My top 5 vegan cooking resources

With all the jaw-droppingly beautiful and mind-bogglingly delicious vegan food out there, you never need to feel like you’re missing out on anything by going vegan. Below, in no particular order, are my favorite 5 vegan cooking resources. If they were books, they’d be completely worn out by now. Vegan for the win!


Minimalist Baker

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image by Minimalist Baker

This blog is simply awesome. The only problem is that there are just too many recipes on it that I can’t wait to try!

My partner is a chocolate fiend – me, not so much – so I was in uncharted territory when I was searching for a vegan brownie recipe. There are very few other cooks out there who I trust enough to lead me down the path of Black Bean Brownies. They were awesome, like every other recipe I’ve tried from this blog!

Next on my list? I’m excited to try the Pumpkin Cornbread Waffles! And the Sun-Dried Tomato Chickpea Burgers! And…I’d better just stop now.


Oh She Glows

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my partner’s possibly overly-ambitious burger tower

For like 6 months, this was pretty much the only vegan cooking blog I used. It had everything I needed, and I never failed to find an utterly delicious recipe here.

 

Plus, there are several recipes that make great impressions on non-vegans for dinner parties, like these seriously amazing Next Level Vegan Enchiladas. Wow! Or these Jumbo Stuffed Shells, which I made for my partner’s birthday last year, to everyone’s delight.

My favorite recipe, though, hands-down, is Our Perfect Veggie Burger. This is dinner every Friday night in my house. The name doesn’t lie. They are actually perfect.


the Vegan Corner

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screenshot from the Vegan Cornerr

The Vegan Corner is a more recent discovery for me. I was looking for options to replace cooking cream in pasta dishes. The onion cream was one I’d never encountered before, and it was just thing I needed!

 

The thing I really like about this website, aside from having so many simple but fabulous dishes, is that they include not only the usual nutritional information, but also the caloric breakdown of the dish.

As you can see in the image (Linguine with pepper & leek cream), they also have video tutorials for many of their recipes – helpful for less experienced cooks.


the Kitchn

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screenshot from the Kitchn’s Surprising Ideas collection

Loads of vegan recipes is just the beginning at the Kitchn.

They are also well-known for their great how-to posts and surprising(ly awesome) ideas. What first brought me to them was 5 Ways to Prepare Tempeh. I really needed this advice as a new vegan!

But you don’t have to take my word for it – try out something from 17 of the Most Delicious Vegan Recipes We Know.


Post Punk Kitchen

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image by PPK – BLT Mac & Cheeze

To me, PPK screams comfort food, and no wonder – there are 5 different vegan mac & cheese recipes to sample from!

And I know that, as soon as autumn hits, I’m going to be craving this Mushroom Hot Pot.


Eat like every bite counts

One more thing. I’m just going to shamelessly plug my own food blog. In fact, it’s not meant to show you beautiful food or inventive vegan recipes, so, in that sense, it doesn’t compete at all with the 5 above, but has a completely different purpose. It’s meant to be a resource for people who are interested in following Dr. Michael Greger’s evidence-based advice on how to eat on a daily basis for optimum health. He developed a “Daily Dozen” checklist of what we should try to eat every day, and my goal with Eat like every bite counts is to create daily meal plans that check off every single box. When I use recipes like our perfect veggie burger, I calculate how many boxes you can check (you can see that particular breakdown here). If you’d like to find out how a particular recipe fits into Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, let me know. I’ll see what I can do! 


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Is veganism an eating disorder?

comic-characters-1297866_640My friend went vegan and now her hair’s falling out and her period stopped.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read something similar in the comment section of a blog post or a video on youtube. I want to talk about this because it’s a topic that touches on serious mental health issues, but also a sadly mistaken view of the vegan community as a whole. If you know someone who fits that description they may be using veganism to mask an eating disorder.

