Skip to comments.My Week as a Vegan
Posted on 02/26/2009 2:16:10 PM PST by nickcarraway
I have no idea what possessed me.
Maybe it was the nearly violent debates that occur at least once a day in my living room. Maybe it was the popularity of our vegan/vegetarian dining houses. Maybe I just thought it would make a good story. Whatever the case, I decided that I would be a vegan for a week.
First of all, if you have read my past articles, you know that I am no meat-and-potatoes kind of girl. I am an absolute omnivore, with the pathetic exception of cucumbers. Fried rattlesnake? Fine. Cucumbers? Not so much. I sometimes even prefer a vegetarian option to meat, but I also hold the firm belief that bacon makes everything better.
I wanted to know why people choose this lifestyle and how hard it is for vegans to manage here at Smith. If there are any ideal times to try being a vegan, your time at Smith is one of them. Having transferred from a large university, I can tell you that with an entire dining hall devoted to vegan and vegetarian options, as well as the probable option in other houses, vegans at Smith really have it made. I can see why so many Smithies dabble in veganism at some point during their four years. Many see the conditions associated with meat and other forms of animal mass production as a problem, and thus choose the diet to do their part in making the world a more humane place. At Smith, it is hip to be a vegan.
I never fully understood why vegans tend to group together until this week, when I began eating at the Northrop/Gillett dining hall. The place is like a haven, a small enclave on campus where students can go to relate and revel in their veganism.
Northrop/Gillett does have some really good eats; the food is thoughtfully prepared and there is a surprising amount of variety. I would certainly eat there again. However, it only took me an afternoon to realize that the naturally vegan foods, such as soups and salads, legume dishes and stir-fry, are the items that are actually worth eating. As you learn in grammar school, you should always be yourself, rather than try to pretend to be someone you are not. When someone puts macaroni and cheese in front of me and tells me it is vegan, we have a problem.
There are a few reasons why vegan foods like to put on airs. For one, I learned that a vegan diet gets old, and it gets old fast. When you think about it, all vegans can really eat are fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and tofu. It is understandable that things need to be mixed up, thus the creation of the "ultimate" shepherd's pie, vegan chop suey and soy-gurt. In trying everything I could this week, I found that while the appropriate outer appearance is often there in vegan substitutes, there is just something about the texture and taste that is not quite right, making me want the real deal even more, rather than these ingredient imposters.
Secondly, I think that deep down inside, no vegan truly wants to be a vegan. I do not know anyone who chooses to become a vegan because they prefer the taste of tofu bacon to the real thing. You choose this lifestyle - and after a week of following a vegan diet, I say this with utmost respect - either for health reasons or because it is your way of making the world more sustainable and humane. That is great, but do not tell me that you don't miss mac-and-cheese, apple pie or Girl Scout cookies. Vegans need fake cake and meatless meatballs because it is as close as you can get to what used to be so good.
My worst part of the week was on Rally Day. The Hubbard dining hall pulled out all the stops. Smoked salmon with bagels and cream cheese, quiche, bacon and coffee cake - so much effort went into that brunch, and it looked beautiful. While my friends socialized and laughed over full plates of what was clearly a special treat, I moodily stabbed at my oatmeal, ready to head over to Northrop so I could sit with my fellow vegans and brood in our shared self-righteousness - or self-pity - while we ate our tofu-scramble.
Food is a social entity, meant to be shared and enjoyed with others. It was then that I knew why vegans gather together in Northrop/Gillett. And if I planned on continuing a vegan diet, I would join them.
I want to be clear that neither the vegan nor the non-vegan diet is better than the other. Both have their positive attributes and both are flawed. I like ice cream and enjoy a good steak. I do not like being gassy all the time. That does not necessarily make me environmentally inferior to anyone else. I do my part in other ways such as recycling or supporting my local farmer - or my high school custodian who hunts deer in my backyard. I love food far too much to give any of it up.
For me, food is also a way for me to learn about other countries and traditions. I love how food evolves, how immigrants will bring their comfort dishes to their new country, fusing them with other cuisines as they are introduced to different ingredients and methods.
