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vegan anniversaryAs of this week, I’ve now been vegan for nine years! In late August 2005, I transitioned from being vegetarian (I’d gone veg at age 12), to being fully vegan. (Note: You can read more about my transition to veganism and the ethical, emotional and spiritual reasons behind it in my essay in Defiant Daughters).

This morning, reflecting on my veganism, I decided to put together a list of nine things I’ve learned since going vegan nine years ago:

1. Going vegan means becoming part of a very special community of human animals.

When I first went vegan, I was an assistant counselor teaching sailing at a summer camp on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. I was surrounded by hot dogs, burgers, mystery meat, chicken wings…typical stuff they serve at summer camps. I knew one or two other vegetarians, but I didn’t have any vegan friends. It was lonely and confusing to try to navigate going vegan by myself, but as soon as I got to college, I instantly joined vegan communities. It felt amazing to spend time learning from and spending time with other like-minded people. Now, I spend time with other vegans (one of whom is my partner) every day. Over time, this sense of community has only grown, and it’s one of my favorite things about being vegan.

2. The vegan movement still needs a lot of work.

There’s a whole lot of sexism, racism, homophobia, body shaming, and other crap in the vegan movement that shouldn’t be there. I’ve seen it from various perspectives over nine years, and what I’ve come to recognize is that not everyone approaches veganism from the same angle of trying to move away from all forms of oppression. The HSUS “hoofin’ it” hypocrisy is just another example of a mainstream “animal welfare” organization that takes a different approach to veganism than I (and many other vegans) do.

3. Veganism can be really, really easy.

I’ve been surprised by how easy it is to live as a vegan, in every way.  I really don’t think about how to be vegan. It’s so second nature to me, I don’t even remember what it felt like not to be vegan. I understand and empathize with new vegans, or those who struggle to make compassionate choices in our non-vegan world, but to be honest, I really don’t struggle at all anymore. It’s like breathing. I think that’s amazing.

4. Ex-vegans may be difficult to understand, but we have to be compassionate towards them.

I’m learning to be more compassionate towards ex-vegans, including those who find it necessary to broadcast their “change of heart” over social networks, blogs, and sometimes mainstream media. I feel a lot of sadness and grief about those who no longer wish to live their ideals, or whose ideals have somehow changed to condone cruelty and oppression towards other living beings. On some level, it just makes no sense to me. Still, as a vegan movement, we really need to figure out how to stay compassionate towards non-human and human animals, and find ways to keep the door open for any who may one day choose a vegan lifestyle again.

5. Going vegan for health reasons alone usually isn’t enough to keep someone vegan.

I used to work at a raw vegan holistic retreat center, and every week I’d see a new “vegan” who did it by going fully raw or just for the health benefits. A week later, they heard about new health benefits from eating raw goat cheese or some tiny fish ground up into capsules, and they’d jettison their veganism for the latest health trend. True, there’s health benefits associated with removing animal protein from your diet, but if the only reason someone is vegan is health, that probably won’t last long. We need to be honest about the fact that you can be pretty healthy on a non-vegan or vegan diet, so if that’s the determining factor, it’s usually not enough to keep someone eating plant-based for long. As a vegan movement, we’ve got to emphasize health benefits as well as the moral, environmental, and ethical reasons.

6. A lot of people feel threatened by vegans–including vegetarians, pescatarians, paleo folks and so-called meat-eating “environmentalists”.

This is something that surprised me. I try not to push my veganism on anyone, in great part because it isn’t effective, but I won’t hide my values. It’s really hard for me to listen to high-minded talk about being paleo or a meat-eating environmentalist or vegetarian, when I know that these things still contribute to animal suffering. But I’ve also found that a lot of people who fit into the above categories just don’t want to be shown their hypocricies. They feel threatened by veganism, or just not ready to embrace it. It’s weird, but it something we need to recognize and tailor our activism to address.

