Truth: I'm "mostly" a vegan. At home, we don't do dairy at all. In the world outside of our home, we make a vegan choice when we can. We live in the South, so that sometimes means we have to bend just a tiny bit. We also do have chickens, so I eat their eggs at home. I have a hard time seeing a problem with eggs gotten from happy, loved, free-range chickens. They all have names, and they are pets. I don't eat eggs out in the world if I can help it.
So, am I a vegan? I try. It is certainly my intention. I would love to live in a town where it's easier to get vegan meals on the fly. I would love to have the time and energy to make every single bite my family eats. But right now, I don't. I'm a vegan, but sometimes, I mess up a little bit. And that's OK.
Vegans and vegetarians like to sometimes cast the stink-eye on others trying to follow a similar path, especially when they don't do it quite the same way. I have been known to look down my nose on pescetarians who call themselves vegetarians. I'm not proud, but there it is.
It can get especially snarky between hard-core, all-natural vegans and everybody else. You mean you allow your child to drink soda every now and then? Gasp! You actually purchase those chemical veggie burgers in the freezer section? Horrors! You don't do green smoothies every day?? You DO know that quinoa isn't an ethical thing to eat, right? Haven't you heard about what it does to Bolivia?! For shame!
I have done versions of this over the past decade or so since I've been a vegetarian/vegan. I had one non-cooking vegetarian friend who never asked what soups were made with. I told her that she was probably slurping up a lot of chicken broth, but she said that she does her best and she wasn't going to ask for the recipe every time she was served soup. She was probably right.
I have come to some new conclusions lately. If you're on any part of the vegetarian scale, from pescetarian all the way to raw vegan, you're not part of the problem. You're probably doing the best you feel you can do right now. You're possibly right. Casting the stink-eye (an old term from my grandma) on someone because you see their kid eating a cupcake with real sugar in it or because they don't ask for the gravy on the side isn't helping the problem.
I know a lot of moms who feed their kids in a healthier way than the typical Standard American Diet (SAD for short). Vegan moms, raw moms, gluten-free moms, no-sugar moms, vegetarian moms, all-natural organic moms, etc. They are all doing their best and following their gut. They aren't the problem.
The problem is when we don't stop to think when we make a meal. The problem is when we look the other way when our kids are downing their fourth glass of Sunny D or eating meat at every single meal. The problem is when we buy grocery-store meat even when we can afford local and organic. Most people reading this are probably not part of the problem. If you think about it at all, and make an effort to eat less meat, less sugar, less processed food, and less non-organic and inhumanely sourced eggs and dairy, then you are part of the solution. And if you don't think much about it yet, no judgment. Shoot me an email and I can send you to some resources to get started!
If you are trying to make certain your kids eat more veggies and fruits and whole grains and beans, you are part of the solution. Even if you've just begun the simple step of going meatless on Mondays, you are part of the solution. Maybe it's time for everyone, myself included, to remember the goal: less animal cruelty, more locally-sourced foods, healthier meals, healthier kids, and a healthier planet. Anyone working toward that goal is part of the solution. (I may still give you the stink-eye if you think Sunny D is good for you, though!)
So, as promised, here are the ten reasons why I'm a vegetarian/vegan:
1. The animals. I believe that farm animals are no less inherently worthy than our pets or animals in the zoo. If we can live happily and healthfully without EATING them, shouldn't we?
2. My family history is riddled with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart issues. I HAVE to be a vegetarian. I became a veghead at 27. At that time, my cholesterol was 260. I was 40 pounds heavier than I am now. My cholesterol since then holds at about 180, without medication.
3. I love veggies! Always have. Any diet that makes me eat even more of them is a good thing.
4. I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome when I was a meat-eater, usually at least once a week. Now, it almost never happens. Problem fixed.
5. I care deeply about hunger around the planet. If everyone in America would cut their meat and dairy consumption by just a fourth, we could put those fields of feed grain to use as feed for the hungry children of the world. The solution is more complex than that, of course, but our consumption rates in America are shameful and PART OF THE PROBLEM. One in every five children in America is food-insecure. How can that be when some people are eating meat three times a day? Something is broken within the system, and it needs to be fixed.
6. I care deeply about the state of the SAD diet, especially for our children. We are a nation that is simultaneously overfed and under-nourished. Higher rates of diabetes, obesity, cancer, etc. are the outcomes of this.
7. I like going against the grain, being just outside of the norm. Not the most noble reason for being a vegan, perhaps, but it's the truth.
8. And finally, I just like the food better. I'm always amazed when I go to conventions or wedding receptions and compare my plate to the "regular" plate. It looks so much better! The meat-eaters look over at my food as they cut their gristly roast beef or their dry chicken breast and they tell me they should've ordered the vegetarian option! A world of flavors open up once you go veg!
And now, keeping it real, the 5 reasons I sometimes fail:
1. Parties where the host has put out seriously, deeply good cheese. I know it's wrong. I know it's not good for me. I'm sorry for the cow or goat or sheep. But I usually have a few bites anyhow. Luckily, I don't go to many parties!
2. I'm at my grandma's house. (Or my aunt's, my mom's, my mother-in-law's, etc.) God bless 'em.. They do their best. They found our being vegetarian hard enough. If they serve me mashed potatoes with butter and sour cream but remembered to make the gravy without beef broth or bacon drippings, I am gonna eat those taters! Love for my people will always trump my need to be 100% perfect with my diet.
3. Crab rangoon. *hangs head in shame*
4. Sugar. I know that there's something wrong with most sugar that makes it not vegan. Something about bone-char processing, right? But I just can't do it. I can't check each and every sweet thing that comes in my path and I can't search the aisles for the cruelty-free sugar. Everybody has their line in the sand, and I guess that's mine. Ain't nobody got time for that! I'm not a big dessert eater anyhow.
5. Living in the south and being a busy mom. Maybe someone more type A, more organized, with less need for sleep or with more money could do it. That ain't me. It's hard to be vegan here in the land of BBQ and fried catfish and lard. I'm just doing my best, looking for the most ethical food choice that feels doable. Some days, that's a Burger King veggie burger. Keepin' it real, vegheads.
I'd love to hear your thoughts! Agree? Disagree? What does YOUR best look like?