Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Becoming Vegan

The title may be deceptive. I've been vegan for about a dozen years now. But I'm just now reading Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina. The quote below is from their book.

"It's also true that some people are at a loss when it comes to shopping for and preparing nourishing vegan means or don't know how to obtain balanced vegan meals when eating out. So they think vegan (or vegetarian) diets don't work for them or aren't sufficiently nourishing. It's not that it can't be done, it's just that they haven't learned how to do it. This is not entirely surprising because most of what we learned about food and cooking while growing up was geared to meat-centered diets, not vegan diets. Thus, most people need to spend some time acquainting themselves with this new way of eating. Attending cooking classes, reading, and learning about practical issues and nutrition through vegetarian events can make a big difference in gaining new skills."

I've been a lazy vegan for quite a while. It's not that I was lax about being vegan, that I cheated and ate ice cream or something like that, but more that I was a lazy cook. I relied too much on store-bought vegan foods. Not that there's anything wrong with them; some of them are quite good. I happen to really like Boca Burgers. But you can only really eat them once a week.

I relied on two cookbooks by Joanne Stepaniak, Table for Two and Vegan Vittles, for a long time. And in the last handful of years, I've received other cookbooks as gifts, notably The Whole Soy Cookbook by Patricia Greenberg with Helen Newton Hartung and The Complete Vegan Cookbook by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay. I guess once family and friends really accepted that I was vegan and that I wasn't going to go back to just vegetarian the cookbooks started coming in.

Of course, now, I'm cooking for more than just my wife and I. We have two young children. Liam is now four and Aidan just turned 22 months old. So, I'm much more cognizant of my own well-being and of the loved ones that I cook for. I've been educating myself about nutrition and buying vegan cookbooks faster than I could possibly utilize them.

I have to say that Morgan Spurlock's film Super Size Me had a big impact on me and my wife. It was a huge motivator in cutting fast food out of our diet. In fact, we've cut way back on eating out period. I'm also reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. As I said, I was lazy. It's just so easy in our culture to rely on convenience foods.

The good news is that we're eaing healthier. I am educating myself about nutrition in general. I recently finished SuperFoods Rx by Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews. And, of course, I'm currently reading Becoming Vegan. And I'm enjoying cooking.

This past Christmas I decided that my wish list would not be full of DVDs and jazz CDs; it would be full of vegan cookbooks and cooking utensils. I have rediscovered my love of cooking and baking. Baking was always therapeutic for me, even back when I was an omnivore. In fact, I got away from baking because vegan baking seemed so daunting to me, but I have been learning, trying recipes, making mistakes, and coming up with some mighty fine vegan baked goods.

I'm a self-taught cook. I've yet to take any cooking classes, but I'm looking into that too. I've just been more adventurous, trying recipes that I wouldn't have tried before because they looked too hard. And I've become totally addicted to the Food Network. I've learned so much by watching others cook.

So, to wrap up, I think Davis and Melina were spot on, which is why I quoted them above. Growing up in the meat-and-potatoes Midwest, I am definitely a product of that culture, so the choice to be vegan has had its challenges. But I have never been malnourished. More importantly, I've begun to truly accept the joys of vegan cooking. And the eating too, of course.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Richard.

    A friend told me you had mentioned one of my books -- the Complete Vegan Cookbook -- on your blog, so thought I'd drop by to say thanks. I'm blogging these days myself, and enjoying it immensely. It provides more immediate gratification than writing books.

    I don't post vegan recipes every time, because my husband and I do include organic and locally produced dairy and eggs in our diets these days (occasionally), but you might be interested in my northern California travel ideas and general cooking commentary.

    Not that you have time to read other people's blogs! My hubby was a full-time middle school teacher for years and I know how grueling it is...

    Best of luck with it all!