It all started when I was a young boy, growing up in Miami. My parents did their best to try to find us events and programmes that would let us kids feel like we have a community to belong to. Having immigrated from India, finding such a community was difficult enough, but being (lacto) vegetarian made us feel more alienated still. The norms of the American culture confused and bothered us. We didn’t understand how people who could keep petted and pampered animals (dogs and cats) could turn around and senselessly, viciously savage and slaughter other beautiful, intelligent
animals, like cows, pigs, and chickens.
In the pursuit of community that would be open and accepting of my family, my mother found a vegan meet up. Because most of the food of South India is vegan already, she had a very easy time throwing together delicious dishes that would get raves from all the vegans at the meetups. For whatever reason, their truth didn’t penetrate my dense skull at the time. They were vegan, and I was vegetarian. In my brain, there was no difference.
In eighth grade, my social studies teacher required each of her students to present what she called a “tracer” in the USA. A tracer, in this case, was a topic of human interest, that could be traced back to culture in the US. The first one that I chose, of course, was being vegetarian.
A dear family friend of mine was working for Earth Save at the time. She loaned me a book called The Healthy School Lunch Programme Action Guide, which was a pilot programme being run by Earth Save to try to get more vegan options into public school cafeterias. It had statistics, figures, guides on cooking in bulk, and the stories of the animals, and what they suffer. As I stood in front of the class, describing the atrocities that cows are forced to endure, the unnatural ways that their bodies are crammed together, my brain continued to ignore the clear conclusions that the book was saying: GO
It’s funny how no matter how clear the message, if you’re not ready for it, you will not hear it. On went my senseless exploitation of the animals for my pleasure. On went the consumption of dairy and eggs. I shudder to think of the hundreds of thousands of deaths I’m responsible for with my cavalier attitude towards the suffering of others.
In college, I co-founded a vegan club. Still, nothing sunk in. I cooked for friends in their homes, and at my home. Nothing still. Finally, I stumbled upon Bob and Jenna Torres’s podcast, “Vegan Freak Radio.” They urged their listeners to try to go vegan for three weeks to see how they like it. To see if they could do it. It was a challenge, and I was willing to step up to the plate, and face it. I tried the three week pilot vegan programme.
I was vegan.
I began posting recipes on their forums, and Bob approached me to write a book. I was floored. Someone wanted me to write down my recipes? Someone wanted to hear my voice, and share it with others? But I’m such a new vegan! What do I know?
He refused to be swayed by my lousy excuses, just like he refused to be swayed by excuses against going vegan. “Just try it,” he said. So try it I did. I poured my heart into that book, telling the stories of each recipe, describing in detail the whys and the hows of the food. I explained what the recipes meant to me, and how they came into my life. I fondly recalled the
formation of the foods, and loved sharing that part of myself.
And now I’m cooking at a vegan restaurant.
Who knew that in the course of two years, I could find my vegan husband, write my vegan book, and cook in a vegan restaurant. What a lot of power just a few people’s voices have. It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard the message before; it was that I wasn’t ready to hear it, or that the messenger wasn’t speaking in terms that I understood. You and people like you are the strongest advocates for the animals (aside from the animals themselves). If you don’t let your voice be heard, you deny the animals their voices, which is what everyone else in this slave-centred society does. Tell your stories loudly and proudly. Proclaim your truths. Be vegan.
~Dino in New York