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I am sponsoring an episode of Food For Thought in honor of my boyfriend, Brian Kantorek, a compassionate, loving, gentle, supportive, fun, and all-around amazing person who also happens to be vegan. Since meeting him, I’ve gone from eating a bloody steak (piece of dead cow really, but I wouldn’t have called it that then) for the birthday dinner he treated me to (and he didn’t judge me, just asked if I was sure I wanted it cooked more!) to giving up eating all land animals (and since last week, I’ve finally gone entirely vegetarian), not buying leather, purchasing beauty products without animal ingredients, and pretty much only buying vegan cookbooks after years of ignoring the vegetarian cookbooks.

I must admit, my way into veganism was with the food, specifically cookbooks. I really love to eat and when I’m not eating, I’m reading about what other people are eating. I have had subscriptions to foodie magazines, have Gourmet’s massive tome where there are recipes for brains and pigeons and when I read them a few years back, I didn’t flinch. I thought people who were grossed out by “exotic” meats were wusses (although my actual palate was pretty wussy too!) Had I not grown and learn to realize how delicious vegan food is, and more importantly, that I and every other human is at least a little vegan since we all eat fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds at one time or another, my transformation may have taken even longer than it is taking. But once I knew how good the food is, I started reading vegan cookbooks, just so I could find recipes for Brian and I. I wasn’t going to give up meat. I was just going to expand my repertoire.

Of course, one doesn’t read about vegan food without also reading about why veganism exists in the first place. I have always loved animals. I, like so many kids, wanted to be a vet when I was little so I could help hurt and sick animals. I love the dog I share my home and life with beyond all reason. I cannot watch news reports or even fictional movies where animals get hurt. And sure, I always knew chicken came from dead chickens but I didn’t REALLY know, didn’t connect the meals I was eating with the confinement, torture, and death that made them possible. The few, rare moments of clarity I have had in the past about meat and animal cruelty were quickly wiped away with a shrug. What can you do, I’d think. We eat meat. And I’m sure the animals aren’t tortured anyway. Just stunned and then obliviously killed. Well, they are obliviously killed–by human obliviousness. They were and are all too aware of their horrific deaths. And I never, ever let myself know that until this past year.

So, as I read the cookbooks, I had a voice in me, a small one, saying, “I know it’s not right, but…” And I kept eating. And I would sometimes apologize to Brian for eating meat or ask if it bothered him. He never once judged me and never preached. But he didn’t mince words either. When he told me what was really in my lotion, he did so matter of factly, because it was the truth. But I was shocked. Suddenly, I realized there were dead animals everywhere and I didn’t even know.

One day, I brought home a roast chicken for dinner and then opened up my mail. I got the latest issue of the Humane Society’s magazine. I joined after their Katrina pet effort. I’ve given money to them and the National Anti-Vivisection Society and shunned fur over the years. But never thought about the leather I bought or the food I ate. As I ate the roast chicken, I started reading an article about factory farming. There was a big picture of a pig with his nose sticking out of a metal crate. I immediately stopped eating the chicken. I was horrified and utterly repulsed that I could read this material and still eat a dead animal. From that moment on, I immediately stopped eating all land animals.

Soon after, Brian and I started a blog, Mutual Menu, which I thought would first be a way to light-heartedly explore how a “mixed” couple like us could share meals. I thought I’d post some techniques for veganizing recipes but also include meat and fish for those who ate it, talk about “humane” meat. However, as I read and thought more about veganism and animal rights, I knew that slant wouldn’t work. It was through reading and writing and working through my own thoughts that I realized I could and wanted to live a life as free of cruelty as possible. In addition to that, Brian’s willingness to accept and love me for exactly who I am while sharing his life with me made it possible for me to change. When I hear some vegans say they could never date an omnivore, I can’t help but think of what a lost opportunity to change a life that is. I know I would not have changed, would not have wanted to stop eating meat, without Brian.

I have a long way to go. I still eat cow secretions (I’m particularly stuck on that culinary crack we call cheese) and chickens’ eggs but much less so than just this time last year. There are many days where I easily eat vegan without even trying or thinking about it. Also, I know that it has taken me a few months to write and send this e-mail because I feel less qualified to since I am not yet vegan. But I also know that I am working towards that, that my eyes are no longer closed and your podcast and my relationship with Brian has been the biggest influences on me this past year.

