Veganism as a Choice

I am spending the last week of August in Aruba and my is it beautiful. This is my first trip as a vegan and I knew it was going to have its ups and downs but mostly downs. As a precaution I packed every vegan snack I could think of: nuts, granola bars, applesauce, oatmeal, powder coconut milk, and hemp protein powder. I was determined to stay alive.
¬†Upon arriving I knew my options would be limited. At an all-inclusive resort I knew there would be vegetarian options smothered in cheese. My biggest obstacle was finding items that weren’t doused in milk and cheese. I enjoy the choices and getting creative, so the struggle isn’t nearly as hard as I expected it to be.


The interesting thing about all-inclusive resorts is that they tend to have restaurants where you can have your meals made to order. I went to a seafood restaurant last night where the two vegetarian options contained cheese. I spoke to the waitor and told him that I did not eat meat, eggs, or dairy. He asked me what I wanted to eat because I was allergic to these ingredients. I was shocked to say the least. Apparently people who do not meat, eggs, or dairy do so because they are deathly allergic. It is as if to say that people only remove these foods from their diets out of necessity, which is true for some, but not for me.


I hate to sound self-righteous, but we need to move out of that mode of thinking. When a person tells you that they are refraining from eating certain foods do not automatically assume that there is no other choice. Some people choose to eat meat and some not. Others choose to only eat candy and others not. This illusion that vegetables sustaining a person’s life as a form of dietary recourse is unfair. We need to spread the word that veganism can be a choice and a great one at that.

Advertisements

Ethnic Eating

  
When I say ‘ethnic eating’ I’m referring to your own ethnicity and the types of food that it brings to the table. Sometimes it’s good to go back your roots because all of the gourmet food in the world can’t compare to grandma’s low-budget, hearty, and most importantly soulful meals. Someone made this ethnic food for you with love and the fact that it tasted great was just the icing on the cake. 

Now don’t get me wrong, ‘ethnic food’ means different things to different people. For some it’s homemade naan with a slight drizzle of oil, a warm empanada stuffed with juicy beef, or perfectly textured long grain white rice. And then there are others who consider a Philly Cheesesteak their ethnic meal. Whichever meal you identify with can be a dream of the past when becoming vegan. 

I grew up in a Jamaican household. I didn’t know I was eating ethnic food. I thought everyone else ate the same things at home. I loved it all, actually not, but most of it for sure. Going vegan meant ridding myself of the foods that brought me comfort:

Beef patties

Jerk Chicken smothered in ketchup

Curried Chicken with white rice on the side

Sunday evening oxtails with rice and peas

How do you beat the vegan ethnic food hurdle? Find the substitution necessary to make the meals. As a meat-eater I made beef patties from scratch. The only substitutions I would need to make are using Earth Balance instead of butter for the crust and stuffing this delicious pastry with vegetables instead of beef. 

  
I’m not a big fan of soy chicken so instead I would use vegetables and tofu as the main ingredient and season it with jerk seasoning or curry powder. 

   
   
The Sunday evening oxtails are going to be the tricky part. I don’t believe there are soy oxtails around so in the mean time I would use the same sauce used to give the oxtail it’s flavor and pour it over the rice and peas. These are not the best options but they are options. There is no reason to lose your comfort food when going vegan. Make the substitutions where you can to embrace your ethnicity and your palette.   

P.S. Try all of the vegan options your ethnicity has to offer as well. Some dishes may need modification but can be just as good.

Human Rights vs. Animal Rights (Or is it Even a Competition?)

  
Save one and hurt the other…that’s what I always say…not! There is the misconception that many vegans only care about animals and neglect the suffering of humans. For some that may be the case, but not for me. In my vegan journey I have been trying to find a balance. I want to fight for the rights of humans and animals. 

  
Here is my dilemma:

Finding cheap vegan clothing is not a problem. Cotton skirts, jean pants, and polyester tops are pretty easy to come by. The problem lies within the companies who are manufacturing  the clothing. I dare you to check the tags in your clothes to see which countries they are made in. Many will find China, India, and Bandgladesh. Very few may find clothes or any goods purchased in the United States that are made in the United States. 

People providing clothes for Americans overseas are usually severly underpaid, many of whom are sweatshop laborers. These people are sometimes forced to work long hours with minimal breaks, uncomfortable working conditions, unrealistic production goals, and all for less than $1 a day. 

The United Nations has been trying to advocate for sweatshop laborers around the world. There were a list of goals made called the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) that were to be reached by 2015. These goals were expected to be reached by all of the countries in the UN to aid the development of the world and those who have been abused my their governments. In relation to labor rights and extreme poverty the MDGs hoped to decrease poverty. The UN reported that in 1990 nearly half of the developing world was living on less than $1.25 a day and now in 2015 it is only 18%. http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/2015_MDG_Report/pdf/MDG%202015%20rev%20(July%201).pdf

  
In an idealistic world, if one wanted to stop the sweatshops, one would stop shopping from companies that produced their goods using sweatshop labor. The truth is that this will probably do more harm than good. Now let’s think about this logically, if you stop supporting companies that produce their goods using sweatshops then there will be less of a need for employees, which means that the people who were once making $1.25 a day are now making $0 a day. If you had the option to work anywhere else and make more money why would you stay there? Who told you these people had options for ample employment?

