So, I’m late on this, but I didn’t want October to end without at least one post dedicated explicitly to Vegan MoFo. Vegan MoFo (or, “Vegan Month of Food”) was created by the Post Punk Kitchen in an effort to get bloggers to devote an entire month to blogging about vegan things: vegan recipes, vegan stories, favorite vegan products, etc. Because all my recipes are vegan, I suppose I’ve been participating in this all month, but I haven’t yet had the chance to use that nifty little logo, and so, here is my first official Vegan MoFo post. And what better way to celebrate this great internet trend than to tell my “why vegan?” story!
I guess it all started when I was 9. I was in a group called “Odyssey of the Mind”, which encouraged elementary school students to create a short performance that addressed a prompt. Our prompt was to design a story about an animal that had to solve a problem. My six best friends and I, with my awesome momma as coach, created a play about a group of pigs who realized that they were going to be butchered. To avoid this impending death, the pigs decided to go on a weight-loss program so as to be too skinny to eat. Granted this may not have been the most feminist message (starve for survival!), but it did make me, at age 9, refuse to ever eat a piece of pork again. Shortly thereafter I realized cows were just as cute as pigs, and soon I rejected beef as well.
For some reason it took me quite a few years before I decided that birds and fish were just as worthy of life as my bovine and porky friends, and so around 16 I became a vegetarian. This was all mostly about not wanting to eat cute animals. But my politics, still underdeveloped, were about to get a wake-up call.
Enter September 11, 2001. This day is vivid for all of us, but what it signifies to me most is the beginning of my politicization. I was devastated by the deaths of innocent people, but when immediately following there was talk of war and destruction to other nations, I was outraged. It got me reading, it got me wanting to be involved, it got me to my first protest. And it got me to engage in conversation with the cute Radical Punk-Rock Barista (RPRB) at Starbucks where I frequented to visit my best friend who also worked there.
RPRB had opinions. Lots of them. He listened to bands I’d never heard of, and name-dropped radicals I’d never heard of. He taught me a lot in our short but meaningful courtship, and though the romance ended, our friendship (and what I’d maybe call a mentorship) did not. He was also a vegan and was the first person to tell me about Food Not Bombs (FNB) (which, as I write about here in this homage to Howard Zinn, pretty much changed my life).
FNB and the people within it got me making connections, teaching me about the intersections between animal rights, worker rights and environmental rights–and how all of these forms of oppression were connected to capitalism. My food choices suddenly became about a lot more than just saving “cute animals,” and were instead about practicing a personal politics that rejected oppression and demanded liberation. I decided that when I started college in Chicago in 2003 I would officially become a vegan.
My early vegan diet consisted of mostly: cereal, peanut butter toast, raisins, canned green beans, and twizzlers. Honestly that was a pretty accurate view of my freshman year pantry (…oh, also vodka.whoops). Slowly but surely I started cooking more, started getting into tofu and frozen fake meat, and loading up at the salad bar at my campus. I began to dislike pasta after ODing on it every time I went out to eat, but got really into bread. Bread all the time!
This is a sad but honest reflection of what a vegan diet might look like. This was not only bad news bears for my tummy, but also for the way I reflected what a vegan diet could be. I ate well when I went home–my family provided me with lots of veggie-heavy meals that I gladly ate up. But everyone was worried about my protein and iron intake.
Fortunately, all it took was practice. I started eating less processed fake meat, and more veggies. I learned to cook more, and started eating less cereal. I tried to get veggies in my body before dinner time (and also at dinner, but not just at dinner).
Fast forward to the present, and, as you can see, I’m in love with cooking, eat a shit ton of veggies, gave up bread, gave up fake meat, gave up pretty much anything processed. And I feel great!
What’s interesting is that my reason for becoming vegan—-connected almost entirely to politics—-has transformed into something that is actually more about health. That doesn’t mean my politics have become less radical or that I care less about the political elements of our choices, but my view about how much “voting with our dollar” matters, has shifted. Yes, the personal is political, but personal consumer choices do nothing to challenge the structure of factory farming, or the abuse of workers in those factories, or the way those factories ruin our environment. Organized collective resistance challenges those things. And the most efficient way to challenge those structures is to challenge capitalism, because, at the end of the day, that’s what fuels it all.
It’s personally comforting to know that I don’t participate in financially supporting practices which I find abhorrent, and so I have no desire to give up my vegan choices. But it also makes me a lot less judge-y, which several people have told me they appreciated so much that they started making changes in their own diet, (and that they may have not done that if I was all holier-than-thou about it). I’m not going to turn my nose up at someone who eats dairy because I don’t really think that does anything to challenge the dairy industry. I know this is maybe an unpopular opinion for those of us in this neoliberal world that like to believe all our individual choices matter SO MUCH. But they don’t matter as much as education, and education doesn’t matter as much as…say it with me now….”organized collective resistance!” Woo!
Anyway, on a lighter and less controversial note, here are some awesome things about being vegan:
1. POTLUCKS! vegans love potlucks and we host totally awesome ones, and probably get invited to more of them.
2. Vegan baking. Delicious, usually better than non-vegan baking.
3. Being in a cool club where you get to bond with other vegans and be all awesome about it. Everyone loves a subculture clubhouse.
4. Vegan tattoos. I don’t have any vegan tattoos, but I think they’re cute. Maybe more generally, I just mean cute vegan punk rock gals and guys (and GNC-folk).
5. Petting my kitty and not feeling hypocritical because I don’t eat her furry brethren.
6. Blogs. Vegan blogs. God love ’em.
7. The happy excitement of finding things you can eat. Most privileged US Americans feel like they have all the options in the world of what they can eat, and I would certainly fit in that category, even as a working class gal, our food options–for better or worse–are abundant. But when you’re restricted, you get the really special pleasure of appreciation. Vegans get to appreciate things so much more; those rare special times when a coffee shop has vegan bakery, or when your aunt whispers “I used Earth Balance on the beans, so you can eat them!” Your heart just explodes with gratitude. It’s a lovely thing, being so grateful. <3
Are you a vegan? Why do you love being vegan? Comment and add to the list!