7. Random people will be very supportive of veganism, even if they’re not vegan, and that’s wonderful.

I’ve been so surprised and humbled by how many people have supported my veganism, even if they aren’t vegan themselves. In my day job, I do marketing for tech startups, and a few weeks ago had lunch with an amazing CEO who suggested we eat at a local vegetarian place for our team’s group lunch meeting. He’s not vegetarian, and I didn’t even know he remembered I was vegan (I may have mentioned it once, but again, it’s like breathing to me, so I don’t even notice anymore when I’m outing myself as veg). I was the only veg person who attended the lunch, but everyone went for it because they wanted to be supportive of my lifestyle. It was incredible, and completely unexpected. My non-vegan family has been also incredibly supportive, as have non-vegan friends. It makes me feel really lucky and grateful.

8. Having a vegan partner is really, really nice.

I know there are amazing vegan-omnivore relationships. I believe it can work, as long as you share other values. Truly, I have no judgement about this. But for me personally, it’s just been so unbelievably nice to have a partner who is vegan. (Side note: You should read her blog!)

9. Being vegan means constantly learning and improving.

lauren Ornelas, Mark Hawthorne, Food Empowerment Project, and others have helped me see that being vegan means constantly improving and learning. It’s not ok to be a vegan who consumes products that perpetuate cruelty towards nonhuman or human animals (like chocolate created through slave labor, or palm oil that contributes to destroying orangutan habitats, for instance). I want to be a better vegan in great part due to those who challenge me to grow. I thank them, and humbly accept that I need to continue researching and learning and adapting my lifestyle to be as compassionate as possible, knowing I won’t be “perfect” but can always strive to do my best.

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear what you’ve learned since going vegan in the comments.

 

How To Be Vegan By Elizabeth Castoria

I’ve been vegan for nearly nine years now. I remember when I first went vegan, there wasn’t as much awareness about veganism as there is now. There certainly weren’t super famous vegan celebs gracing every magazine, and we vegans had to pave our own path in many ways. Though it was harder when I was a teen, I should note I can’t really compare my relatively cushy early years as a vegan (after all, soy dogs were available at my local non-foodie supermarket!) to the 70s vegetarians who had to make their own soy milk and veggie burgers from scratch.

Thanks to the explosion of ethical food and lifestyle companies and increased awareness thanks to many tireless activists, making compassionate food and lifestyle choices is now easier than ever. Still, it isn’t something you pick up right away, unfortunately, given how non-vegan our world is. Typically, going vegan takes myriad hours of internet sleuthing, talks with friends/coaches, obsessive package reading syndrome, falling back on trial and error, etc. I think more people would go vegan if it were naturalized into our culture (aka the norm), but the next best thing to growing up vegan or living in a vegan world is getting How To Be Vegan by Elizabeth Castoria.

How To Be Vegan is the essential modern day guidebook for anyone who wants to go partly or all vegan. I would have paid good money to get this when I was a teenager stumbling into veganism.

Here’s why Castoria’s book is a game-changer: Without dogma, she lays out the exact action steps necessary to becoming vegan, from stocking your pantry, to traveling as a vegan, to dealing with non-vegan family members, to dating–it’s literally all here. You can even use this book to plan your ethical vegan wedding! Castoria comes from a magazine editorial background, and there’s enough eye-catching infographics and features in here to satisfy anyone with a taste for design. The sleek designs are just another example of the extremely thoughtful approach Castoria took while crafting this book.

There’s 50 recipes in here (I can’t wait to try the Portobello and Cremini Stroganoff) and lots of really useful tips for being vegan during international travel in many countries. I am now craving Piadina, toasty flatbread street food from Italy, Bibimbap, a Korean dish containing blends of rice with steamed, sautéed and pickled vegetables tossed with rice wine sauce, and Dosa, crispy lentil-based pancake from India. Of course, many of these foods are available throughout the United States, but it’s tempting to plan trips abroad just to try the dishes Castoria describes.

Elizabeth Castoria

In addition to the “how” theme that runs throughout, this book answers the “whys” as well, offering just the right amount of detail to whet readers’ appetites to learn more about the cruelty behind animal product consumption but not too much to cause overwhelm leading to stagnation.

I absolutely plan to share this book with non-vegan friends who have been curious about how to make it happen but have never taken the plunge.