We need to fight for effective change by holding many of these companies accountable for their employees in America and overseas. These companies are everywhere: Nike, Forever21, Ugg Australia, Hanes, and thousands more. Advocate for the rights for these workers by holding these people accountable. But how do you do that? Complain until you are blue in the face! Sign petitions and send emails. http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/gap-stop-sweatshop-labor

  
FYI: Just because companies claim that their products are made in America does not mean that there are rights for workers. Many of these companies will produce their goods in US territories while abiding by the bare minimum rules and regulations of the countries and creating American sweatshops. 

Fight for the rights of humans and animals!

What Vegans Really Look Like!

From the moment you tell someone you are a vegan there are preconceived notions of what you eat, your belief system, and what you do or will look like. These struggles are the same to anyone who belongs to any other subgroup: Christian, Muslim, male, female, white, Latino, or Republican. Prejudices are everywhere. The best we can do is keep an open mind about the people we encounter because they may surprise you.

Before becoming vegan there was an image that I associated with being vegan. This image was of a man or woman who was thin and sickly looking. This person was always on a tangent about something idealistic and virtually impossible. I took the liberty of Googling the image of a vegan and what did I find? The person I was picturing.

vegan woman

 

Now I know I am not the only person with this image in her mind! This was one of the prejudices that I had about I group that I now belong to. The funny thing is that there are vegans who are bodybuilders and athletes…not sickly men and women supporting a lost cause.

When I started telling people I was going vegan I got a few different reactions. Some people were totally enthused and happy for me. Most people began to tell me that they could NEVER become vegans because they loved meat too much. And then there were others…”you will never gain any muscle”, “I knew a woman who was vegan and now she’s divorced”, and of course “you know you need protein right?”.

Even though some of these reactions were ludicrous, I took them with a grain of salt. The people I told about my new lifestyle choice cared about me. They wanted what was best for me. I cannot blame them because they do not know about the animal cruelty, health benefits, and unhealthy ways of the American food industry. Now that I have educated myself it is my personal responsibility to educate the people who care about me.  Knock me if you must but this is the vegan that I want to be: strong, healthy, active, and a great representation for the movement.

Jaime Koeppe- Female Fitness Bodybuilder
Jaime Koeppe- Female Fitness Bodybuilder

Jaime Koeppe is not a vegan bodybuilder but she appears to be a pillar of health and strength. I believe vegans can have great bodies while looking and feeling nourished. Never let the prejudices that people may have about a subgroup to which you belong effect the way you see yourself. #govegans #goothersubgroups!!!!!!

Vegan in Amish Country

Fried chicken smothered in gravy with real mashed potatoes and a biscuit on the side. This type of meal was my fear when I took a trip to Amish Country this weekend. We went to the world famous Miller’s Smorgasbord in or near Lancaster, PA. When I was younger I loved Miller’s. What kid doesn’t love all you can eat fried chicken, mashed potatoes and pie? Going there this past Saturday was a different experience. I am no longer that child who loves meat. I am the adult who has chosen to remove, meat, eggs, and dairy from her diet for health and ethical reasons. How does that fair at Miller’s? Not so well. 

  
The good news is that there are options. The options aren’t great but I was not going to starve. For starters, instead of doing the usual smorgasbord of options I chose the soup, salad, and bread. This option was not only cheaper but healthier…supposedly. There were only two types of “soups” that did not contain meat out of the eight. There was a vegetarian soup and a vegetarian chili. The chili tasted like it was straight from a can. Now I am not against canned soup…it just shouldn’t taste that way. Panera bread has made millions off of canned soup and it definitely doesn’t taste canned…at least not to me anyway. The other soup was nothing to rave about but it got the job done. 

The salad bar was dense. There was spinach( which I hate uncooked), cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, chickpeas etc. Nothing super special. My veganhood was challenged when it came to the dressings: ranch, french, italian, bacon(yes you read that correctly), and a basic oil and vinegar. I chose the italian. 

The breads almost killed me. They were delicious but bread is not a meal for me. Since becoming vegan I have limited my carb intake. I have a serious addiction to rice especially Jasmine rice. I eat it like I’m being paid to. The amount of bread that I ate left me full and satisfied but bloated later. 

  
All in all I lived through a buffet in Amish Country which is something that I will pat myself on the back for. But in all honesty, I wasn’t there for the food so much as the shopping. If you eat meat Miller’s might be the place for you. Otherwise bring snacks and hold out for bargains. The Tanger and Rockvale outlets makes the trip more than worth it. 

  

Hungry as Hell!

I almost NEVER miss the meat, eggs, or dairy. There are foods I can live without and for those I cannot…there are vegan substitutes. I have been vegan for a full month and I am loving it. I am contributing to a cause that I care deeply about and also benefiting my health and the environment. There is very little to lose! As I have said before, my vegan struggle did not relate to the dietary change big mostly the product changes. However, I do have vegan struggles related to food but it only happens when I’m hungry. 

The vegan struggle is never as hard as when you are seriously in need of food and there is the faint smell of meat on a grill. It pulls you back into the realm of meat-eating. Do whatever you have to do: plug your nose, leave the room, drink a gallon of water. Do what is takes to keep yourself on track. Here are a few tips:

 
1. Always have snacks! Snacks can reduce cravings and allow for your nose and stray a little further from the meat and dairy. 

  
2. Eat before you go to a meat-eaters house. Some meat-eaters rarely if ever have vegetables. They may not be accessible or they make be fried in butter or lard. Play it safe and eat at home if it’s a spontaneous trip, let them know you are coming, or grab something on the go. 

  
3. Control the Urge! The biggest take-away from the post should be that strength is your best companion. Everyone’s reasons for going vegan are different and it’s important that you continue to push forward. 

Stay positive! Vegan food will see you soon enough. Fight the urge because it will all be worth it.