Vegan Wannabe: Kicking the Cheese Habit
I never liked meat. Seriously as a kid, I used to gag on all the various meat products my mother tried to get me to eat. It was the late 60s and they all bought into the hype that we needed tons of meat protein to survive and she feared for my existence. I was a healthy kid, but I never did grow more than 5′ tall . . . ?
When I discovered there was such a thing as a vegetarian, I grabbed onto the term with both hands and declared myself. Of course, I was a teenager and at the time it meant a lot of salad and french fries.
It wasn’t till the early 80s when I moved to the Berkshires with my young babies and got involved in the food coop that I began to get a serious education in whole foods nutrition – back then we experimented with raw foods, of course macrobiotics and a variety of interesting ways of being a vegan. I LOVED it!
Over the years, I’ve wandered in and out of various states of vegan and vegetarian and even had a few years as an omnivore (but only ate very carefully chosen responsibly raised meats). My downfall has always been cheese. Do they have a 12-step program for cheese – just cheese? I need it.
After my husband’s scary open-heart surgery last year, we dedicated ourselves to going vegan and it has been fun to dust off some of my old recipes and start making cashew yogurt on a regular basis again and get that juicer flowing daily! But, I have to confess here, (pretty much because my husband never reads my posts!) that I cheat every time I eat away from home and him, I am seduced by all the cheese that dangles in front of me. Ok. With that off my chest, I’ll commit to work on that so, if any of you see me eating cheese out in public, you have permission to march up and gently (but quickly in case I have a fork handy) remove it from me and remind me that I want to be a true vegan . . .
And here are some good reasons why I want to be a vegan
- I don’t like meat – Instinctively, I always knew this panic about meat protein wasn’t right – at least not for me. I’ve felt quite validated lately as all this new research supporting this is coming out. If you haven’t watched the documentary, Forks Over Knives, this is a good place to start. It features two mainstream doctors that have discovered that a plant-based diet can reverse heart disease and prevent a myriad of other fatal ailments. It wasn’t the first time we had heard of the one, Dr. Esselstyn, as our family doctor highly recommended following his nutritional protocol after my husbands triple-bypass surgery.
- I like vegan food – I’m a foodie. I admit it. I love growing, cooking, playing and eating it and I’ve learned and created a mess of simply delicious ways of preparing vegan fare, which is why my husband has shifted so happily away from his meaty ways. But, now it is becoming so vogue, that where there used to be a scant few cookbooks (that were worth testing), there are now thousands and thousands of cookbooks, websites and vegan recipes floating around Pinterest and Food Gawker, that there aren’t enough meals in the day to discover them all! Of course, one of my favorite go-to’s is EatDrinkBetter.com.
- It’s good for me AND the planet – Ok, here’s a couple of shocking stats for you: According to the Water Education Foundation, it takes 2,464 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef in California – BUT it only takes 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat. Of course, I’m gluten-free, but I bet most grains and beans use a similarly LESSER amount of water to produce than beef. So, that’s just addressing the issue of water usage to produce beef! I read for a couple of hours on the environmental impact of dairy farms and it is a complicated issue of studies and arguments for and against organic diary farming in terms of reducing the carbon footprint – either way, it is a lot of livestock, water and resources that impact a variety of environmental factors. I highly recommend reading The Organic Center’s extensive report on “A Dairy Farm’s Footprint.”
- Dairy isn’t good for me – And I do mean to make this personal. I’m not going to try and say that everyone should quit dairy because I should or even because it might be a better environmental choice. I go in and out of denial on this one as my words above described. But my doctor, who is an amazing MD who has a lot of deep nutritional smarts as well as herbal and other complimentary medicine practices, is tirelessly trying to get me off dairy. I found an article by Dr. Mark Hyman (Dairy: 6 Reasons You Should Avoid it at All Cost) that backs up a lot of what my doctor has been saying and he says that, “Dairy is is nature’s perfect food — but only if you’re a calf.” Dr. Hyman tries to debunk some of the common beliefs that we NEED dairy for calcium. Well, all I know is that my system reacts poorly to it, but my love of cheese is a powerful addiction!
- I like farm animals – I love animals and our culture has made it really easy to buy the fairy tale that cows live happy on a hillside and get pestered by the farmer once a day for milk in the barn. I’ve seen too many horrifying images lately of disgusting and seriously inhumane conditions for chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, etc. I highly recommend checking out this website done by Farm Sanctuaries about good reasons to go vegan, if you want to learn more – and while you may not WANT to learn more, you SHOULD learn more!
- Inspiring people like Bart Potenza – I’ve had the honor of growing into this with some of the greatest folks who lead the way. Bart Potenza, chef/owner of Candle 79 and Candle Cafe in New York City is one of them. He has been feeding vegans (and converting carnivores) for many years and he’s been doing a lot to help the Farm Sanctuaries, like the one up in Watkins Glen, NY. Please listen to our 15-minute interview with Bart as the first of our new series Green Diva Talk Fests.