This is a challenging discussion as there’s very little to be said that can be applied to everyone, and each person can only know the truth about their own motivations for choosing a vegan lifestyle, and not everyone is honest with themselves, which muddies the waters. If you know someone who is vegan and you’re legitimately concerned about their mental health vis-a-vis their diet, you may want to put some extra time into really trying to understand the difference between an eating disorder and being passionate about vegan advocacy & caring deeply about maintaining a vegan lifestyle.

Orthorexia: the vegan eating disorder?

The main eating disorder that I want to discuss is orthorexia nervosa. The reason I’m limiting my discussion to this particular eating disorder is because it offers the most opportunity for confusion, and for people to mistakenly pinpoint vegans as having an eating disorder.

I have a real problem with the official definition of orthorexia.

orthorexia

no-smoking-907087_640It seems impossible not to include vegans within this definition. No wonder people are confused! I systematically avoid foods that cause irreparable harm to myself, the planet, and trillions of animals – meat, dairy & eggs. And I also almost never eat very sugary things, like candy and chocolate. Does that make me orthorexic? Certainly not – I’m just a vegan who has never had much of a sweet tooth, even when I was a kid. Anyone who systematically avoids cigarettes and cigarette smoke or someone who is lactose intolerant systematically avoiding dairy products doesn’t have mental health problems any more than vegans do.

Veganism can be an attractive lifestyle to young girls and boys with a penchant for eating disorders and who want to be super skinny because it naturally eliminates many of the sources of dietary fat – animal products. A good sign to look for if you’re worried about someone who’s vegan having an eating disorder is the avoidance of ANY fat at all, even healthy fats like those found in avocado and nuts. But be sure that you’re aware of what actually constitutes a healthy fat. If someone is avoiding no oiloils (olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, etc.) and products made with them (such as potato chips, margarine, etc.), that is not necessarily a warning sign! Plant-based doctors, such as Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. McDougall warn against consuming any oil at all because it clogs arteries and can lead to heart attacks. Nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, soybeans & soy products are all healthy whole-food sources of fat.

To omnivores, my diet sounds very restrictive, but in fact I eat bountifully as a vegan, so keep in mind there is a matter of perspective to account for. Having said that, if a person only eats 5 different foods, that’s objectively extreme and a clear warning sign.

Another warning sign, as mentioned at the start of this post, is hair & period loss (on any diet, by the way). Anyone experiencing this should look at the calorie density of their food. If you consistently eat food with low calorie density, then it will be difficult to eat enough calories in any given day and, if your weight falls below a healthy level, then bye-bye hair and period. It’s a natural consequence of being underweight, and an important warning sign.

Another by-product of a failure to consume a sufficient amount of calories is being nutritionally deficient. If you’re worried, get a blood test to find out if you’re getting enough vitamins & minerals.

The Bratman test for orthorexia

I believe that it’s important to look at each individual person within their own context when it comes to figuring out if they might have orthorexia. I’m going to use the Bratman test for orthorexia to show you why. It’s a series of questions to assist in self-diagnosis.

  1. Do you spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about your diet?
  2. Do you plan your meals several days ahead?
  3. Is the nutritional value of your meal more important than the pleasure of eating it?
  4. Has the quality of your life decreased as the quality of your diet has increased?
  5. Have you become stricter with yourself lately?
  6. Does your self-esteem get a boost from eating healthily?
  7. Have you given up foods you used to enjoy in order to eat the ‘right’ foods?
  8. Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat out, distancing you from family and friends?
  9. Do you feel guilty when you stray from your diet?
  10. Do you feel at peace with yourself and in total control when you eat healthily?

“Yes to 4 or 5 of the above questions means it is time to relax more about food. Yes to all of them means a full-blown obsession with eating healthy food.” (source).

