). What I have found is that there is ALWAYS an alternative. My worst vegan experience was not in a developing nation--where there is plenty of vegan fare--but in Aruba, where I ended up eating breadsticks for lunch one day. Ick.

Melody said...

What a great post.. I loved learning more about you and your journey into veganism..

Susan said...

Oh, I just loved this post. Every bit of it. Thank you for sharing.

Susan from Food "Blogga"

aTxVegn said...

That was truly wonderful and inspirational, Bazu! Thanks for sharing your personal journey and congratulations on your anniversary.

Jody from VegChic said...

bazu, thanks for sharing. It is so interesting to hear about how other vegheads have evolved.

I think back to some of the wonderful foods I sampled during my travels (before I was veg) and wrestle with similiar questions. Would I have missed out on experiences if I was veg at that time? What about when I travel in the future?

Honestly, I'm not sure that I could consciously allow myself to consume meat/dairy stuff now. I've managed a couple of trips outside the country as a vegetarian just fine. My last sailing adventure in Tortola was successful as a vegan and I didn't feel like I missed anything.

I've got a trip coming up in a few weeks. Cruising with friends in the Caribbean. The cruise ship will not be as accomodating, but I'm sticking to me guns. I'll let you guys know how that goes.

Anyways, I'm jealous of your snow. We have the ice cold weather, but no snow at all.

Oh----I've got to add the chickpea gravy to my future post list. Everyone raves about it and I haven't tried it yet!

NadineWishestoBeaVegan said...

Congratulation on the anniversary.

I believe this post would inspire many people out there.

Hope you lke it that I link you up in my post.

Have a great day!

Ruthie said...

Thank you so much, Bazu! I thought it was a beautiful, honest look, at your veganizing. :) I too have had bumps and deviations along my road. :)

Peace!
Ruthie

Gaia said...

It was so interesting to read you Bazu !
Happy Veganniversary !

Ours is also on Feb 1, like UV !!
We have been veg 4 years and vegan for a little more than 2 1/2 years.

I laughed out loud at the fact that you succeeded in eating veg in Montreal LOL Did you mean that you wanted to eat local dishes like smoked meat and "resisted the urge" or that it was hard to find veg food ?
Because Montreal (and surrounding area) has more than 5 veg restaurants. We have 2 here in Québec City LOL

bazu said...

Thank you SO much for your comments everyone, you are such a supportive bunch!

Ok, by my count, we have at least 5 February anniversaries out there: Theresa, me, Laura, Urban Vegan and Gaia- what is it with this month?!

Gaia, oh yes, how I wish I could have smoked meat and poutine- just kidding! What I meant was that Montreal and Rio were *easy* for being a veg- I don't know the same for more "difficult" places.

Jody and Urban, thanks also about your comments about travel. It's good to know there really are lots of options everywhere, and it's becoming easier all the time!

Nikki said...

Congrats!

I am always glad to hear that we all have struggles in this lifestyle. Some people I know get on a high horse and make me feel uncomfortable if I mention honey or if I talk about my struggles with giving up cheese. We all do the best that we can, and that is the best that we can do!
after

Kati said...

Wow Bazu, I really enjoyed reading about your vegan journey. Happy veganniversary! I think that even though we're still a minority around the world, it's getting easier to be vegan all the time. It certainly helps having the internet with all the information contained therein and the support of so many bloggers who have chosen similar paths to your own. (I know it helps me!) And I certainly know what it's like to live where there are NO vegans - not even vegetarians. After all, I lived in cattle country (OK) and it wasn't easy! Thanks for sharing - it's good to know you! :)

Crystal & Ryan - Café Cyan said...

Bazu - what a great story. I found that I identified with some of your beginning struggles and challenges.

I understand vegetarianism and veganism, but sometimes I over rationalize with myself and end up eating meat. I feel like I have the knowledge to succeed, but perhaps not the support or drive. But, slowly and surely, I'm getting there. I believe it will all happen when the time is right.

Congrats to you and again, thanks for sharing your story!!

-Crystal

Brooke said...

Count me in as a February anniversary too! I was going to do a post about it, but I don't think I can match your eloquent writing. It is one year ago this week that I made the vegan jump. Yay! :-)

Theresa said...

Wow, we really do have a lot in common! I went vegan during the long-distance phase of my relationship with Andy, and it was weird living together at first--he didn't know how serious I was about it, I got annoyed whenever he bought milk...

As far as travelling to Africa or Southeast Asia, you would be surprised how many veg*n options there are. I went to Thailand as a vegetarian and ate SO MUCH (thanks to the buddhism, it's not so freaky over there). In Ethiopia I was told by everyone that it would be hard, but in actuality there were heaps of vegan meals for the religious act of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays (no animal products). And anywhere you go, you'll find friendly people who, even though they may not understand your reasons, will accommodate you. In PNG they made a special vegan meal for me up in the village--I'll be sure to blog about that soon (3 months late)!

Vicki said...

*congrats on your veganniversary!*
i enjoyed reading your journey and the world is better because of your choices and influence. thanks, bazu for being a strong voice for those who can't speak. the snow photos below are breath-taking. :o)

Jackie said...

Happy Veganniversary and thanks for your story.

If you come to South Africa we now have our first Vegan Restaurant and we also are getting imported vegan cheese in our supermarket for the first time in March so things are really getting better :)

scottishvegan said...

Happy Veganniversary!
Wow...that was an interesting read and I can relate to it a lot. It’s reassuring to know that others have had their ups and down on the road to becoming vegan. I was also vegan years ago and became vegan again almost a year ago (March though, not February!). I agree that it’s easier these days, especially with all the great resources and blogs on the internet! Thanks for sharing your story.

runswithdog said...

Hey Bazu,

Congrats on your journey. 3 years is quite an accomplishment. Hey, are you and Daiku going to the SARO vegan potluck Sunday?

Vivacious Vegan said...

Happy Veganniversary!!! I am so proud of you and your journey. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this very eloquently written post. Here's a toast to another happy vegan year.