Before we get started, I just wanted to briefly introduce myself so you know who these thoughts and ideas come from. My name's Allysia and I love to sing (in the band The Criminal Kid), I love to eat (just slightly more than I love to cook), and I especially love being alive. I'm dedicated to conscious growth and development, but I'm not into the pursuit of happiness, because I don't feel like happiness is something to be pursued - instead I feel it's a state that you can choose to enter if you want. Visit the About Me page for more information and whatnot.
So Why Vegan, then?
A whole ton of reasons. In fact, I come up with new reasons each and every day, ranging from the physical to the metaphysical, from fairness to compassion, from a love of the planet to straight-up rationality. The most important thing I can tell you is this: for myself and many others, veganism runs far deeper than diet and what you choose not to put in your body.
Some of the many answers I could quickly rattle off to the question "why vegan" are:
- I don't want to contribute to suffering
- I don't want to contribute to messing up this lovely planet
- I love animals
- Vegetables are far more appealing than dead creatures
- I wouldn't eat my cats
- Meat is terribly difficult to digest and contributes to chronic health issues
- I feel great, physically
- I feel great, emotionally
- "Do unto others as they would do unto you"
- Cheese is addicting, the way people talk about it you'd think it was crack
- Cheese is nutritionally one of the most hideous foods ever
- Same goes for eggs
- Cheese is glue in your digestive system
- Veganism fosters a sense of adventure and creativity in the kitchen
- I get enough protein, and not too much
- I want to live to be 100 years old (or more!)
- It's no longer the 1970's - vegan food is abundant, and is becoming way more mainstream
- So. Much. Good. Food.
I could probably spend all day coming up with more and more reasons why I'm vegan (and why I love it), but let's take a moment to look at the most important reasons, and I'll introduce you to some of the popular pages on my site.
Animal lovers. Sentimental saps. Sometimes us vegans are called such things as though compassion is some sort of character flaw. As though we're living in a crazy hippie land with our heads in the clouds, holding hands and singing "la la la", while real people are dealing with real problems, rooted in the real world while us veggie folks are floating around in outer space somewhere.
"We need to pay attention to human rights first," I hear. "They're just animals," I hear. "The world is amuck with war, strife and poverty," I hear, as though the plight of animals is but a petty concern.
Well I care about people too, and about war, strife and poverty. I also care about animals, and firmly believe that we humans have an unlimited capacity for love and empathy. Every day I care about people and animals, and that seems to works out pretty well. I might also add that by encompassing animals into my sphere of compassion, I've also become more sensitive to human rights and environmental concerns as a ripple effect.
Why Be Vegan? - 3 Good Reasons That Aren't About You is a blog post I wrote on the subject of ethics and compassion, which I highly encourage you to read. I'm not going to coddle anyone or gloss over important issues because I don't believe that's what we need. At the same time, I'm not going to shock you with a barrage of brutal photos because, though they're very powerful and speak volumes, I'm more interested in appealing to your sense of what's just and fair.
If you want to get into some of the nitty gritty of our animal use and abuse, you can visit my page on Animal Cruelty, which discusses the lives of modern farm animals. Again, I don't rely on shock value in these pages, but I'm also going to tell it to you straight. And if shock is what you're after, you'll get a lifetime's worth of it from watching the free documentary Earthlings, written and directed by Joaquin Phoenix.
(Note: I haven't watched this entire film and I never will - those of you familiar with the movie might understand why. But this is a film that changes lives.)
2. The Vegan Lifestyle
Back before I was ever vegan, I dated a vegan dude. The whole thing kind of confounded me, so I read the Idiot's Guide and asked him plenty of questions because I wanted to understand. And after a lot of learning and discussing, I did get it. All of his points were legitimate, and I completely agreed that animal exploitation wasn't cool, and that he wasn't about to drop dead from protein deficiency. I wholly respected and admired his decision.
But...I didn't do anything about it.
The reason? I understood the ethics, but the lifestyle seemed so tough. No cheese? Passing up dessert at restaurants? I figured he was made of steel to resist such temptations. I wanted to help the animals, but I was afraid of living a life of rules and restrictions.
Each and every person is different, which is one of the greatest things about this life. For me, I knew deep down that veganism was a path I wanted to eventually explore, but it took me a long while to get there. Three years, in fact. Three years of very gradual changes - cutting out meat, learning how to bake vegan treats (like these classic chocolate chip cookies), easing away from eggs and cheese, and so forth.