I answered yes to 1,2,3,5,7,8,10. That’s a shocking 7 out of 10! And yes to 4 or 5 means that I’m supposed to “relax more about food”? Why on God’s green earth should I “relax” about food when animal agriculture is literally destroying the planet and human health? For each question to which I answered yes, I’m going to explain why, so that you know how I can feel so certain about not having orthorexia myself, and so you can see why new, more pointed, questions are needed to test for this eating disorder.

brainstorming-413156_6401. Do you spend more than 3 hours a day thinking about your diet? YES. Not only am I  a vegan who prepares virtually all the meals in my household, but I also love to cook, and am always searching for new and interesting ways to substitute for things like cream (my latest discovery is onion cream, which I now use in pasta dishes). In addition, I have 2 blogs which both focus on veganism. The other one is specifically about healthy meal planning in accordance with Dr. Greger’s recommended daily dozen. I also have a large garden, and I devote time to thinking about what I can grow that will offer the most nutritional yield for my hard work, and will also be the most cost- and space-efficient. When I’m harvesting, I like to think about meals that I can make with the food I’m gathering. This all comes back to veganism, and so, yes, I’m sure I spend far more than 3 hours each day thinking about my ‘diet’.

2. Do you plan your meals several days ahead? YES. We go grocery shopping once a week. I go with a prepared list of what I need for the week’s meals. I like trying new things, so I don’t just buy the same things every week, which means I need to plan meals and prepare a list in advance or I’ll never remember everything I need. 

horizontal-1155878_6403. Is the nutritional value of your meal more important than the pleasure of eating it? YES. Though I really enjoy cooking and love love love good food, I always start by finding something that is nutritious. If I go to a dinner party and the extent of the effort that the hosts went to to accommodate me was to cut up a few raw vegetables, well, then, that’s what I’m eating even though I’m certainly not going to get all that much pleasure out of it. It’s definitely a bummer when that happens, but I won’t compromise my health & principles just because someone doesn’t know how to use Google. But, to be fair, it’s not just about nutrition for me. I’m an ethical vegan as well, so I guess I can sort of give this a semi-yes. I’ve always made sure that I maintained healthy eating habits, and not fallen into a rut of eating lots of fatty or sugary foods. In that sense, even before I was vegan, my first priority was health & nutrition.

5. Have you become stricter with yourself lately? YES. It’s very recently that I found out that refined oil is as bad for your body as animal products, so I’ve been working to eliminate oil from my diet. I use aquafaba to replace oil in hummus and pesto and salad dressings, etc. I don’t like water-sauteed onions, though, so if anyone has suggestions for me about that, I’d be happy to hear them. 

7. Have you given up foods you used to enjoy in order to eat the ‘right’ foods? Uh. Hello. Cheese. Bacon. I even had to give up my favorite dish detergent because it has whey in it.

gossip-1385797_6408. Does your diet make it difficult for you to eat out, distancing you from family and friends? YES. I don’t let it prevent me from going where I’m invited, but I think some people don’t invite me over for dinner because it’s scary for them to try to cook vegan. When it definitely distances me from people is when they behave like asses and make fun of me, or ignorantly declare total disapproval of my ‘sissy’ ethics, ‘sickly’ diet, and ‘high-horse’ lifestyle. Yeah, whatever. Sometimes I cry a little, but then I get over it. It’s their problem, not mine. And, no matter how rude people have been, I’ve never regretted my decision to be vegan for a single second.

10. Do you feel at peace with yourself and in total control when you eat healthily? YES. Of course I feel at peace and in control of myself when I healthily. Not only am I living my ethics, but I know I’m doing as much to be in control of my own future health, well-being and healthcare costs as I know how to do, which is a good feeling. And that’s NORMAL! 

While orthorexia is as serious as any other eating disorder, and there are some orthorexic vegans out there who do need the people in their lives to lovingly and compassionately try to get them help, most vegans are not orthorexic. They are individuals who have opened their eyes to the truth of the damage that is caused by consuming animal products – the damage to the planet, to the animals, and to our own bodies, and they are acting completely rationally in the face of that information. I would argue MORE rationally than people who flatly refuse to consider veganism.

If a vegan is orthorexic, they can recover from their eating disorder while still being vegan. Here is a good discussion of that possibility.