Buy How To Be Vegan here.

 

Today, two circumstances conspired that drove me to devise and create this delicious new recipe for Easy Black Eyed Peas Miso-Hemp Dip.  The first: I randomly decided to soak black eyed peas last night (I soak all kinds of things on a whim!) and thus needed to make a batch of homemade black eyed peas today; the second: I was running low on homemade hummus (I use Choosing Raw’s hummus method), my other go-to dip.

This dip, my first ever using black eyed peas as the bean of choice, relies on the nutty flavor of hemp seeds and tang of miso, lemon juice and lots of garlic. I think it’s the best dip I’ve ever made! I’ll definitely be making it again soon, and serving it to guests whom I know to be garlic lovers, too. I used homemade black eyed peas, but the canned variety would work fine too, of course. Feel free to double the batch.

Black eyed peas miso-hemp dip on Queer Vegan Food.

Easy Black Eyed Peas Miso-Hemp Dip

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups black eyed peas

1 Tbs mellow white miso (chickpea miso would also be great in this)

1/4 cup hemp seeds

1 Tbs lemon juice

1/8 cup sesame seeds

1 Tbs olive oil

1 pinch sea salt

1 tsp cumin powder

4 cloves raw garlic (less if you’re not a crazy garlic lover)

3 Tbs water

Freshly ground black pepper for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

Food process or Vitamix all ingredients. Serve chilled. Very satisfying with chips (served here with organic blue corn chips), raw veggies, or as a shmear on a sandwich or wrap.

Let me know if you try this dip :) Thanks for reading!

P.S. While you’re on a bean dip kick like I am, try this awesome-looking North-meets-South bean dip from the wonderful JL Goes Vegan!

 

TCBY in Longmont, CO now stocks vegan flavors.

TCBY in Longmont, CO now stocks vegan flavors.

I was first exposed to the “fro yo” craze in college; normally reasonable students would queue in insane lines for the self-serve machines at our dining halls. I was already vegan by this time, so I didn’t partake, and I’ll admit, I was pretty taken aback by its popularity. After all, there were other ice cream vendors available at the dining centers, so what was the big deal about this stuff that streamed out of a machine? I’d picked up on the many pop culture references to Pinkberry (isn’t a celebrity spotted there every ten minutes or something?) and seen that fro yo is far more than some collegiate fling; for some, it’s a downright obsession.

Now that I’ve experienced a veganized fro yo (also known as “soft serve”), I must say I get it: this stuff is special. There’s something irresistible about the smooth, almost silky texture and the aesthetic of fro yo tumbling out of a self-serve machine. I love that TCBY, one of the nation’s largest frozen treat confection chains, now offers several all-vegan fro yo flavors! TCBY’s PR department kindly sent me a coupon to try it at a local chain. The chain I went to in Longmont, CO carried a Silk Chocolate Almond Milk fro yo flavor. TCBY also makes a vanilla Silk flavor, and are in the process of rolling out a Silk coconut milk dairy-free fro yo line across the nation.

I loved the new Silk chocolate TCBY fro yo.

I loved the new Silk chocolate TCBY fro yo.

TCBY coconut milk vegan frozen yoghurt

TCBY coconut milk vegan frozen yoghurt is available now at some chain locations.

Now we vegans can be in on the fro yo craze!  I highly recommend finding a chain near you, if fro yo is your thing!

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. With Courtney Pool and Queer Vegan Food.

A couple weeks ago, Courtney and I took a short but lovely trip to Colorado Springs. Only an hour and a half’s drive from our hometown, Boulder, it seemed only fitting we’d celebrate our birthdays with a visit to the oft-talked about destination. It was my first time, and Court’s first time since she was a kid, and we were both super impressed by the fantastic company (we got to see the lovely JL and Dave!) and the absolutely gorgeous scenery. This place is so beautiful!

Here are some pictures from our trip of the scenery, company, and delicious vegan food:

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Courtney at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Courtney at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Courtney at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. On Queer Vegan Food

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Courtney at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. Featured on Queer Vegan Food

The beautiful colors dazzle in Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

Courtney at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, so beautiful! on Queer vegan Food

Another breathtaking view: Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.