The end result of such a gradual change was that one day I noticed that I was basically vegan - I read labels, didn't buy any animal products, and ate vegan food in restaurants. The final frontier was to inform my friends and family and make it "official". Even that, which was initially quite awkward, grew significantly more easy after even just a few months.
And by now, everyone's already so used to me and my veganism (or my weirdness, as some may say), that it barely even comes up anymore. My mother and grandmother bake me vegan goodies (oh yeah, I'm spoiled), my family takes care to use non-dairy milk and margarine in community dishes during the holidays, and I don't need to justify my decisions anymore. It wasn't always so easy, but each day gets easier and easier.
Food was the major hurdle between me and veganism for all of those years, and with good reason. I hated the idea of restriction and of giving up my grilled cheese sandwiches forever.
When I started to learn how to actually cook (making grilled cheese sandwiches doesn't count), the door started opening, and my perspective began to shift from "restriction" to "possibilities". I learned how to prepare fruits and vegetables and exposed myself to a lot of variety that I had never previously experienced.
Sweet potatoes were a revelation - how did I live my entire life without eating a sweet potato? Or without fresh herbs? Asparagus, toasted sesame oil, Sriracha? Brown rice, quinoa, tofu? The whole plethora of non-dairy milks and decadent nut butters?
And kale. Oh my.
Suddenly my meals became much more diversified than veggie burgers and instant noodles. I was making soups, stews, curries, casseroles, sandwiches, salads, pasta, noodles, and anything that sounded interesting between the pages of my growing cookbook collection. My reportoire of great meals grew, and before I knew it, it had been ages since I bought a hunk of cheese.
In one blog post called Variation in Vegan Food, I discuss this issue of percieved limitations. I think for most of us, the thought of radically altering one's diet can be unsettling, especially when we carry emotional attachments to the food we eat.
Learning the basics of vegan substitutions was helpful in the early transitory days, especially when it came to things like baking cupcakes or cookies. Meringue aside, I learned that it's very easy to replace eggs and milk in recipes, and foods like seasoned tofu, tempeh, seitan and beans are nice and hearty and, in my opinion, far preferable to meat.
4. Get Cookin'
Of course I've got to leave you with some recipes. Veganism goes far beyond the realm of food, but good food speaks for itself and is the foundation of this awesome lifestyle. If you aren't convinced that vegan food can be just as good, if not superior, to the food you're accustomed to, then you need to get in the kitchen and start playing!
For a morning treat, banana muffins are where it's at, and these are just like my mom used to make 'em when I was growing up. They've got a lovely tender crumb and a gentle banana flavor, perfect for a morning or afternoon pick-me-up. And they're even more amazing with some chocolate chips. Banana + chocolate = love.
I'm a lover of soup and I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, but my Borscht (Ukranian beet soup) recipe is popular with good reason. It's fresh, dilly and flavorful, and turns a beautiful, vivid fuschia because of the beets. My only suggestion? Double the recipe.
Supper can mean a great many things in my house. Sometimes it's something more suave like Stuffed Bell Peppers with Bulgur and Cashew Cheese, which sounds kinda complicated but is actually pretty straightforward. 1. Make cheese (or use daiya). 2. Make filling. 3. Stuff blanched bell peppers with filling and top with cheese. Voila! A fancy, hearty main that has is remniscent of beef-stuffed peppers but has no tofu or vegan meat.
Other suppers are as simple as cooking some pasta and making a great sauce, like this Homemade Spaghetti Sauce. It can be made even when good fresh tomatoes disappear from the planet in winter, since the base of the recipe is a can of pureed tomatoes. That also makes the whole sauce-making process super speedy, and believe me when I tell you, this is better than store-bought.
It wouldn't be right if I didn't mention our Bean, Rice and Kale Burrito Recipe, which is one of the many burrito recipes that rotate in our lives on a regular basis. For great burritos every time, I suggest using refried beans, flavored rice (or mashed sweet potato), crunchy veggies and greenery. And don't forget the guacamole and salsa!
For dessert, let's have Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies, the cookie recipe I grew up with and love with a passion. They're perfect - soft, chewy and just a little crisp on the outside. Fancy desserts come and go, but chocolate chip cookies will always be #1 in my heart.
5. Get In Touch
If you have any questions regarding anything we just talked about or food/veganism in general, you can visit the contact page and drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you!
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Until next time, I wish you much happiness and wonderful food a'plenty.