Lastly, mainstream media sometimes uses the idea of orthorexia to try to scare people out of becoming vegan (I’m looking at you, BBC). It’s utterly ridiculous, and it needs to stop because they are doing actual harm. Don’t be afraid to:

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Is a vegan diet less sustainable than an omnivorous diet?

References to one particular study on diet and land use requirements keep popping up around the web, from various blogs and news organizations.

rude-151093_640Most of them have been quick to jump on this study because it seems to offer them an opportunity to thumb their noses and blow raspberries at the vegan community, for example, “Sorry vegans: Sticking to a meat-free, dairy-free diet is NOT as good for the planet as you might think”. Many of them start with some kind of elbow to the rib, something about how we like to think we’re better than everybody else or some such nonsense. Some are more respectful.

What all of them have in common is a serious lack of understanding of the specific point made by the authors, and even the authors themselves seem to miss the forest for the trees. I’ll explain.

First, here’s a link to the specious article under discussion: Peters et al. 2016. It’s licensed under the CC attribution license and available for everyone to read for free (yay!).

salad-1570673_640The key measure under investigation was the carrying capacity of U.S. agricultural land – basically, the annual per capita land requirements vs. amount of land available for food production when that food is in keeping with different diets. More simply, how many people can be fed with the amount of land that we have? The authors look at various levels of omnivorous diets, lacto-ovo and lacto-vegetarian, and vegan, as well as 2 variants of current consumption.

They begin with 2 fundamental assumptions: there is a relationship between diet and sustainability, specifically, “dietary change is essential for meeting future human food needs”. Agreed. Second: “sparing land from conversion to agriculture may be important for protecting biodiversity”, so it’s vitally important to understand how dietary patterns impact land use. So far, so good.

cows-1029077_640The authors caution against simplistic thinking because, though animal agriculture is the most land-intensive, the largest fraction of land it uses is for foraging and grazing, often on non-arable land – land that can’t be used to grow any crops for human consumption, though grasses and other ‘weeds’ will grow which the animals eat. So, as they point out, eliminating animal agriculture does not necessarily mean turning all its land over to cultivation.

So, I can definitely see where they’re coming from. It’s a logical argument. If we want to make the most of our land for food production purposes, then we need to use it for what it’s good for. Attempting to make non-arable land supportive of crops causes environmental devastation (just look at the Aral Sea crisis). And it’s clear from the numbers in Peters et al. (2016) that the most efficient use of land for food would include using non-arable land for animal agriculture.

There are 2 implicit assumptions the authors are making which are simply untrue. First, that there is such a thing as an omnivorous diet that is healthy. Nope. Not only is the ingestion of animal products devastating to human health, but the killing and handling of dead animals causes psychological disorders in the people who do that kind of work, and passes unknown numbers of diseases on to anyone who handles raw meat, producers & consumers alike.

Second, that the most efficient diet in terms of land use is the most sustainable diet. Efficiency does not equal sustainability, and animal agriculture is far too devastating to the environment to be considered as part of the future of a sustainable food supply. The following information and more is available on the Cowspiracy website’s fact sheet.

  • ocean dead zones, water pollution, & habitat destruction are largely driven by animal agricultureclean-1223168_640
  • livestock and their byproducts account for 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions
  • animal agriculture is the leading driver of desertification
  • the U.S. could feed 800 million people with just the grain that is currently fed to livestock (that’s more than double the current U.S. population and slightly more than the total number of starving people in the world, according to United Nations World Food Program statistics)
  • more than 80% of the world’s starving children live in countries who export their grain to feed livestock, which are then consumed by people in wealthier countries – an absolute crime against humanity

What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t actually matter what the most efficient use of land is, because any animal agriculture at all does more harm than good and, if we turn over all the currently arable land to cultivation for human consumption, we could easily feed the global population with room to grow, and if we eventually do outgrow it, we can still work with what we’ve got and use our technology to find better solutions like vertical farming.