Thank you so much, Colleen, for your work. I can honestly say it has changed me to my core. And thank you so much to Brian, for your years of commitment, integrity, and honor to the animals and people. Our relationship has not only taught me how to love you but to extend that love to myself and all other beings. I love you very much.

Thank you,
~Joselle

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Your podcast has changed my life. I am so grateful that you dedicate so much of your time to this work. It is so very important. I love to hear you read the letters written by listeners whose lives you have helped transform. I hear myself in so many of them, and that is part of the reason it seemed possible for me to transition to veganism.

I am in my late 30’s, and until recently, a ‘foodie’ and ‘compassionate omnivore’ (an oxymoron if there ever was one), but part of me could never reconcile the fact that my beloved pet chihuahuas were the same weight as the chickens I was consuming. Not only that, but I love chickens, their personalities and behavior. I think they are remarkable creatures. Why was I eating them?

These concepts were not new to me. I had been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for many years in my 20’s, but began eating meat again several years ago. 2 months ago I decided to once again stop eating animals. That decision felt so right! However, even though I knew of the horrors of factory-farmed dairy and eggs, I allowed myself to feel comforted by the fact that I was able to buy free-range eggs from the hens running around in my neighbor’s yard, and dairy products from the small Jersey cow herd on a local organic farm.

Then I accidently purchased a copy of the magazine VegNews, not knowing it was about all things vegan. Now, I have had vegan friends for many years, and have cooked many vegan meals for them, but for some reason, despite my passionate love of animals and abhorance of all suffering, I never made the conscious connection between my choices and the lives of the creatures whose animal products I was consuming. Veganism just seemed like a quirky dietary anomoly, and I enjoyed the culinary challenge of creating tasty meals my vegan friends would enjoy.

The VegNews issue I bought had your podcast listed in one of it’s articles. I found ‘Vegetarian Food For Thought’ on iTunes and listened to it–for 3 days straight! I could not stop, and still cannot. You helped me see that it is ridiculous not to transition to veganism! Veganism benefits not only the animals, but the spiritual and physical health of us human animals and of our planet.

I have long understood the health benefits of a vegan-diet–I am a medical clinician and have a special interest in nutrition and fitness–but alas, I was addicted to yogurt and cheese. No longer! I have been plant-fueled for 2 weeks now, and I feel fabulous! What is interesting is the response I get from my medical colleagues. These people, “experts” entrusted with educating patients and helping them make important health decisions, do not understand my decision. They mock it. I believe, as you and many of your wise listeners have pointed out, that when we discuss our decision to be vegan, we are holding up a mirror up to others and reflecting back to them the unhealthiness of their own food and lifestyle choices. Thanks to your wise words, I feel supported in my decision, and have the knowledge I need to continue with (what I believe is) the only sustainable way of eating and living available to us. I also have access to the ‘joyful vegan’ language that you utilize, which makes discussions about veganism much less antagonistic.

I have never in my life felt such inner-peace.

Thank you Colleen, for helping me to become a better person.

~ Christine in Colchester, VT

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I’ve always been someone who cared too much. I have a hard time ignoring things once they’re in front of my eyes, no matter who are what it may relate too.

When I was a kid I ate whatever my parents put in front of me and did not question it for the most part. I was oblivious, as most people are, to the suffering that animals endure. As I got older I did begin question things a bit. I remember one night when we had hamburgers for dinner my sister kept on teasing me by mooing. She kept on reminding me I was eating a dead cow. I continued to eat that dead cow though.

I had a slight interest in vegetarianism from that point on, although I was still living with my parents and eating whatever they cooked. When I moved out on my own things changed, however. I always had an aversion to cooking raw animal flesh, so I wasn’t eating as much meat at home. When I did cook meat at home it was always the precooked kind, usually chicken.
I met my husband Matt (then my boyfriend) a few years after living on my own. He was picky about meat and not a fan of pork or beef and really only ate hamburgers when we were eating out. The majority of what we cooked and ate at home was precooked chicken.

