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Archive for the ‘raised vegetarian’ Category

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
VEGAN.

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.

Boom.

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

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My journey to veganism was primarily food based at the start. I was raised in a lacto-ovo vegetarian home, but once I went away to college I hit the hamburger stand full-force. Fifty pounds later, I scaled back to healthier standards, but remained a meat eater, primarily because I didn’t know anyone who was a vegetarian besides my parents, and they didn’t voice objection that I had left the lifestyle. That, and I was going to school in Chicago, home of deep dish pizza.

Many years later I did the best (and worst) thing possible for myself, and it changed my life. In an effort to lose weight, I went on the Atkins Diet for a year. I ate cheese and beef jerky and scrambled eggs and processed deli meat and cottage cheese and Jell-O EVERY DAY. If I had a sweet tooth I sucked Readi-Whip from a can. That was my diet 24/7. And I lost 20 pounds. I also got horrible acne, was constipated on a regular basis, felt lethargic and logy, and began having problems with my “fluid” tract. My doctor was concerned about my kidneys and used the phrase, “possible damage and eventual shut-down” if I continued to consume high fat, high sodium foods. It was permission to quit, and going off the diet was a
relief.

After the Atkins fiasco I decided to go back to my lacto-ovo vegetarian roots. I felt better almost immediately.

Then Mad Cow Disease hit in England.

A girlfriend of mine was dating a vegan at the time, and we had long discussions about why we were at a greater risk than he as far as contracting disease or being effected by contaminated food sources. I started to research veganism and animal production. Embarrassing as this is, it wasn’t until then that I put beef and dairy in the same category. I had always
separated the chicken and the egg. However, I pushed my thoughts away for several years because I witnessed how vegans were treated. “Freak,” is the term I remember most.

Then, during a stint where I became very concerned about my health, I decided to adapt a vegan diet 100 percent. I went cold turkey. And I continued to read. As a result, amazing things happened to me.

I love to cook, and learning a new method was an exciting challenge. Two years into my veganism I STILL get a tremendous charge from having someone rave about a bread or dessert that I bring to work, and watching their face change when I tell them the delightful taste is courtesy of tofu!

I’ve also lost weight and kept it off. I still hit the gym and get as much exercise in as possible, but it’s just easier, even though I’m getting older.

However, my greatest gift has been a re-connection with the animals. My sweet kitty cat, Mo, was always a friend, but now she is a true companion. I can’t imagine life without her because I see her as an equal, not just a house pet. And I revere other animals with the same respect. That attitude only surfaced after becoming vegan.

Veganism has made my life come full circle, in a sense. I am one, yet I am part of a community – a huge community of people and animals. It is humbling to be part of such a large family where every “one” is different, yet equal, unique and special. 

~Colleen in St. Paul, MN

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