Something I often hear vegans say, and see in vegan blog posts is that we don’t need to consume animals and their products to be healthy and happy, but we can make a much stronger statement than that – because it’s true – consuming animals and their products at the rate we currently do is not only antithetical to human health & happiness, but even to our survival as a species.

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Vegan heroes

I would like to congratulate The Guardian. I don’t know who wrote this article because I couldn’t find the name of the author, but congrats to her/him as well.

A story about an Italian baby who was malnourished by his parents has been the source of so much negative press from big media, and even independent media is struggling to cover it from an unbiased, fact-driven perspective, because the parents happen to be vegan.

The Young Turks kind of tried, but fell way short. (Cenk Uygur seems close to getting it, but he’s obviously blocking himself from having to make this massive shift. I know he could make the connection if he wanted to because I was once exactly where he is right now.)

The reason I’m impressed with this writer for The Guardian is that it’s so much easier, at this point in time, to go with a sensationalist headline  – something about vegan parents = child abuse – than to write a positive piece about the health and nutritional benefits of raising children vegan.

And major kudos to the mothers who were willing to share their stories with the press at  a time when they might legitimately fear negative backlash. They are today’s heroes!

Leaving the Land of Nod: a vegan perspective on the Garden of Eden

How do you feel about knowledge?

It’s generally a good thing, right? Important, a worthy pursuit, advances civilization, and all that jazz? Yes, of course.

creation-47473_640That’s why I never really got the Bible story about Adam & Eve & the Garden of Eden. They were cast out of the garden for eating from the Tree of Knowledge. I couldn’t quite connect with the idea that knowledge was somehow a bad thing. I’m apparently not the only one because I’ve seen interpretations of this story saying that the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge had the power to fill man with the desire for both good and evil. But I don’t buy that interpretation. It doesn’t seem to be what was intended by the story, which speaks only of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now that I have a different perspective on the eating habits of humanity, it suddenly dawned on me to look at this story with new eyes, and I found that I have, for the first time, an answer to this riddle that works for me.

Humankind is the only species that, as far as we know, has knowledge of good and evil; in other words – we’re the only non-innocent animal in an ethical sense, meaning that we make decisions based on a thought process including the weighing of our actions against a moral backdrop rather than simply following instinct with no ethical culpability, as the other creatures on this earth.

We’re also the only species to consistently subsist on a diet that is neither natural nor healthy for us because we have the technology to go against nature. Here’s something interesting which, to me, shows that the ethic of veganism is part of our consciousness no matter how deep our culture is trying to bury it: in the Garden of Eden – the perfect paradise – animals simply exist side-by-side with man – they are not used for food or labor. But then, after being cast out of paradise, the first two “jobs” that humans engaged in (according to this story, anyway) were plant and animal agriculture. The sons of Adam & Eve were a shepherd and a farmer.

donkey-534906_640So, as we lost the innocence that goes along with ignorance, our entire relationship with the animal kingdom changed. It was no longer one of harmony, but became one of subjugation when we lost our paradise. That says to me that we have always known, in our heart of hearts, even 3500 years ago when the stories in Genesis were first written, that our relationship with the other animals with whom we share this planet is just not right. It represents a deviation from our original purpose.

book-2869_640Another word about knowledge: you’ve heard the expression “ignorance is bliss”, I’m sure. It’s easy enough to see why this is a truism, especially in this context. But what about “a little learning is a dangerous thing” (Alexander Pope)? Well, just look at us! The path we’re on is clearly destructive to ourselves, to other species, and to the planet as a whole. We’re ruining everything (I know that might sound hyperbolic, but it’s literally true) with our “knowledge” because we don’t have enough of it – you can never have enough of it. Once you’ve entered that rabbit-hole, there’s no coming out. We now have the duty of constantly trying to gain knowledge and understanding because the more we have, the less dangerous our knowledge becomes.

Simple example:

Common knowledge: protein is an essential macronutrient.

Not common knowledge: if we get our protein mostly from animal products, we’re doing ourselves more harm than good.