My desire to go vegetarian was getting stronger and stronger, but me being the introvert I am, I held back. I was too worried about what my family, friends, and coworkers would have to say. I did not want to inconvenience them in anyway and knew eating out would be an issue. Living in the Midwest (St. Louis), there are not many vegetarian or vegan restaurants in St. Louis or even options at omni restaurants. This did not last too long, however, and one day I just decided to go for it. I had planned on cutting out meat slowly and started going through our cabinets and ridding our apartment of anything that had meat in it that my husband would not eat alone. This plan was quickly thrown out the window when one day I just decided to go vegetarian and did so literally overnight. Everyone, including my family and husband, was better about it than I had assumed they would be.

About 6 months after I had gone vegetarian and about 2 weeks before our wedding, my husband told me he was going to go vegetarian as well. Although he was picky about meat and didn’t eat a lot of it, and was eating mostly vegetarian since I did all the cooking, I knew he was quite picky about vegetables. I doubted him, questioning why exactly he was doing this. I had said in the beginning that I was going vegetarian for myself and I didn’t expect anything out of him. He told me he wanted to do it and it would make it easier on me since I did most of the cooking.

He, too, went vegetarian pretty much overnight. At first I was very worried about what his parents would think since they were hardcore meat eaters (as are my parents) and his dad was a hunter. We had a low-key wedding with just our parents and my sister and nephew present, and went to eat afterwards. We had not mentioned his vegetarianism yet, so I remember his mom kept on offering to share some of her club sandwich with him. Not too long after that he broke the news to them and they were surprisingly cool with it. Matt’s mom even bought and cooked us a tofurkey this past Thanksgiving.

Although going vegetarian was a choice I was proud of and made me feel I was doing some good, I always had a persistent nag in the back of my mind regarding veganism. When someone questioned my vegetarianism I would often point out that I felt guilty for not going vegan.

This nag eventually broke down my resistance and I started doing research and reading everything I could on veganism and animal rights. I realized that the dairy and egg industries were no better and probably worse than the meat industry. I stumbled upon Colleen’s Food For Thought podcast and I have to credit her for pushing me off the fence I’ve been sitting on for so long.

My husband took it well. I have a feeling he will possible go vegan in the future since I’m the only cook in the house and he’ll be eating primarily vegan. If he does not, however, it is fine with me. I’m happy he’s at least vegetarian as it does help the animals.

I have not been vegan for long and I already feel more at peace with myself. It is the best decision I’ve ever made!

~Crys in St. Louis

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I was a vegetarian for about 10 years before finally taking the vegan plunge this summer, and have always been proud of my choice not to eat animals. The notion of veganism was a niggling presence in the back of my mind, but I told myself that I “couldn’t” do it for all the standard reasons — it’s too hard, I couldn’t live without yogurt and cheese, I wouldn’t be able to go out to restaurants any more, eggs and milk don’t kill the animals, yadda yadda.

Listening to your podcast changed all that. It was in finally making the connection that the veal industry exists because of dairy that really clinched it for me. As a vegetarian, I had always felt that veal was one of the most reprehensible things you could eat, yet there I was supporting that very industry every time I put milk in my coffee.

Honestly, I don’t know why I never grasped that connection. After all, I grew up in a rural area and we actually had our own cow when I was a child. My parents would have the vet come around and artificially inseminate her — a process we knew she was none too fond of, because she would always try to hide when she heard the sound of his van coming down the driveway… which goes to show  just how smart cows really are! The driveway was not visible from the paddock  where our Moo and the other animals lived, yet she was able to make the connection between the sound of his engine and the nasty procedures that were done to  her.

Clearly, Moo was a lot better at making connections that I was, considering I never made the link that she had to have babies in order to give milk. The more I think about it, the more it amazes me that I managed to get through forty years of life without considering the implications of what it would mean on a scale of mass production to have millions of cows constantly giving birth to calves that would be 50% male, and just what would happen to all those male calves.

The same thing goes for eggs. Even after I went vegetarian and educated myself somewhat about factory farming, I still somehow thought that free range-eggs and organic cheese were the answer. I sort of assumed that “free range” hens would live the way our hens did when I was a kid. Even when I was little, though, I knew that my parents killed the roosters. In fact, this was one of the formative experiences that eventually turned me towards vegetarianism; being served the flesh of chickens that I’d known personally made it difficult to avoid the knowledge that meat is animal flesh. Yet I never quite grasped the idea that this killing-off of male chickens is simply part of the egg-producing industry, and that it happens on “free-range” facilities just the same as any other.

