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A friend messaged me on Facebook saying the she and her GF were thinking of going vegan. Since they knew me and my SigO don't swing the same way when it comes to food (him being a confirmed yet adorable carnivore while I'm busy getting my vegan "totes adorbs" on), she thought I might have some compassionate tips to help them enter the vegan world slowly, mindfully, and enjoyably. So my lovely friend from one of my Kripalu adventures, this post is for you!
Step 1: Learn to LOVE food
Back in college a friend of mine was bemoaning her fate about gaining the freshmen 15. "But I love to eat," she sighed dramatically while piling generous helpings onto her plate. Now that I know what REAL food tastes like, I realize that what she ate was not really food at all! It was processed chemical yuckiness!
No judgement as I ate that crap too! I distinctively remember a late night after clubbing which found me and my friends sitting in a particular chain whose name I shall not mention, but whose golden arches make me shudder in revulsion now,. I recall me blissfully, solemnly, and ignorantly dipping french fries into my chocolate milkshake! Watching Supersize Me cured me of that truly gross "indulgence" (even bacteria wouldn't eat their fries!) and now I can't even imagine thinking of what I was doing in those days as eating "good food"...
So the first step in becoming vegan is getting to know what REAL food tastes like. Start exploring your grocery store's produce section (or if possible visit a farmer's market). Pick out vibrant colorful vegetables and fruits that you already like, and find different ways to make them in a simple manner so that you can actually TASTE the produce.
For me, I fell in love with TOMATOES the year the SigO and I planted several seedlings in patio pots on our deck. Despite the fact that I woefully neglected these little jeweled rubies, they still thrived, finally ripening with an abundance that made me feel like Mary Lennox from the "Secret Garden." When I wasn't eating them straight off the vine, we tried the following:
Once you start to experiment with fresh produce that you already like, you might feel brave enough to try things you hadn't attempted before such as:
Step 2: Drool over pics in vegan cookbooks
Before becoming vegan, I was NOT a cook...at all...trust me when I say my skills were painful to watch...and if you do not believe me, ask the SigO sometime about the meal I cooked EVERY NIGHT for the first 6 months we lived together...Apricot Brandy Potatoes.
Yes it is as nasty as it sounds. And yes, he did eat every bite and tell me it was delicious. Now that's true love.
Just as I was heading into my exploration of veganism, I was also going through a downsizing phase. So the last thing I wanted to do was go buy a bunch of cookbooks to help me with an activity which I didn't even enjoy. Local library to the rescue! I started checking out some of the titles they had available, and when I saw I kept checking out the same ones, I made my first purchases:
I've also found that many nonvegan recipes can be veganized with a few minor modifications. Jamie Oliver's recipes are some of my favorite to use in this manner. And don't even get me started on all the fabulous websites with vegan recipes!
Step 3: Get your reading geek on
I sort of blanked out on anatomy class in middle school after an incident in which my lab partner - in a misguided effort to impress me with his male-prowess - swallowed the liver of the frog we were dissecting.
Or at least he pretended to do so...As a grownup I found out that had he actually eaten the darn thing, he probably would have been puking up the formaldehyde....One of these days I should ask my old buddy what he actually did with that frog's liver...or then again, maybe not...
When I was lacking in science credits in college due to the admissions office not counting "Oceanography" and "Environmental Science" as bonafide science credits (don't even get me started) I got stuck taking a nutrition course that was sorely lacking in any real substance. So needless to say when I started my vegan journey I was at a severe disadvantage when it came to factual information. These books helped fill my noggin with the truth about our bodies and nutrition (cure the music for "The more you know" commercials):
On a super fun note, Kin Barnouin also started a vegan fiction series in which I suspect the heroine, Clementine, is Kim's alter-ego. It is a super fun read with my only complaint being that it lacks recipes!
Step 4: Have fun
Probably the most important advice I can offer to my friend, and to anyone entering the vegan lifestyle, is to have some fun with it. Don't get caught up in the rules, and shoulds or should nots, the political mumbo jumbo, or the occasional bizarre comments by well-meaning friends.
When I went vegan people came out of the woodwork to scrutinize what I ate, when I ate, and how I ate. They told me I was going to be anemic, lack in protein, and live off of lettuce wraps. Happily I ignored them, discovered all their blah blahs weren't remotely true, and am in the best health that I have been in years
Look at this path as a wonderful adventure where you will be getting to eat colorful nourishing foods as you embrace a lifestyle that is healthy, promotes kindness, and is good for the environment! My door is always open to discuss this subject as it has become a true passion of mine...and if you are ever in the California area, come share a delicious vegan meal with me...I promise you will be eating...with smiles!
Have you been experimenting with becoming a vegan? I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to share!
Samantha Eve, a