Not common knowledge: we can get plenty of protein from eating plants (after all, that’s where most other animals get it from).

I do have a caveat – it’s only true based on the assumption that, as humanity advances, we will also continue to grow spiritually & ethically – that personal qualities like empathy and detachment will be cultivated and will continue to spread. I see this in the vegan movement, and I used the two specific examples of empathy and detachment because they are both key qualities of successful (meaning long-term) ethical vegans. These are people who have expanded their circle of empathy, a prerequisite for compassion, as wide as they can. It’s more than that, though – developing the quality of detachment is necessary to let go of all the animal products that our society tells us we should fear being without. I assure you, there was a day when I was afraid to let go of cheese. I expressed that feeling in the following way: “I could never give up cheese!” Sound familiar? It seems silly to me now, because I don’t eat cheese and I don’t feel a sense of deprivation, but it’s normal for people to be afraid of that feeling. And it’s only after letting go that you can come to realize that your life and your food are just as interesting as they ever were. Getting to that point, though, requires detachment. While we still have the fear of letting go, we hold ourselves back from being standard-bearers of the advancement of society, and from participating in a meaningful way in literally saving the planet.

Expand your circle of empathy;

Detach yourself from what’s holding you back;

& Go Vegan. It’s worth it.

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** A note about the title, for those who are curious. I chose the “Land of Nod” for its double entendre. By leaving the land of nod I mean both waking up to the truth, and leaving exile to regain paradise.

 

Is veganism unnatural? What we can learn from children.

goat-1137852_640Sometimes unlearning is as important as learning. It is for this reason adults can benefit so much from listening to children, and from keeping in touch with our own childhood instincts.

How many children have the experience of realizing where “meat” comes from, and feeling horrified? (I know I did!) How many parents have had that conversation with your own kids? What did you tell them? What was said to you when you had that experience as a child?

We teach our children that what they’re feeling is unjustified, and we tell them what was told to us, which is that it’s natural & necessary for us to kill animals for food. How natural can it possibly be if we have to convince kids of it? What, then, does ‘natural’ mean? We tell them they have to grow up & toughen up, obstructing their natural instinct to be compassionate. I initially ended that sentence with “…compassionate toward all animals” but then I realized that might give you the impression that it only impedes compassion toward all animals, when, in fact, it impedes compassion, period. Many adults no longer have the emotional connection that would allow them to feel pain on behalf of animals – to care about their suffering. This emotional connection is called empathy, and it must be lost in order to be seen as a “mature” person. (This is probably part of why vegans are so commonly ridiculed.) Often, the first place that children are taught not to practice empathy is in their food choices.

Do you not find it incredibly bizarre that one of the first signs of psychopathy in children and the possibility of future violence toward other humans is cruelty toward animals, but at the same time we actively and passively teach children that killing and dismembering animals is okay, as long as it’s only certain animals, and only for food – oh, no, wait – for sport, too. What’s the difference between the “psychopathic” child’s and the “normal” adult’s behavior? Tell me again, I forgot.

Have you ever had to convince a (mentally stable) child that they should care about animals? Of course not! Even the vast majority of adults care about animals in general. The difference is that young children still see all animals as they are – equal, while adults have been socially conditioned to accept the disconnect between caring about and eating animals. See, humans are really good at categorizing. We learn to categorize animals into emotional/intelligent/pet and senseless/stupid/beast, allowing us to treat the 2 categories differently. longhorn-cattle-754741_640What we need to unlearn is this categorization, and what we need to learn from the instincts of children is that the ability to experience pain and suffering and loss is the same for a cow and a dog and a pig and an elephant and a human. Bovine mothers scream and cry and try to chase down the culprit when their babies are stolen from them, just like human mothers. That is what I mean by loss: the pain suffered when a loved one is gone.

And for those of you who are wondering why we should care, why it matters whether we feel empathy for animals, perhaps needing a slightly more anthropocentric reason, consider this:

Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.           ~ Thomas Edison

and this:

For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.                  ~ Pythagoras

We hide the reality of our treatment of animals behind a facade of pretty packaging because, well, better out of sight out of mind just in case some of us have some empathy left. But if we showed that truth to our children – all our children – the world would turn vegan practically overnight.