In addition to celebrating our birthdays, Courtney and I were treated to a delightful meal with JL Fields and Dave Burgess! JL and Dave took us out to one of their favorites spots in the ‘Springs, Adam’s Mountain Cafe! We actually ate at the restaurant during one of its last days in its old location. JL reports on her blog that the new location on 26 Manitou Avenue is even more fabulous!

We spent the evening laughing, enjoying delicious plant cuisine, and soaking in good ‘Springs vibes.

Dinner at Adam's Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs with Courtney!

Dinner at Adam’s Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs with Courtney!

Chocolate tarte At Adam's Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs with JL Goes Vegan, Courtney Pool and Dave Burgess (not pictured)

Chocolate tarte At Adam’s Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs with JL Goes Vegan, Courtney Pool and Dave Burgess (not pictured)

Senegalese Tofu At Adam's Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs! With JL Goes Vegan!

Senegalese Tofu At Adam’s Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs .

Chocolate tarte At Adam's Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs with JL Goes Vegan!

Chocolate tarte At Adam’s Mountain Cafe in Colorado Springs.

On the last day of our trip, we hiked Garden of the Gods a second time and explored downtown and I got a yummy gluten-free chocolate chip birthday cupcake at Coquette’s Bistro and Bakery in downtown Colorado Springs. I also got a soup and salad at Poor Richard’s across the street.

Gluten free chocolate vegan cupcake from Coquette's Bistro and Bakery in Colorado Springs!

Gluten free chocolate vegan cupcake from Coquette’s Bistro and Bakery in Colorado Springs!

Poor Richard's Soup and Salad

Poor Richard’s Soup and Salad

After the trip, I returned to a package of Chocolita raw vegan chocolate to try! It was the best thing ever to come home to! Chocolita is the purest raw vegan chocolate available, made from only the best, organic, fair trade, low-glycemic wildcrafted ingredients. My favorite flavor was the raw white chocolate Blueberry Lotus flavor. It blew me away; I’ve never had such a pure, vegan white chocolate before! Some of the flavor notes in Chocolita include: wild flowers, heirloom beans and more. Truly epicurean! If you love fancy vegan chocolate that’s low glycemic and delicious, I highly recommend consulting this list of where to buy Chocolita at a store near you or you can order Chocolita online.

Chocolita raw vegan chocolate is fantastic.

Chocolita raw vegan chocolate is truly fantastic.

I love the delicate artwork that adorns each Chocolita bar.

I love the delicate artwork that adorns each Chocolita bar.

Thanks for reading! :)

 

Mayim's Vegan TableThere comes a time in every blogger’s life when she connects so deeply with a cookbook that she feels, while making the food described in it, that she and the author are inextricably linked. Food recipes can connect us across geography and time, and in the case of Mayim’s Vegan TableMore than 100 Great-Tasting and Healthy Recipes from My Family to YoursI felt super connected to the author, wherever she is, being a fabulous neuroscience PhD, television star, and all-around gorgeous vegan genius. Every recipe she included in here seemed as though aimed at me to love it, though I’m sure that’s how most feel. Brussels sprouts chips? Kugel? Taco salad? I also miss making a lot of my favorite Jewish foods like Matzo Ball soup, challah, sufganiyot, rugelach, kugel, and more. This cookbook is totally a resource for those of us who love vegan food that tastes like a Bubbie made it!

The beginning of the book includes some helpful tips on vegan food prep, some basics and some in-depth tutorials like meal planning for picky kid eaters and sections on the science and environmental arguments behind a healthful vegan diet. To be honest, a lot of that stuff didn’t appeal as much to me (I just wanted to make the delish recipes!), but I think for new and/or aspiring vegans, it’d be a big help! I’m glad she took the time to share her values and appeal to parents who may need more help to get junior to eat her broccoli.

I’ve made several of Mayim’s recipes, and here are some of my favorites so far:

Quinoa with Herbs and Veggies

Quinoa with Herbs and Veggies

Vegan challah! I actually used Mayim's Turtle Bread recipe and just substituted gluten-free flour.

