"So Long and Thanks for all the Fish" 03/01/2007

"Curiously enough, the dolphins had long known of the impending destruction of the planet Earth and had made many attempts to alert mankind to the danger; but most of their communications were misinterpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs or whistle for tidbits, so they eventually gave up and left the Earth by their own means shortly before the Vogons arrived."
~The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, chapter 23~

Come to think of it, "Vogon" sounds a lot like "Vegan"... except that Vogons came to demolish the Earth to make way for an interstellar bypass... >_>;

I sometimes wonder what my totem animal is for my Vegan journey. Is it the chicken, the first animal to get me to go vegetarian all those years ago? Once upon a time during a meditation, my mind wandered to eating a full breast of chicken. But as I was devouring the meat, the vision shifted and I realized that I am digging into my stomach and eating my own intestines. Been off KFC ever since. Is it the cow, whose prime rib and stringy cheeses were the hardest for me to give up? A gentle animal sacred to the Goddess whose reward for nourishing all our needs is to be shipped off and slaughtered. Is it the the salmon, whose caviar I have lived on for so long? Once a symbol of the indomitable wilderness, now confined to overcrowded fish farms. If chickens made me vegetarian, it is the destruction of the ocean that turned me vegan. "So long (to a non-vegan lifestyle) and thanks for all the fish" indeed.

This was a very scary proposition. My favorite foods are caviar, pizza (cheese), and steak. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to eat anything tasty and fun again. But I had to face the fact that any pleasure I derived from them was not worth the suffering they caused - if not out of compassion, then for my own health. Suffering is an emotion, and emotions are chemical reactions in the body. When I eat somebody that has suffered, I am ingesting their pain. It was in a meditation that I was suggested to become vegan, and when I asked what I can do next, it told me to go and eat a salad - right now. I have long avoided eating green leafy plants because I love plants and have had some plants die on me. I have become very sensitive to the smell of their "blood" and could sense death in a room. The liquid in leafy plants reminded me of that too much. But eat a salad I did, and it was... bearable, after I added tomatoes and vegan mayonnaise. I would soon learn, however, that vegan food is much more than salads.

Like many people in the Western world, I lived on a very routine diet of grains, potatoes, eggs, fish, and lots and lots of cheese. I never strayed far from these mundane foods, so when I became vegan, it was like a whole vast world of flavors opened up to me! I didn't feel like I was missing out on anything at all, I felt like I gained so, so much! I couldn't believe I ever thought it would be hard to go "all the way." Between kiwis, quinoa, seitan, and sweet potatoes, I couldn't get enough! And if ever I had a craving for meaty or cheesy foods, there were always the veggie burgers, soy cheeses, chickenless nuggets, and vegan margarine. I never liked cow's milk and only used it for rituals, buy Silk soy milk I looove and drink quite avidly. I had forgotten how good cereal with (soy) milk and banana is! My taste buds were changing and flowering. I did not crave meat or dairy anymore, and somebody dangling a slice of pizza in my face would get no response.

One of the biggest benefits in my own life was that I learned how to cook. Even though 95% of a grocery store was useless to me now, I wasn't about to give up on good food! I would own this lifestyle and have fun with it! After all, witches cook all the time in fairytales too - mostly children, but that's besides the point. I was scared to try by myself, however, so I got together with Ashvolt and we made pizza crust, pizza sauce, fake cheese, cinnamon corn muffins, and seitan without any eggs or dairy - all perfectly, and all from scratch! And then we burned the rice. It was quite funny, really, I got to run around with a fan blowing the smoke away from the fire detectors.

Well, aside from the rice fiasco, turns out cooking was a lot more fun than I thought! I liked making my own dough, especially because unlike standard dough that would have a raw egg mixed in, vegan dough is completely safe, fool-proof and eatable! I love eating dough. If making fake cheese is like alchemy, carefully stirring in various doses of ingredients, making seitan is like a chemical explosion, where a perfectly harmless powdered wheat gluten comes to life, clumps together, and comes to resemble an elastic rubber! Fascinating, fascinating stuff. The best part is that you have full control and can make your food taste like anything you want! I've since made French onion soup, pancakes, crepes, fake bacon, fake cheese, many mish-mashes of soups and salads, and am still experimenting. One thing I learned is that combining a whole bunch of stuff you like on their own does not necessarily mean they will taste good together! O.o;;

I'm also looking a lot more at nutrition now, something I've always avoided like the plague. It's really not that bad. I like to think of it in Role Playing Game terms. The vitamins and minerals our body needs can be thought of as statistics analogous to constitution, dexterity, etc that you have to constantly replenish. Foods can be thought of as items - like armor and weapons and jewelry - that you wear to enhance your stats. Every fruit, vegetable, nut, grain, legume, etc has a different base stat, like 5D4, and you can pick and choose to min/max your optimal performance. For example, 1 cup of cooked quinoa has as much calcium as 1 quart of cow's milk. Foods that are fortified with certain vitamins and minerals, like soy milk or nutritional yeast, can be considered "enchanted." That is, they have their base stat and then some: 5D4 +3!

As for the social aspects of being Vegan, it is a great conversation starter! I see it as an opportunity to educate others, and a way to weed out those I'm not compatible with. I see everyone around me paying more attention to and exploring new plant foods because of my influence. It really feels like I'm making a difference in my own life and it is spilling over into the lives of others. I used to think that you need perfect tasting fake cheese or fake meat to really swing people over (myself included), but after tasting vegan food I know that's just not true. I might've come for the ideology, but I stayed for the food! It's not cheese and it's not meat, but it's wonderful in itself and oftentimes better. Most importantly, I finally feel like I've found a way to express my true self to the world and I can't imagine living any other way. 

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or a nutritionist and am not authorized to give medical advice. All I can do is offer suggestions based on my own experiences. Please consult a professional before making drastic changes to your lifestyle.