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For more information, read this published study: Stewart & Cole 2009 – The conceptual separation of food and animals in childhood.

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Why do vegans always describe what we don’t eat?

What’s the first thing you think of if I say to you, “Don’t think of pink elephants”?

Probably pink elephants.

And if I say, “I don’t eat meat, dairy & eggs”?

bacon-egg-and-cheese-biscuit-702813_640Probably a bacon, egg & cheese sandwich.

One thing we can learn from this phenomenon is that our words convey imagery, and that imagery plays an important role in framing the topic of conversation. By using this kind of terminology, we make it more difficult for our audience to fill in the negative space with other imagery.

As a vegan, I see evidence of this every time I get invited to a dinner party. The topic of veganism has been framed in the negative: we don’t eat meat dairy & eggs. For most people, the message stops there, and the idea they’re left with is that vegans are a bunch of self-depriving ascetics, who must be munching on plain, raw lettuce all day long. And, boy oh boy, that is NOT the life for me! For a very few, namely, the friends and family who are brave enough to invite me to dinner, it begs the question – what does she eat?

Before we sit down at the dining table, everyone stands around in the kitchen, nibbling at finger-foods as an appetizer. Usually, the negative frame has gotten in my host’s way of imagining all the food choices that are available to me as a vegan. So, I end up looking at a table full of nacho chips, and sour cream- or yogurt-based dips. I’m left with plain raw carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and, if I’m lucky, red bell peppers. Perhaps a small bowl of peanuts. And I’m thinking what about hummus? what about corn chips? salsa? guacamole? corn nuts? pretzels? These things are simple, readily available, and everybody loves them – nobody has to make a big production just for me. But it’s plainly evident from what is not sitting on the table that the hosts were engaged in the “not meat; not eggs; not dairy” way of thinking, and so these possibilities didn’t even occur to them.

tit-100049_640And so, I eat what they have for me without complaining because I don’t want to be rude, and then, before I leave, I tell them it’s their turn to come to my place for dinner. They nervously accept. What will she feed us? Should we eat before going over? Do you think she eats like a bird or a rabbit?

Here’s the thing: I love food. I don’t want to deprive myself. I want to enjoy what I’m eating. I want to be able to have comfort food. I want to feel satisfied and warm and energetic from my food. I imagine that raw vegetables & a few nuts & seeds doesn’t do that for you, and it doesn’t do it for me, either! So I make them the awesomest black bean & sweet potato enchiladas that they’ve ever had.

The kids didn’t even break down crying when they saw their plates. Sighs of relief all around.

I think two important things block many people from even considering a plant-based diet : a lack of imagination in the food department, and a lack of education about food – both the nutrition & the preparation aspects. The reason that I was able to make the choice to adopt this lifestyle is that I engaged in research – I found out what it meant to eat vegan food. And I began to see the bounty of the choices I can make rather than the deficit. It was easy once I realized that I could eat so much more food by cutting out the bits that are bad for my body. If you eat dairy and eggs and meat, you have to strictly limit the amount of food you ingest. If you eat those things bountifully, all sorts of health problems typically arise, from obesity & diabetes to cardiovascular disease & certain cancers. Almost all of the 15 leading killers in the U.S. result from the Standard American Diet, with it’s appropriate acronym of SAD (what’s the evidence?). But I can eat bountifully because I eat healthfully. And the comforting & satisfying foods are still there – potatoes, pasta, rice, corn, wheat,…they’re the staples of civilizations for a reason!

Let’s try re-framing the conversation, and finding a positive way to introduce our food choices. Instead of instantly bringing to mind the things that people are scared to leave behind, fill their heads with images of all the wonderful things that vegans enjoy. Need some inspiration? Check out oh she glowsTENDING the TABLE & VeganYumYum, just for starters.

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