Vegan challah! I actually used Mayim’s Turtle Bread recipe and just substituted gluten-free flour.

Taco Salad! Mmm

Taco Salad! Mmm

Brussels sprouts chips: easy to make (if slightly time consuming) and oh-so-good!

Brussels sprouts chips: easy to make (if time consuming) and oh-so-good! I added nutritional yeast.

These recipes for the photos above are each very easy to make, designed for busy parents and/or those who love delicious food but don’t have time to create crazy-elaborate dishes. I highly recommend picking up a copy, and not only because Mayim is so cool! Here’s a link to another great review of Mayim’s Vegan Table by my friend Jenny Bradley on Vegansaurus.

Buy Mayim’s Vegan Table online and at bookstores nationwide.

 

 

 

 

Vassar Quarterly Spring/Summer issue Volume 110 on Queer Vegan Food

The spring/summer issue of The Vassar Quarterly features vegetarian perspectives.

Last summer, I wrote a long post about my alma mater’s disappointing “Eat” issue of the alumni/ae quarterly. I was pretty sad to see that my college’s long feature on how we eat featured none of the amazing work current students, staff, professors and alums do in the world of ethical, compassionate eating.

After the post ran, I could not have imagined a better response: other Vassar students, faculty, and alums felt similarly disappointed, and the editor of the magazine wrote to me saying that she would be very interested in remedying the omission of vegan/vegetarian perspectives from representatives of the college. From there, the brilliant students of VARC and other on-campus groups worked with the editor to create a beautiful feature for the current issue (spring/summer, vol. 110) that highlights some of the amazing work being done by Vassarians in the field of animal activism! You can read it online in full here.

vassarsarahcloseup

The issue features alumni/ae Pulin ModiSusan Prolman, yours truly, Nicky Quinn and student activists Allen Darer, Alessandra Seiter, Kaden Maguire, and Rocky Schwartz.

Wonderful activist Rocky Schwartz at Animal Place in Vassar's feature on vegetarianism at Vassar and beyond.

Wonderful activist Rocky Schwartz at Animal Place in a feature on vegetarianism at Vassar and beyond.

The piece features some great quotations about vegetarianism, reported by writer Sara Sezun:

On the scale of factory farming:

“According to the Humane Society, of the approximately 11 billion livestock animals killed annually in the United States, 86 percent are chickens and turkeys raised on factory farms.” (p. 20)

On meat eating’s impact on the environment:

“Animal agriculture produces 18 to 50 percent of greenhouse gases.” – James McWilliams. (p. 20).

On the “humane meat” myth:

“Free-range animals face similar fates (as those raised on factory farms). Farmers who raise them cannot allow their herds to become too large, because overgrazing would ruin their pastures. Therefore, “excess” calves, for example, may be sold to feedlots to be raised under conventional circumstances.” (p. 20)

Alan Darer, a current Vassar student whose work inspires me constantly, eloquently posted on his Facebook page about the Quarterly issue and his and other students’ activism around it:

“Alessandra and I were on the phone with (editor) Liz to see how we could move forward. She was very kind, receptive, admitted that they had made a mistake by omitting a vegetarian/vegan perspective and was eager to correct this. She suggested that they publish two letters to the editor critiquing this omission in the Fall Issue and then publish a full feature article on VARC in the Winter Issue.

What’s my takeaway? As animal advocates, our number one job is to be a voice for animals as best as we can and create opportunities to help share their stories. By staying solutions-oriented, we were able to work with Liz to share the plight of farmed animals and VARC’s amazing work with the alumni of Vassar College.” – Alan Darer

vassarsecondspread

After this issue went live, I heard from friends and family who were inspired by the info and statistics included, all of which help bring awareness to the growing movement of veganism and compassionate eating into the mainstream. I’m also delighted that some of my recipes are featured on the college’s website!

I have never been prouder to be a Vassar alum, and am so grateful for the network of animal activism on campus and beyond! Congrats to all involved in making this issue happen, and to the animals whose lives will be saved thanks to the efforts of those featured.

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