I suppose that’s a symptom of being raised in a culture where everything is so disconnected; we become blinded to what’s going on right in front of us. And the unvarnished truth is that, like most people, I didn’t make those connections because I really didn’t *want* to make them.

Listening to your podcast is what finally cleared the cobwebs from my  thinking. I really appreciate how thoroughly you debunk the myths and assumptions of  our carnist culture, replacing them with facts and logic. Not only do you make a powerful case for the importance of becoming vegan, you also make veganism seem really accessible. I think that even just listening to your voice helped me; it made me feel as if I “know” someone who made the transition, and that if you were able to do it, maybe I could do it too. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it really helped a lot. I’ve now transitioned my diet and most of my wardrobe to veganism, and am working to gradually eliminate animal products from my life.

I’m amazed by how profoundly becoming vegan has affected me. It’s a much deeper change than becoming vegetarian ever was, and seems a lot more significant. Looking around, I find myself seeing the world through new eyes. For example, I can’t believe how many leather items I’ve thoughtlessly purchased over the years, or the fact that I never questioned what happened to the ducks whose feathers fill my duvet. What was I thinking? How is it that I could have  given money to support such things, all the while believing that I loved animals?

These are painful realizations, yet it’s a good kind of pain because I’m finally being honest with myself. It feels like a homecoming, like I’m finally living a life that’s true to who I really am — and I have you to thank for it. So thank you, Colleen, for all the wonderful work you do. Never doubt that you are making a huge difference, both for the animals and for the people who love them.

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I tried being vegetarian a number of times but it never stuck.  I realize now that while intellectually I was drawn to it, my heart wasn’t really in it.

Then about 2.5 years ago I was going through a divorce (a nice kick in the butt causing me to reevaluate pretty much everything) and got connected with a Buddhist group based on Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings.  The first mindfulness training is: Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I vow to cultivate compassion and learn ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking and in my way of life.

There are so many different ways and levels to read and understand that…and over time it started to sink deeper and deeper into my heart.  I realized before long I would be vegetarian.

First however, I was moving towards a life without alcohol as I began to see how it wasn’t serving me or supporting my life’s journey.  This was a real challenging one though because a significant part of my job involves entertaining clients (which inevitably revolves around drinking).  Also, when I would connect with friends from college, it was the same thing.  So while I had a lot of resistance around giving it up, there was a strong sense I needed to to be true to myself.  Then…a lyric from a song called Western South by Kate Callahan pierced me.  The song was about her struggle with alcohol and the line was:

          it’s not the drink I think I need

          it’s the illusion that i’d be so much happier free

          from the sound, and the weight, and the history

          that comes from saying “no” all the time

It was like my own heart talking to me.  And shortly afterward, I was done with it without any struggle at all.  Amazing. 

A few months later, I went on retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh and the movement towards being a vegetarian became permanent…and again it very easy because my heart had opened even wider.  I knew my only remaining resistance was the same as it had been with alcohol…the perceived weight of explaining my choice again and again to people who didn’t understand it.

But I had no choice.  My heart had already decided for me 🙂

In the following year I slowly learned more and more about the suffering and killing involved in cheese and egg production and my resistance/fear to living vegan quickly became untenable.  Last fall, following my heart I made the switch, again without struggle.  I’m learning to cook 🙂 and am loving the exploration of all the new foods I never new existed!  Physically, my body feels great.  And best of all, I’m living in greater harmony with my heart and soul.  What more can I ask for?

That’s my story in a nutshell.  I found your podcast a few months ago and am so grateful.  Thank You for shining your Light in the world! 

~David in Colchester, CT

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I have always loved animals. “Kitty” was my first word. I used to gently move pillbugs and other insects off of walking paths so that my parents and friends would not step on them inadvertently. However, it took awhile for me to make the connection between the animals and the food I liked to eat. My paternal German grandmother, while not anywhere near vegetarian, rescued many animals (she even fed a family of opossums living in her garage and adopted an injured rooster). She also supported the HSUS and PETA, so I would read her PETA magazines when I was little. They turned my stomach and made me cry. The veins in fish, the “veins” in shrimp, and dead animals hanging in Chinatown restaurant windows sickened me.

