Consider yourself warned. This is a long post LOL.
Yesterday was the six week anniversary of the start of the fling. With the veg thing. I celebrated by watching Forks Over Knives…well I should say I attempted to watch it but sleep won over about half way through. And truly, that is not a reflection of the content of the documentary. It was actually quite interesting but, note to self, don’t begin a movie at 9:30pm on a work night.
So six weeks is a pretty good amount of time to contemplate the impact of such a dramatic change on one’s life. And going vegan does affect a number of areas: your shopping locales, cooking, exploring new ingredients but most significantly your social interactions. Because one simply has to plan ahead when avoiding animal-based foods. Going to a birthday party means skipping the cake and ice cream (and learning how to decline politely), venturing out to restaurants with friends means perusing on-line menus beforehand and getting creative, lunchtime meetings at work often require explanations and visiting acquaintances who might not be aware of your new lifestyle is fraught with raised eyebrows and eye rolling. I can’t say any of these experiences have been negative. And the discussions and commentary that I’ve engaged in as a result has been interesting and enlightening.
Early on, my mom started spreading the word to family and friends about this seemingly crazy mission and blog. Most people replied with a word or two of support or shared a favourite veg recipe. People where genuinely interested in the hows and whys of the whole thing, often exclaiming that they could never do it. Then there is my uncle.
My uncle Jacek, who lives in Poland with his lovely wife and two daughters, replied in his own, unwavering fashion: witty, cutting and truthful.
And now I quote (via translation from Polish to English, and I do apologize here because I can’t quite convey his wit and humor): “Just like cutting off a finger because of a paper cut isn’t a good solution, converting to a vegan diet to achieve better health is, in my opinion, somewhat draconian and radical.” He goes on to ask why foods like boiled eggs or using meat to flavour vegetable soups and stews would be considered unhealthy.
My mom answered that yes, she too though our approach was a bit extreme but that even she was starting to change her eating ways after watching the two documentaries that spurred my siblings and I into action. She also recalled a time when her family raised their own animals for meat, kept chickens for eggs, ate whatever food was growing in the garden, bought dairy products from a local farmer and in the winter enjoyed preserves made by my grandmother. It was honest to goodness farm to table living.
I’ve held off on responding to my uncle and have been contemplating my mom’s response. But six weeks in and armed with a collection of thought-provoking experiences I am now ready to share my opinions and ideas as to why I ended up here. So here is why I’m doing what I’m doing.
I don’t believe that there is inherently anything wrong, nutritionally speaking, with eggs, meat, fish or dairy. Or, shall I say, there wasn’t anything wrong with these foods until we started messing with Mother Nature. I feel we really went wrong when we began mass producing animal-based foods at a rate that inevitably compromised the quality, safety, ethics and compassion that should exist when sacrificing animals or using their by-products.
I’ve been exposed to enough literature and documentaries that it is now, more than ever, hard for me to ignore the evidence of how these poor animals are treated in the weeks, days, minutes leading up to their death. Or their miserable existence as we extract from them what we want (milk, eggs) and allow them to wallow in despicable conditions. Reduced literally to a commodity for human consumption, akin to canned goods, their well-being completely sacrificed for efficiency and quantity. Because we humans want things fast, and in vast amounts. And I mean, why change now? Why not when I first saw Food Inc. or the like? I don’t have a good answer. But upon being confronted with those horrific images yet again, I knew I had to solidify my thoughts and beliefs with action. The action in this case being a pledge to do vegan AND document it in writing (i.e. this blog).
And really I can’t say that this is entirely alien to me. I’ve been naturally moving towards an increasingly more veggie diet for quite some time. I already had a fairly limited consumption of meat, though I did eat fish often enough; and I more often opted for plant-based milk alternatives in lieu of the more familiar carton in the dairy section (aside from drinking my coffee with cream or milk). Also, I adore, crave even, vegetables and fruit (the former to a slightly larger extent). So it’s not like I was the type to order a meat-lovers pizza to start with anyway. I’ve always been much more content to slurp up a tofu and veg Thai curry or feast on a ginormous salad or ogle the colourful wares at the local farmer’s market.
But I have to admit, my mom’s narrative of “the good old days” did get me thinking. Now I wager that most/all vegans would be repulsed by eating an animal regardless of the life that preceded their slaughter. Would I be more at peace eating meat and animal products if I knew the animals were being treated ethically and led a happy existence? This was one question that my brother posed before we set out on our veg adventure. I can’t say I had an answer then, and I don’t have an answer now. As it stands, I’ve thus far lived 6 weeks of vegan life (though I already feel like I will have a hard time reintegrating into the “other” world). I’m inclined to say that I’d certainly consider looking at the options for ethically raised meat and animal products sourced in a way that did not cause harm. Although this would certainly require some good old research and footwork as I feel I have so been duped by exclamations of free run, organic, grass fed and such that I would only trust my own investigations and conversations with producers to even consider such options. So maybe. In the future.
Another thing. I feel entirely unqualified to tout veganism as an option for every woman, man or child. It would feel awfully hypocritical, having only practiced partial vegetarianism in the past and full-on veganism for a mere month and a half. My goal is definitely not to impose any of my ideas, beliefs or undertakings on others. I truly believe that any change must be fully embraced by the individual before the plunge is taken, and that comes from within. It’s like badgering a smoker to quit. It won’t happen unless they themselves have an emotional connection to why they should do it and often the sentiments of “because it’s bad for you” are not sufficient.
But let me just say this (hey, it’s my blog after all!). I don’t judge those that choose the omnivore lifestyle. Just like I don’t believe that vegan equates to healthy (theoretically one could live off of chips, potatoes and Oreos and call themselves vegan). But I do very strongly feel that it is time for us to become more aware of what we put in our grocery carts, and more importantly, what we put in our mouths. Let’s not be blindly led by corporations and large scale manufacturers, who seem to largely make dietary decisions for us these days. Let’s examine what our food is made of and where it comes from. Let’s believe in the power of food to heal, transform and cure our ailments. Let’s stock our cupboards and fridges with foods that nourish, energize and keep us free of disease. Vegan or not, let’s be mindful of what we eat. Our bodies are precious, meant to take us from A to B and beyond for what we hope to be healthy, meaningful decades. This can only be achieved by fuelling them with goodness and not letting them become dumping grounds for processed, factory made, toxin-filled rubbish
At the end of it all, this whole experiment…the lifestyle change, the blog…is all a ruse to start conversation, to challenge beliefs and for me, personally, to see if I can do it. And by “it” I guess I mean two things: the vegan life and starting/maintaining a blog. That’s all 🙂
Peace, love and a good, long, healthy life,
Well said Ilona, I am proud that you accomplished both; the vegan style for six weeks and the blog. I was always looking in my e-mail box for a new post, what a treat! Although, I wouldn’t have problem to become a vegetarian (not that I intent to) but to become a vegan is most likely out of a question. The one thing I promised, I will look more closely what is on my plate and will search for a farm close by that I would be able to buy fresh produce, eggs and meat.
It was a great experience for all of us, nice conversation piece and a buster to change what we eat. Thank you Ilona, Ewa and Tomek for embracing the challenge.
Thank you for this awesome reply! Your support means a lot 🙂