Six months ago Ian and I decided to not purchase anything that supported the industry of enslaving or killing animals. We both thought it would be difficult and that many things would be hard to give up. Admittedly our process was gradual in that we did finish using non-vegan items we'd purchased beforehand, such as cheese and butter.
In celebrating this landmark, I want to go back and talk a little more about what our transition was like, and what helped and motivated us, and what challenged us as fledgling vegans.
Transitioning to Veganism
Getting Excited About New Recipes: Both of us love to cook, although I'm typically the one in the kitchen at the end of the day whipping up our meals. Part of the adventure I loved about becoming a vegan was learning new ways to prepare old favorites like eggplant, mushrooms, and tofu, and exploring new ways of approaching food, like making cashew cream or using nutritional yeast to add a cheese-like 'pop' to a sauce or dish.
For me, getting on pinterest to find fun recipes and reading through new cookbooks was essential. I would have been much more reluctant to take our commitment to veganism seriously had I not had exciting new recipes to look forward to making and eating. Much like finding an exercise that you love helps you actually get moving, exploring fun and interesting recipes and foods helps you get excited about being a vegan.
Finding Replacements that Work for You: Ian and I didn't struggle with craving meats and dairy items as much as I thought we would. That said, we haven't found a cheese alternative that we love, and we both still drool a little when we pass the gyro cart on our street corner. (However, looking at the hunk of meat that is roasting is a little revolting, and that sensation overrides the positive smell).
I found the book The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman to be a great place to start with finding good replacements for our comfort food. We would have had a difficult time with the changes had we not had some honest-to-goodness comfort food available for meals. For us, this manifested primarily in Soyriso for Trader Joes, sauteed with grated potatoes, salsa verde, and a pinch of nutritional yeast, crammed into tortillas with some fresh greens. Maybe I'll blog about this later - it's seriously yummy and actually decently not-too-bad for you.
When I'm really wanting eggs, I make scrambled tofu.
When I find myself looking longingly at the pastry case at Starbucks or Oren's, waiting for my coffee, I go home and bake up something fabulous that I know is good for my body and the planet.
When I'm craving a cold treat, I grab sorbet or coconut milk ice cream from the corner store. I am also excited to try making frozen banana ice cream this week - yum!.
Locating Weaknesses: This is one of the trickier parts of becoming a vegan; it's hard to know in advance what is likely to trigger a relapse in commitment or positive eating changes. For us, it came down to several things:
- Eating Out: We love to cook, but when we've had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Ian and I tend to get take out or eat out. While we've cut back to about once a week, it was imperative that we found vegan options for our time in Ann Arbor, and then when we moved back to New York City.
- No Time to Cook: We keep about 1-2 meals worth of easy dinners (no more than 15-20 minutes in preparation) in the fridge/freezer at all times.
- Thinking, Why am I vegan again? Like many convictions, sometimes we need to remind ourselves why we're doing the more difficult thing when everyone else doesn't seem to care. When we first moved back to New York, I sometimes found myself walking past old favorite haunts, like the two bakeries I used to love on Amsterdam Avenue, angry that I couldn't pick up treats any more and trying to remember why veganism mattered at all. To counter-act this and keep myself fervent about veganism and my food choices, I listen to vegan podcasts. My favorites are Vegetarian Food for Thought by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (currently my favorite vegan cookbook author) and Vegan Solutions for a Sustainable Environment (though this one rarely updates, there are some real gems here!). Some other popular podcasts I'm looking forward to trying are So You Want to be a Vegan and Vegan Cooking with Love. I've also watched this fantastic talk by Gary Yourofsky several times.Haven't seen it? You should.