By the time I reached sixth grade (in 1993), I knew that it just wasn’t right to eat animals, and became a vegetarian. My parents continued to put meat on my plate for several weeks after I made the declaration that I would never eat meat again, thinking that it was just a phase. Considering the fact that my my parents are meat-loving people (and “foodie types”), I feel very lucky that my parents became so supportive once they realized that I was serious about my
vegetarianism. If you are a parent whose child has decided to become vegetarian or vegan, I urge you to support them in their decision! It can make all the difference.

I soon stopped drinking milk (but would still eat products containing dairy), stopped buying leather a few years after that, and stopped buying wool yarn a few years after that. I knew that there was something wrong with eating egg and milk products, but sort of hid my head in the sand and chose not to read up on the topics because I didn’t think it was really possible for me to be vegan, mostly because of desserts and because I LOVED cheese.

I read Fast Food Nation, I watched Super Size Me, felt guiltier and guiltier, and noticed that my diet was becoming increasingly vegan. The issue of animal rights/liberation is something I’ve grown much more passionate about over the past months/years, so I’m embarrassed that it took me so long to finally switch over to veganism. (If only I had known how easy it would be.) I looked up information on rennet about a year ago and after that, I would only eat cheese that I knew for sure did not contain animal-derived rennet, which meant no cheese that simply listed “enzymes” as an ingredient, and no cheese in restaurants or from any place where I couldn’t read the ingredient list. this was a huge help on the way to veganism, as it forced me to dramatically cut down my cheese consumption and get used to eating other things instead. (I recommend this as a weaning method for people who are on the fence about going vegan but feel that cheese is holding them back and are having trouble going cold turkey!)

I started listening to the Vegan Freak podcast and to your Food for Thought podcast and to and began really reading in-depth about all of the nasty realities of non-vegan life. I had always had vague concerns about nutrition and realized, once I started looking into what I’d need to do to stay healty, that I would actually be much healthier after cutting out eggs and dairy. I decided to make the switch about nine months ago, and feel so much better than I thought I would, both physically and mentally. I try to get friends and family to think about what they’re eating, and lead by example as much as possible. As a vegetarian (and early in my veganism), I was quiet about it and almost apologetic. I have now become much more enthusiastic about cooking, baking, trying new cuisines, and spreading as much of the spirit of veganism as I can. I don’t shrink back, apologize, or enforce myths and misconceptions about my diet and lifestyle.

I think that knowing the reasons behind the importance of going vegan makes all the difference, and I am certain that I will never go back.

~Lisa in Los Angeles

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Although I’ve never been a huge meat eater, I decided to officially become a vegetarian this past summer.  My original decision was simply because I was disgusted by both the taste of meat and the thought of eating animals that were once living.  But as I began to search for tips on vegetarian cooking, I came across more and more information that confirmed I made the right choice — for my own health, for the environment and animals, and for the world as a whole. 

I discovered your website this spring, and have been listening to your podcasts for several months.  A year ago, I would never have considered being vegan, and I was definitely one of those “but I love cheese!” people.  But you’ve inspired me to reduce the amount of animal products in my diet.  As a student, I have had to compromise and opt for the vegetarian choices when I eat in the dining hall, but I am proud to say that I have stopped buying dairy products and I’ve even had a few successful attempts at vegan baking!

Listening to your podcast, however, I’ve realized that veganism is a profound belief, rather than just a special diet.  The vegan choices I’ve made thus far have been surprisingly easy, but I feel that if veganism is something I wholeheartedly believe in, I should be willing to make sacrifices.  So I’ve decided to go completely vegan this summer (when I’m home and away from college food).  I’m really excited about this decision, but it is a place I never would have arrived at without your podcasts.

Since I only know a couple vegetarians and zero vegans, listening to your podcasts feels like talking to a friend.  When I get sick of telling my friends where I get my protein from, or after watching them consume hamburgers at a barbeque, I come back to my room and listen to your friendly and wise words, and I am reminded that I am not the only “crazy vegan” in the world.  So thank you, a million times, for the work you do. 

Thank you for being such an inspiring person!

Carynne M.

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