When I entered the world of veganism, I felt as though I had been closed off from a large sector of the rest of the food world. Vegan food can be shared, but it cannot receive outside influences, unless it is in imitation form, because of its severe limitations. It is exclusive, and without a social network, it is downright lonely. So thanks for sharing, vegans of Smith, but this Reeses that I am eating right now is absolutely divine.
“Dont get me wrong, years ago I read John Robbins Diet for a New America and he made some persuasive conservative/libertarian-sounding arguments against our meat-eating culture....”
I read the same book in my twentie’s and was vegetarian (not vegan and not a democrat either) for four years. It was fairly easy, plus I could still drink ;)
I think it was healthy and good for me but I finally caved over a “free range” steak on Maui and the rest is history :)
By “I am 1/7 vegan,” I meant that I don’t eat meat on Fridays.
I do have the dental adaptation to eat flesh, but I choose to limit the kind of flesh to fish. If I had children, they would eat fowl, too, but it’s not for me.
.......I’d like to see what they do when I open up a big ole to-go box of mouth watering slow-smoked pork ribs.....
The buffet line was quite varied and included some very very good meat and meat dishes that were a cut above ordinary stuff. They merely passed it by, knowing the vegan police were watching.
The person has a narrow view of veganism and what you can eat.
I’m going to out myself as a person who has been vegan for over a year. I eat pizza (there is vegan cheese, but I usually do without it), I make vegan cupcakes and muffins, I eat wonderful foods that are filling, exciting, and interesting. I eat Chinese, Thai, Indian,and Mexican food. I make my own ‘ribs’ that taste like meat ribs. There are tons of vegan cookbooks and recipe websites. If people are eating boring food, that’s their problem.
Besides losing weight and getting off a bunch o’meds, what I’ve found this year is that being vegan makes me give a thought to all the food that surrounds us. I used to just eat ‘cause the food was there - stuff at work, fast food, etc. Now I think about it more and it is easy to pass up food. I’m diabetic, so there is stuff I shouldn’t be eating in the first place; being vegan makes it a lot easier to walk away from temptation.
I still enjoy looking at cooking shows, I enjoy seeing a nice piece of steak, I admit to missing chicken and bacon, but I don’t need these things to live and I certainly don’t need them if they come from dirty factory farms, as does most food in this country.
I went vegan overnight and haven’t looked back. I don’t know why FReepers are so against people who decide not to eat certain foods. I’m not crazy, I’m still a conservative, I don’t leave my cell phone on in the movie theater. I just choose not to eat animal products.
Isn't there a direct connection? Diabetes is a carbohydrate disease and vegetarian diets are mostly carbs. India has a severe diabetes problem. Why would you continue to mostly eat what caused the disease?
I don’t think any medical person would say diabetes is a “carbohydrate disease.” You really don’t think there is a difference between complex carbs and simple carbs? You really consider broccoli to be junk food?
There’s a lot more to diabetes than carb intake. I was diabetic before I was vegan (10 yrs) and I have diabetes on both sides of my family. I’ve done Atkins w/limited success. The carb restriction almost drove me crazy. I felt terribly deprived and punished for being diabetic and the low blood sugars were transitory.
The issue is not carbs per se, we need carbs, it’s refined carbs. As long as I eat brown rice, keep to my portion sizes for pasta (that was hard to get used to and I still don’t eat it that often), and eat lower glycemic fruit, I don’t have spikes in my blood sugars.
I am a low-fat vegan, and for me at least, going low fat has been the key. I am eating foods that I had given up w/o detrimental affects on my blood sugars. There have been peer-reviewed studies on the success of diabetics using a low fat vegan diet. The first time I read the studies, I couldn’t get into the idea of being vegan. A couple of years later, for some reason (maybe the death of 3 diabetics that I knew), I was ready to give it a try.
For being a platelet donor, you have my love and admiration. I think platelet donors are the greatest folks in the world. I work in apheresis, so I know how we ask a lot of your time and sometimes put you through some discomfort. I was making a generalization based on what I see at school. I have met several self- righteous vegans. Keep up the good work, I am gonna bite into some steak!
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