That’s right. Veganism. Not vegetarian, vegan.
I decided to become a vegan shortly after the new year, and have been doing pretty well with it for almost five month now. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what the lifestyle entails, it basically means no animal products or by-products.
The obvious things from that are meat (all meat — white, red, fish, whatever), dairy (cheese, milk, cream, butter, etc.), and eggs, and of course anything that contains those things. There’s more though — things that you’ve never thought of. Things like L-Cysteine, a dough conditioner found in some bagels and other baked goods that’s derived from duck feathers. Or marshmallows and Jell-O, or anything else containing gelatin, which is made from horse hooves. And anything with the red food dye known as carmine, which is made from crushed coccus beetles (don’t worry, red dye #40 is made from coal tar).
My point is there’s a lot of stuff in our food that we don’t know about, which brings me to answer the question I can see forming in all of you minds: WHY ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING THIS TO YOURSELF??!?!
I get it. We’re all raised as red blooded Americans who like our meat seared, our eggs fried, our cheese creamy, and our beer cold. I won’t pretend it hasn’t been a difficult journey, either. I like food. I like food a lot. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have several reasons to support my decision, and none of them include becoming a dirty hippie.
For one, there is a definite health aspect to becoming vegan. With a family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, stopping eating some of the leading causes of those can’t be a bad idea. I really don’t want to be on cholesterol medication for the rest of my life, and eating soyburgers is actually a pretty decent alternative.
That helps too — I enjoy tofu and tempeh and soy cheese and almond milk. I’m good with eating fruit for breakfast, a veggie wrap for lunch, and stir-frying tofu cubes in grape seed oil with peppers and mushrooms for dinner. I know some of you are cringing reading that, and I can’t lie — you could probably never be vegan. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not for everyone. Some people could never give up chocolate or cheese, just like I couldn’t imagine going back from vegan cookie dough or Fakin’ Bacon.
I already mentioned the biggest thing though, and that’s that we really have no idea what’s in our food. Seriously, when’s the last time you read an ingredient label and not only knew how to pronounce everything listed, but actually knew what everything was? Taking into account that there really aren’t a lot of regulations in the food industry (seriously there isn’t — did you know Splenda contains trace amounts of arsenic and heavy metals?), I’m kind of over just putting things into my mouth without thinking about it.
So now I’m thinking about it. As a vegan.