Wednesday, September 25, 2013

14 Years Vegetarian, And Why Is Vegan So Hard?

Nearly every year as I approach the day I became a vegetarian my freshman year of high school, I consider going completely vegan. One year I even had a "mac & cheese mardi gras" on September 24 to celebrate the start of a new era. I really do believe in the concept of being vegan. The reasons I'm vegetarian apply just as well to going vegan. I want to want to be vegan.

But something about it is difficult. That's why I focus on making the change on this date. I have a bit of an obsession about making things happen for precise periods of time. For example, 60 or 70 years from now, I'd like to die on my birthday, and thus have lived for exactly, say, 92 years. If Abe and I get married, I want it to take place on the 27th of a month, because we started dating on January 27. (He's cool with that - he'd like March 27, because 3 cubed is 27, but that's in the middle of tax season, so not really feasible. No, we're not engaged, just in that "talking about the future in a way that assumes it will happen eventually" phase.) So grabbing onto this anniversary is a way that I think will give it a little shove further into the realm of possibility.

Going vegetarian was pretty easy. Part of the decision was actually the realization that I'd hardly had any meat over the previous month or so anyway. My favorite foods just never really included any meat. (The only thing that sort of fell in the category of favorite was Arby's roast beef sandwiches. I'm quite sure I'll never eat meat again, but if I did, that's what I'd break the vegetarianism with.) My comfort foods have always included, however, a lot of dairy products. Pizza. Ice cream. Grilled cheese. Mac & cheese.

There's also the social aspect of it. Vegetarian is pretty easy to do at restaurants; there might not be very many options to choose from, but there's pretty much always something on the menu. But restaurant vegetarian options are usually cheese- or egg-based: pizza, omelet, etc. Portland itself has a lot of vegan restaurants, but I live out in the suburbs, plus I don't have many vegetarian, much less vegan, friends. Abe's flexitarian, and my friend Jessica is omnivore but enjoys trying vegan fare like Native Foods and Veggie Grill, but otherwise eating out-as-socializing requires going to more mainstream venues.

Where to go from here? I think the keys will be education and community.

Education 

I need to continue trying new foods. Abe is helpful with this! "Try a bite of this vegetable and then I'll tell you what it is." 

I need to learn more cooking techniques. Cooking is a long and tedious process for me, always double checking recipes and looking up terms and methods along the way. 

Even chopping veggies seems to take a long time. People have tried to show me knife skills, and how to move the knife efficiently in a way that it doesn't fully lift up from the cutting board, but that just felt so awkward and uncomfortable to me. Finally, Abe and I realized recently that it's because of my height - that method requires holding your hand and wrist above what you're cutting, but for me holding my wrist at a comfortable place puts it right at the level of the counter itself. Standing on a stool raises my hand high enough to chop efficiently.

Community

I joined a Portland-area vegan meetup group several years ago, but have only gone to one event. I'm also a member of NW Veg, but only sporadically participate. I want to get more involved with those groups, and seek out other ways to meet vegans. Veganism is never going to feel effortless if it seems odd and unusual compared to my social context. I've been thinking of looking for a book club, there's got to be a vegan-oriented one somewhere in Portland. 

How do you handle making lifestyle changes that you believe in but are difficult logistically?

2 comments:

  1. Hmm... I think I'm moving more towards Flexitarianism myself--I very seldom have meat (besides eggs) at home and often eat vegetarian even when eating out. Not to mention I have been avoiding dairy! Still, vegetarianism, while fairly easy these days, is still difficult sometimes... and being vegan and eating out is really difficult. I think you're right about needing to find a group of like-minded people to help make being vegan seem more normal and effortless.

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