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Vegan Week Report Back

Last week was Vegan Week. I have been a vegetarian for many years, but it has taken me awhile to go vegan. The connection between the suffering and exploitation of animals just seemed less concrete and more theoretical to me where eggs and dairy were concerned. It was obvious to me that the eating of flesh is wrong, but with eggs and milk, it seemed less clear. Recently, though, I've been learning much more about the lives of factory farmed hens, and dairy cows and their calves, and I wanted to make the change. I have also been learning a lot more about the health effects of animal protein, and I discovered that I had been suckered by many myths (ie, you "need" milk for calcium, you don't get all the nutrients you need with a vegan diet, etc). The more I learned, the more it made sense to go vegan.
So I've cut out almost all animal products from my diet. I no longer drink milk and haven't for years, but I still ate cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. I still ate the occasional egg. And I still ate butter. But last week, I decided to give full-on veganism a chance. I consulted a couple of vegan cookbooks and a vegan friend. I bought some coconut dream vegan ice cream, some soy yogurt, and some tofutti cream cheese. But, I was dreading the cheese thing. I've tasted vegan cheese before, and was never very impressed. It tasted weird, had a weird texture, and refused to melt. In the end, I have decided that a tasty treat is not worth the suffering of a billion factory hens and millions of veal calves, so I was committed to the experiment either way - but I did not expect to like the cheeselessness of it all.

well, here is how it went.

First, VEGAN PIZZA! I have been all over town, sampling vegan pizzas, and making some of my own. Wow! Vegan pizza is AWESOME!

Second, cheese. I went to Food Fight and checked out the vegan cheeses. There were some new ones in there, and I decided to give one a try. It's called Cheezly Cheese. I can't praise it enough! (Vegans, I'm sure, will already know about this.) It was really suprising to me that vegan cheese has come such a long way since the last time I gave it a chance. The texture is actually like real cheese, and it melts! Not quite as quickly or as smoothly as dairy cheese, but with less death involved in its manufacture, and every bit as tasty. There were some other varieties there as well - I tried one and found it to be good and have a nice texture, but the flavor is kind of oddly coconutty. It was supposed to be mozarrella, but would make a better dessert cheese.

I had tofutti cream cheese on bagels and soup for lunches, and it was better than regular cream cheese. For dinners, I had more fresh vegetables than I usually do. All right, I'll admit it. I work all day, I come home and I make a lot of food from a box. I'd like to say I always cook fabulous nutritious meals, but I don't. I aspire to, but sometimes, I have cereal and soy milk for dinner. Sometimes cookies. So putting the extra effort into learning to cook vegan food was really fun and I ate better than normal. I did want to make sure, though, that I could fit veganism into every day, even days when I don't feel so much like cooking. So I did try some vegan convenience foods some days, and I was happy to learn there are all KINDS of things I could eat that are tasty, vegan, and quick. I had some awesome vegan dogs one night, and I made the overnight vegan french toast from "the garden of vegan" cookbook for breakfast one morning. I also had blueberry and walnut porridge from "vegan gourmet" (another cookbook), and that didn't take too long to make and was unbelievably fabulous.

I discovered that, if you dig around and try a few different brands, you can find non-dairy ice cream that's just as good as dairy (and, if you have your vegan friend make you vegan ice cream from scratch with coconut milk as a reward for going vegan for a week, then it's EVEN BETTER than dairy). I also discovered that Veganaise is much, much better than the last vegan mayo I tried, and in fact, is much better than "real" mayo. More than that, I discovered that I really like to cook, and that cooking vegan is easy, fun, and filled with all kinds of flavors and textures that are new and exciting to me. I learned how to make filling, healthy meals from things I bring in from my garden. I discovered that a little peanut butter on toast is better than butter, and that nuts fill the same spot that I used to need cheese for (that "I just walked in the door and I've got to have protein NOW" spot).

While learning to eat new things, I started reading "Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating." It's filled with information about how much healthier it is to go vegan.

Finally, I found the vegan book section at Powell's (orange room, near the vegetarian cook books), and now I'm an addict. I've been baking vegan cookies, making vegan roll ups, cooking vegan casseroles, and baking vegan bread.

When the week was over, I realized there's no reason to go back to eating eggs or dairy. I feel great, I've been eating great, and I've lost 3 lbs. I have more energy, and I feel better about myself. Even better, no hens or cows were exploited or killed for anything I ate all week, and I am now vegan for good. But now, instead of the "Gosh, you don't eat ANY meat?" comments, and the people who ask if my shoes are leather (NO), and the idiots who try to argue that eating plants is no better than eating meat (dumb asses), I have to add in all the "but you won't get enough B12!" and the "what about calcium!" comments. Whatever. I gave it a try, I feel better, and I am now eating a cruelty free diet.

So that's my report back from trying veganism for Vegan Week. I challenge any of you who are not yet vegan to give it a try too. You just might find out you feel a lot better, as I have! And for those of you who hand out the vegan literature at pioneer square and last thursday and the green expo and everywhere else, your work does matter. It took awhile, but I was listening. I bet I'm not the only one.