So, for my first post for VeganMoFo I thought I’d post my vegan story in case it’s not in the archives somewhere or people can’t be bothered to look (I actually can’t be bothered to look so why should anyone else?!?).
I first went vegetarian in 1989 when we moved from Germany to England. I was an American Military child so had been raised mainly eating American meat from the Commissary and when we moved to England my Dad had retired and we were eating English meat. Something about the meat, perhaps the way it was cured who knows, really upset my stomach and I was quite unhappy eating it so decided, actually with my parents approval which I know a lot of 16 year olds don’t get, to give up meat. The last thing I ate on purpose with any dead animal in it was kedgeree, I don’t know why I remember that but I do!
I didn’t get into animal rights or the ethical side of vegetarianism until after I had already stopped eating meat. My first cookbook was The Cranks Cookbook and my Mother used to help me batch cook meals that we would freeze so she could just pull something out for me when she was making dinner.
Two years later I went to university and decided to go vegan. I can’t remember now what my reasons were now but I did pretty well on and off considering it was 1991 and there wasn’t much vegan stuff around. I got a few vegan cookbooks and cooked a lot from scratch, especially in my second and third years of university (we only do 3 years over here) where my flatmate and I did a lot of cooking. During my finals I slipped into the pizza and ice cream binging whilst revising and then went back to being vegetarian.
I was happily a vegetarian for the next 9 years without thinking of going vegan again, as a lot of vegetarians say, I loved cheese and couldn’t have imagined giving it up.
I had Jim in 2003 and we had issues with breastfeeding. Wanting to do the best for him I hired a professional breast pump and expressed milk for him for 3 hours a day for the first 5 months of his life. I had post natal depression as well (after having had antenatal depression, something people don’t talk about much. It is perfectly possible to be happy about having a baby and incredibly depressed at the same time.) which wasn’t helped by being tied to a pump all that time. I used to either surf the internet or read whilst expressing and I was reading Fast Food Nation at the time. In a strange bit of timing I was suffering from my second bout of mastitis whilst reading about the milk industry in the book and how (in America at least) there is ‘an acceptable level of puss in milk’.
Right then I decided that I no longer wanted anything to do with milk and his chapter on slaughterhouses, particularly the image of the cows walking slowly towards their death, cemented the idea for me. It did take me a little while to actually go fully vegan, I thought about it and read about it here and there online for several months and in books and tried on and off to give up the dairy, eventually deciding to phase it out slowly, using up what I had and then only buying vegan replacements.
My then husband wasn’t supportive (and actually never was, he had a *huge* problem with my veganism for some reason he could never explain) and I didn’t know anyone vegan to help me along. Even though I was reading blogs it didn’t occur to me to look for vegan ones until after I was fully vegan…
We took a holiday with my parents when Jim was about 15 months old and I was trying hard to be vegan and not quite reaching it as it was hard to find stuff that I could eat when we were away from the house we’d rented. I remember eating a salad with goats cheese in it and thinking that I’d had enough of eating cheese and feeling guilty about it and made the decision that when we got home I was done with dairy. A phrase that occurred to me at the time was that the difference between vegetarianism and veganism (to me) was doing what was easy rather than doing what was right.
When we got home I became totally vegan and I have been ever since, so that’s just over 4 years now, of course with the minor slip-ups here and there when you find out after you’ve eaten something that it had milk etc in it or you order a vegetable spring roll only to find after 2 bites that it’s actually got meat in it….
I have never looked back since becoming vegan and the idea of eating milk, cheese etc really makes me feel queasy now. The husband was vegetarian (as is Jim about 10% of the time) and I used to make him grate any cheese that was needed when I was making pizza etc. Near the end of our marriage I was cooking for myself and Jim and he was cooking something totally different for himself and he refused to eat vegan food….
Although I am 100% vegan in my diet, like every other vegan on the planet I am still working on being 100% vegan in my life. There are so many hidden things in what we buy that I don’t think it’s possible to be 100% vegan unless you grow your own food and produce your own clothing and household items. I do make a concerted effort though and as far as I know I am doing an ok job at it. There are always compromises though, like buying leather shoes for Jim to wear to school as he needs good shoes that will allow his feet to grow properly and breathe and synthetic just doesn’t cut it….
So, all in all I’m a happy proud vegan, I enjoy cooking for my family, learning more about a healthy diet and talking to other vegans online (I’ve still met very few in real life, my younger sister is the only vegan I can actually think of that I know!). I can’t imagine ever going back to being vegetarian, and after 19 years of not eating meat there is no way on earth I’d ever be an omnivore again.
Is there anything I miss? Well, pizza has always been my favourite food, and that smell of a hot pizza with lots of cheese still makes my mouth water. However, once I’ve looked at the pizza and seen all the grease on it and I think about the milk that went into the cheese there is no way I could ever take even one bite, the idea makes me feel quite ill, so you won’t see me falling off the vegan wagon that way!
I look forward to reading other’s vegan stories during VeganMoFo and hope I didn’t bore you too much with mine!