10 years ago I made the transition to a vegan lifestyle. If you’re ever curious why I made that choice, you can read about it here and here. Once the decision had been made I knew that it was a forever decision and as many new vegans are, I was eager to tell the world about it. At the time I was a server at a restaurant. One of the most common questions a server is asked is, “what should I get?” Well, this gave me all kinds of opportunities to talk about my new vegan diet but it also put me in frustrating situations. Very early on I remember on such occasion being asked, “Oh, how long have you been vegan?” to which I had to answer truthfully (and a bit bashfully). “One week.” At this point the customer started laughing at me. “Good luck with that,” he said. Frustrated and embarrassed by his condescending tone, I bit my tongue and longed for some time to pass to give me a little bit of vegan credibility.
I’d say a decade of veganism gives me some credibility now, right?
In the past 10 years I have seen incredible changes in the way our country and the world understand food. Countless books and documentaries have been created to help give perspective into the choices we make daily with our diet, I have seen the vegan food industry take leaps and bounds, and I have watched as veganism has quietly and patiently pushed it’s way into the mainstream. I am thrilled with what I have seen over the last 1o years and I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years holds. I have personally learned some important things over the past decade too, which today, on my 10 year anniversary I will share with you.
Vegan for a Decade – 10 things I’ve learned
1. Veganism is about compassion not perfection.
Some people might tell you differently; don’t listen to them. The transition to a vegan diet can be difficult for many and along with the compassion a new vegan undoubtedly experiences for other living creatures, they must also develop compassion for themselves. Whether one slips up intentionally or unintentionally, it happens. Someday I’ll tell you about the time I accidentally ate a pieces of cubed chicken because I thought it was tofu. There are also a handful of times I’ve taken a sip of a cow’s milk latte because I didn’t double check that it was indeed soy. And I’ve already shared the time I made the decision to give my daughter a non-vegan cupcake at a birthday party (later I’ll also have to tell you about how now, 2 years later, she is a passionate vegan who would rather miss out on cake and ice cream altogether than go against her conviction that eating animals is wrong). Having compassion as the motivation behind your vegan lifestyle will help make it sustainable and give you the opportunity to be influential to the people around you.
2. Cashews and chickpeas are amazing (among other things).
I don’t mean to leave out all the other amazing foods here but cashews and chickpeas really are two of my favorites and without the challenge of eating plant-based I would never have known how deliciously versatile these foods are. One of my first recipes for this blog, vegan challah, relies on the protein-rich properties of chickpea flour to duplicate eggs in this subtly sweet bread. And let’s not forget about the miracle of aquafaba, people! I’ve used cashews in countless dessert recipes including almost every one found in my raw desserts ebook. Cashews can also be used as the base for many ice creams, milks, and custards that, in the past, rely solely on eggs and cream. The adaptability of these foods (and so many other whole, plant-based foods) is amazing and could completely put an end to our dependency on the egg and dairy industries.
3. Pretty soon non-plant based food just won’t register as food anymore.
I’m not sure if this is true for everyone, but it didn’t take long (less than a year) for food that once was commonly in my diet (eggs, dairy, chicken) to sound as inedible and truly awful as a big ole’ plate of manure. Of course, before going vegan I thought (as so many of us did) that I could NEVER-EVER-IN-A-MILLION-OF-YEARS give up cheese. Several months later the thought of it turned my stomach. There is something about “food” that contains animals products (or is straight-up animal) that is so dirty and distasteful that the thought of putting that in my body is revolting. So have heart, new vegans, it won’t be long until you won’t want to touch that-thing-you-crave with a 10-foot pole.
4. Eating vegan is really easy.
For that reason, eating vegan become very easy. Now, that might not be fair for me to say that considering I live in Portland, Oregon and vegan food is far more accessible here than in small towns across the United States and other countries, but times are changing and regardless of where you live, there are so many blogs, cookbooks, restaurants, and products filling up grocery stores all around the world that are making plant-based eating easily available, exciting, and fulfilling. As veganism continues to edge its way into the mainstream, this lifestyle will only get easier. Undoubtedly, being vegan has NEVER been easier.
5. Some people will be mean. Ignore them.
I’m not sure why it is (although I have my theories) but some people really don’t like vegans or at least their vegan lifestyle choices and those people want you to know it. Early on this use to really upset me. I like being liked and when someone would attack this personal and significant decision I had made for myself (one that I have never impose on anyone else) I would get hurt, offended, and sometimes defensive. Here’s the secret I learned: their problem with my vegan diet is not my problem and I’m not going to make it mine. If someone wants to attack your vegan ways, the problem is theirs. Ignore it. Walk away. Go get yourself some pizza. Because…
6. You can eat all the pizza & ice cream you want.
For many years after becoming a vegan Friday night was “Pizza Night”. This was my opportunity to try out new combinations of vegan pizza like this Roasted Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Pizza (left) and this Bánh mì Pizza (right). There is a common misconception that pizza and ice cream (among other things) are off limits to vegans, but folks, those are still two of my favorite foods and I found that when forced to be creative (DIY) the outcome is so much better than it’s non-vegan counterpart. Fact is, there really isn’t anything you can’t eat. By now there is a good vegan substitute for everything (and it probably will taste better).
7. Veganism is best spread through non-judgmental compassion.
After I phased out of telling everyone of my newly found vegan enlightenment (see above) I phased into a quieter, more subtle vegan and it is there that I’ve remained. If people genuinely want to talk to me about my veganism, I will happily engage but I prefer not to talk about my personal decision. When people whom I have known for awhile find out that I’m a vegan, they are usually surprised, refreshed, and curious. It is in after building relationships that I’m able to share meaningful conversations about why I choose to eat the way I do. I have a lot of understanding for why people eat conventionally and it is not my place to have an opinion about it. In making it a non-issue I believe I have had more substantial conversations about veganism that I otherwise would have had.
8. Pack snacks. Be prepared.
You know that time when you were driving through Wyoming on a road trip out west and you started to feel a little hungry and realized that even if there were a gas station it would probably be 2 hours away and there is only a slim possibility that it would carry some potato chips or pretzels or something you could eat but filing up on junk food makes you feel sick to your stomach and you might as well just embrace the hunger until you make it to Colorado? We’ve all been there, right? In some regards I am a slow learner and leaving the house prepared was one of those lessons I had to learn over and over again the hard way. Now if I’m leaving the city I head out with a batch of homemade granola bars (like these Chewy Peanut Butter ones pictured above) or some other sort of hearty, healthy snack to keep me fueled up and ready to adventure.
9. Raising vegan kids is totally doable.
Raising vegan children is something I have only learn by doing and it’s an experience that is constantly evolving. While my son is only vegan when he is at home with me, my daughter has held onto her veganism with conviction. The innocence and passion of her veganism continues to fuel mine. But with children I believe it’s important to find healthy balance of freedom and structure so that veganism doesn’t become synonymous with restriction. As my daughter gets older, I will keep searching for that balance. In that search I have found a large community of people raising their children vegan and the support from them helps guide the way. I’ve also explored this topic here on the blog through my Raising Vegan series (which, btw, I’m always looking for more contributors. If you’re interested, check out this link here).
10. There is always more to learn.
And so I begin the 2nd decade of my vegan journey with eyes wide open and excitement for the continued improvement surrounding the vegan community, this planet full of mistreated animals, and our rapidly increasing environmental problems. The tipping point is near! Thanks for following along in my vegan journey. Cheers to another 10 years!