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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

My Pre-Vegan Days

            I thought I’d start things out by describing my pre-vegan days before we jump into anything crazy or involved.  I think this might be particularly useful since a lot of people think there’s just one path to going vegan or one reason for going vegan, but that’s not the case, obviously.  When ever somebody says they recently went vegan, if you’re an omnivore and if you’re being honest, probably thought they went vegan because they didn’t want to hurt cute, little, baby animals.  You probably pictured that person cuddling a baby calf.
            And what’s wrong with that?  I mean, have you SEEN baby calves?  I think the real question is, why wouldn’t you want to cuddle a baby calf?

            But in reality there are many reasons why people go vegan.  My original reason was for health.  I wasn’t suffering from anything – I wasn’t at a doctor’s office listening to grim news about how I’d be dead in a year if I didn’t change my ways – but if there was a way to help prevent developing any chronic or debilitating illnesses and all I had to do was eat better, why not make the smart and easy choice?  
            But how was I even exposed to vegetarianism and veganism in the first place?
            I have my wife to thank for getting me initially on the vegetarian bandwagon.  She was the one who was suffering from a few health ailments and she was sick of it.  Sick of even going to the E.R. just once let alone numerous times to be treated.  She went vegetarian first and within just a few short months – on Thanksgiving, no less – she was vegan.  She had turned her lifestyle around 180 degrees in just months.  Her health problems had gone away in that time period and within the first year of going vegan, she was looking a hundred times better, too.  The best argument for a cause is to see the changes that are taking place right in front of your eyes.
            Yet, in those first few months, I was still in my pre-vegan “glory”.  For years prior to going vegetarian I had largely lost the interest in eating cow flesh.  I still ate hamburgers but I was sick to death of eating steaks and the like.  I think that has to do with the fact that I ate a lot of red meat as a kid/teenager.  I did eat a lot of meat and potatoes but there were still a good amount of veggies and fruits (compared to the average person, I suppose).  Granted, a lot of those veggies were of the frozen variety.  I did eat chicken and pig (bacon and pork chops) on a regular basis with sushi thrown in whenever I could.
            But my pre-vegan palette was pretty limited.  I hated avocadoes, beans, cauliflower, artichokes, and a whole host of things I could never see myself eating in a million years.  Sushi was as adventurous as I got.  If it wasn’t for my fast metabolism, my wife keeps telling me that I should really be a hundred pounds heavier than I am since all I ate were fast foods, pizzas, pastas, potatoes, and other ‘heavy’ foods.
            Even when I worked at a grocery store as a teenager and into my early twenties, and even though I saw tofu, Morning Glory products, and other vegan products, I always thought, “Ew, who eats this crap?”  I also had no idea what one would do with things such as kale or dandelion greens or collard greens or ginger root.  I look back on those days with a smile because I had NO idea what was in store and no idea how well acquainted I’d become with all of those products.  If it wasn’t an apple, an orange, a grape, or a banana, I basically didn’t have any interest in the fruit or veggie.
            So fast-forward several years later when my wife went vegetarian.  She plainly stated at the time that I didn’t have to go vegetarian but that she would not be making any meat-based meals.  If I wanted to eat what she made – cool.  I could also eat whatever I wanted outside of the home but I was on my own, otherwise.  Because I have no cooking skills whatsoever beyond making pasta dishes, I was all for trying vegetarian dishes.  To my idiotic surprise, I loved nearly every single dish she made.  The foods were so delicious and varied!  I had never tasted anything so good in my life.  When she went vegan, I kept eating whatever she was putting in front of me.  It seems silly to think that I was surprised with how full of flavor the dishes were since they were generally using more ingredients and more spices than just plain meat and potato dishes.
            Outside of the home was a bit different.  I didn’t eat any red meat any more but I still ate chicken, pig, and fish (sushi).  I also kept drinking cow’s milk and eating pizza with cheese on it.  However, I noticed that I slowly began to lose the interest in eating animals.  As those first few months of being vegan came to a close for my wife, I had nearly phased out chicken and pig from my diet.
Perhaps it was because of all the information my wife was bombarding me with about animals, factory farming, health benefits of going vegan, and anything else she could soak up on her vegan journey.  Let me point out that when I say ‘bombard’, I truly mean that in the nicest way possible. (ha)  She was so excited about everything she was learning and I was seeing the physical changes she was going through since changing her eating habits, that it was hard NOT to take it all in and get just as excited and amazed.
Finally, my heart and brain just couldn’t take it any more.  I had taken in too much knowledge to ignore that veganism was the way to go.  Nobody told me to stop eating animals.  I didn’t do it because my wife ‘made’ me (a ridiculous notion best suited for a 1950s sitcom than the new millennium).  So, almost two months after my wife went vegan I decided to go vegetarian in January of 2011 and I haven’t looked back.  I didn’t go fully vegan until 2013 but even before 2013, I was mostly vegan with the exception of eating cookies or cupcakes that were made with animal products.
I’ll talk about the transition and the changes I noticed in another entry.  For now, I think this is a good start.  Sorry for the length of writing!
What’s YOUR story of going vegetarian or vegan?  Were any of you big meat-eaters before going vegetarian/vegan?  If you’re still an omnivore that’s curious about going vegetarian, what are the things you see as roadblocks (mental or real) to making the transition?  I want to hear from you all!
           With that, I bid you all adieu for now.  (Still thinking of a catchy closing phrase.  Hmmm)

P.S. - The photo (I'm 99% sure) is from Farm Sanctuary, which is an AMAZING charity and should be supported.

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