Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You Are What You Eat

I've been a vegetarian for 14 years. My grandma likes to tell the following story:

I'm six years old and we are out to dinner. I'm eating a chicken wing and get down to the bone, at which point a look of horror sweeps across my face.

Little Brittan: Did they have to kill a chicken to make this?
Grandma: Well... yes...
Little Brittan: I don't think we should come here anymore.

Fin.

At 10 I read an article about the cast of Clueless in which Alicia Silverstone explained her choice to become vegetarian. Gasp! I didn't even realize that was possible! At that point I swore off animals forever, one of the best decisions I've ever made. Thank you, Alicia.

I write about this now because my aunt is dying of kidney failure and her doctor told her the only way she could get better is by adopting a vegan lifestyle, so she came to me for help. Three of my favorite bloggers are giving up meat in some capacity, for one reason or another. I feel like it's time to share this part of my life.

I stopped eating meat and have grown more and more steadfast in my convictions about it first and foremost because of the treatment of animals in the modern meat and dairy industry. If you don't know much about that, there are a thousand documentaries, a video on PETA's website and local farm shows in most towns to inform you. Or you can ask me. Beyond that, I have no desire to eat "grass fed free range" animals for my own ethical reasons that I will spare you. I never, ever judge anyone's choice to eat meat. My son eats meat. I will just say that, for me personally, I feel that I am living closest to my belief in internal cleanliness and compassion for all when I abstain. I sound like a freak, but there you have it.

I can't call myself a true vegan because I love pizza. I just love it and I love it with cheese. I also don't ask restaurants or people who cook for me to alter my meals beyond no meat (take out the butter, etc), but I do commit to being completely vegan at home and try my best to avoid egg and dairy... except for the occasional slice of pizza. I call it picking my battles, and I do it because I want to be conscious of what's going into my body and what industries I'm supporting without completely disrupting life.

I've gotten everything from "How do you get your protein/vitamins/minerals?" to "The Bible says we're supposed to eat meat." (LOL) But there is scientific and historic evidence to support my lifestyle. I've done the research. I balance my diet and it's not even difficult. My eating is simple, most things I cook only have a few ingredients, all of which I can name. When I feel like getting crazy I go for Indian, Thai, Mediterranean, Korean or any of the many types of cuisine that accommodate vegetarians. When I feel like pigging out, I hang around Taso and make him take me out for pizza and Slurpees and eat gummy candies all night long.

I am super proud of anyone who learns to conquer their diet. For me it comes and goes. I pigged out over the break, ate the cheesy foods my family makes and the goodies that are always stocked in Taso's house. (Coconut M&Ms...omg! They deserve their own blog post.) Now I'm back to rice, broccoli, cereal (with almond milk) and apples, and it's not difficult because it makes me feel good and I never feel like I'm denying myself anything. Over the past year I've become more interested in local, sustainable farming and committed to buying local produce. It requires just a little knowledge, awareness and effort to make a change in ourselves and the world, so why not?

If you're thinking about trying out the meat-free life, get ready for a whole lot of misinformation and opinions. Vegan Outreach is a good place to start. They're a little in-your-face with the advocacy but they will send you a free "starter kit" with some useful information and recipes. I highly recommend Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD (for all the hard facts so you can prove the naysayers wrong) and any book by John Robbins. If you ever want to talk veggies, feel free to comment or email. I'm your girl.

4 comments:

  1. I love the story from when you were little! I'm a vegetarian too and can't imagine going back to eating meat.

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  2. i literally cannot wait to take you to the park slope food co-op.

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  3. I'm a vegetarian too but my wife and sons are not.I just think it nicer to be a vegetarian than not.

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  4. that's such a nice way to put it. :)

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