Becoming vegan is a process.

When I first announced the decision to cut meat from my diet people assumed it was a phase.  And I was inclined to think that was true.

In high school I practiced vegetarianism for a brief period of time, but I knew almost nothing about the real reasons why I was doing it.  I mean, I was an animal lover, always have been, but that was not enough to cement the cause for me. My family members were big meat-eaters, my stepfather a self-proclaimed BBQ master, was not about to roll over and let me cut out the star of meal time.  I held strong during meals, more just to prove I could.  However, the temptation of leftover meat in the refrigerator at night was overwhelming and I fell off the wagon.  Eventually, I resumed my normal carnivorism.

Fast forward about 10 years later, it was 2011 and I was living in DC. The city was an exciting and beautiful tourist attraction to show off to visitors, but I grew scared of the crime in the neighborhood and stayed inside most of the time.  I started exploring with my food more, I even threw around the idea of culinary school.  I was on the track to being a foodie in my own right and saw limitless potential in culinary creations. I was now home with a baby and found myself on the internet a lot looking up new recipes, cooking techniques or the latest must-see restaurants in the city.  In my searches I would occasionally stumble across videos about animal abuse or animal equality — graphic images of factory farming shedding light on the horrible pain inflicted on these sensitive, intelligent creatures.  I was too timid to watch at first, those videos had always made me want to cry.  Overtime, I found the courage to click and watch. What I saw disturbed me to the core and I would see these images when I closed my eyes.  I started to see meat completely differently, I saw the pain and suffering in their eyes and their screams for help in a language most humans claim to not understand.

Despite my love for the obvious, well-known proteins and the countless hours I had spent perfecting my kitchen skills, I was revisiting the idea of a meatless diet. However, news of my vegetarianism brought criticism, yet again.  I felt myself having to constantly defend my newly blossomed convictions from all angles.  People wanted to shut it down, they felt I was “going against nature” and would shrivel up from a lack of protein that “can only come from animals”.

I proceeded with caveats in place.

I justified eating eggs and dairy, I mean I wasn’t going to be one of those wacks who write off perfectly viable options.  I laughed when people asked, and quickly interrupted to quell their concerns, “No, no, I would die without cheese!” It was okay because, well, eggs don’t suffer at all, and dairy is fine because cows provide milk without having to kill the cow, and even fish because, c’mon, it’s fish, they don’t really feel anything… right?   I had committed to Pescatarianism and that seemed to suppress the wave of concern from the masses to some degree.

Well, luckily, once something is in motion most often it keeps going.  I kept investigating.  I found if I had a response to everyone’s questions or assumptions I would feel more comfortable having open conversations about it.  The truth bug got ahold of me and it just escalated from there solidifying the fears of those around me. I began to question why people were so vehemently opposed to me changing my diet.  The mere mention of becoming a vegetarian sent people’s eyes rolling and forced them into defensive action to protect the image of the diet they all know and love.  I sought out information about the effects of factory farming on our planet, the dangers of overfishing our oceans.  I gained a much more comprehensive view of what it meant to support the egg, dairy and fishing industries.  I witnessed the horrible conditions of egg factories, I learned fish do, in fact, have feelings and memories and I empathized with the agony of ever-pregnant cows mourning for their babies who are stolen and sent to become meat.  Even when I switched to all “free range” or “cage free” eggs I found out it wasn’t what I was lead to believe.

I questioned myself though, could I practically maintain this vegan lifestyle?  I didn’t think this could be done, I mean I crumbled like a leaf in high school and that was only for meat.  Now I wanted to cut out everything I know and was raised on…. and cheese, what was I thinking?!?  Could I really do this?  But the more I knew the more confident I grew.  I found my moral ground and began to embrace my new enlightened way of life with a guilt-free and sturdy focus.

Goodbye eggs, milk, butter, and cheese…….as I knew them!

I bought some vegan books and dropped clues to my husband that I was about to commit.  Then I made the official announcement: I was becoming vegan. I imagine the real reason for the stalling was the realization of an evident paradigm shift in my life.  I was the main shopper and meal-maker in the house, so this also meant my family’s diet would circumstantially be affected – my veganism would now be theirs.  Though I know my husband still eats meat occasionally, he has drastically cut down on his meat, egg and dairy consumption, and that’s a huge win in my book!  He’s also said he’s trying to open his mind to it and actually loves 98% of the vegan meals I make!  Other people contrarily, went nuts over the idea, like I had been corrupted or gone radical or too far.  The worst though, was when a loved one said to me in a caring and concerned manner for my well being,

“You know… you doing this won’t make any difference in this world.”

And that’s true.  I can’t change the world by myself, but the more people to question their idea of food and stand up to the cruelty that is hidden from the masses, the closer we come to righting the wrong.  My passion was refueled – I can make a difference in this world.  I can show others how to stand up for what you believe in because hey, turns out you don’t need to compromise flavor for morals.  I was asked once, “Oh my God, so what do you even eat anymore?” Well, I can honestly now say: much more than I ever have, and I feel good about it!  Join me on my uphill battle as I explore the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a cruelty-free, food savvy life meant for real people.

I love to hear about other people’s journeys too!  Send me your stories so I know what everyone wants to read more about. Or, if you have any feedback or suggestions please let me know.  Enjoy the ride!