If you’re like me and you’re interested in eating more plants and fewer animals, or if you’ve thought about (or tried) to go vegan but it didn’t last, my mentor and dear friend, Victoria Moran, has written a book just for us. It’s MAIN STREET VEGAN, 40 short, prescriptive essays covering every aspect of vegan living in a way that’s understanding, funny, realistic, and wise. Here is an excerpt.
By guest blogger, Victoria Moran
Sometimes, the thought of going vegan just plain scares people. It can seem complicated. Impractical. Exotic, but not in a good way. In reality, however, you’ve eaten vegan food every day of your life (unless you were ever on Atkins and consumed only roast beef and hard-boiled eggs until your best friend told you, in confidence, that you were starting to smell funny).
Think about it. Let’s say you get up and have for breakfast a glass of OJ, whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and strawberry jam, and Earl Grey tea with lemon. At lunchtime, you go to a salad bar and serve yourself a mixture of romaine and spinach, grated carrot, tomatoes, scallions, garbanzo beans, and black olives, and top it with a drizzle of French dressing; you grab some rye crackers and sesame breadsticks and a bottle of lime-infused sparkling water.
In the late afternoon, you eat an apple and what’s left in that little bag of roasted almonds you bought yesterday at Starbucks. For dinner, you open a bottle of red wine and let it breathe while you pour out baby greens from a bag and toss them with balsamic vinaigrette. Then you boil angel hair pasta, heat up a jar of marinara sauce, and steam a bunch of broccoli. There’s peach sorbet for dessert.
Guess what? You just spent a day eating as a vegan – without shopping at a health food store, or consuming anything unusual or derived from a soybean. Almost certainly you will, as a vegan, want to take advantage of what a natural food store has to offer and, unless you have a personal reason for avoiding soy, you’ll have a great time experimenting with the various “meats,” “milks,” “ice creams,” and “cheeses” made from this remarkable legume. But for the most part, vegan dining is built around foods with which you’re already familiar.
Even so, it’s not always easy to take this plunge. Most of us are used to eating animal foods and mass-produced foods that have a lot of their nutrition stripped away, but they come in packages we recognize and that make us feel safe. As a vegan, you’ll be eating a lot of fruits and vegetables – no packaging at all – and many of the prepared foods you’ll try come from small companies you may not have heard of before. This can be disconcerting because it’s unfamiliar. But those corporate giants that want to addict you to their greasy, salty, sugary, chemical-laced products aren’t old friends: they’re just old! These are the guys who want you to think that Twinkies are normal and artichokes are weird.
We vegans comprise only a tiny segment of the population, but our numbers are growing rapidly, and legions of other folks are trying to eat healthier and cut back on animal products, without eliminating them entirely. This means there’s more food for us to eat in more places than ever before, even though the world at large isn’t quite set up for us yet. Although eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet can keep you thin, safeguard your health, and give you a new lease on life, it can also make you something of an oddity at the family reunion. That’s the price of being a trailblazer, but when you think about all it’s doing for you – not to mention the animals and the environment – that price is pretty darned low.
Decide, then, that you can do this, because you can. You learned how to drive a car, program the DVR, and use your iGadgets; compared to those accomplishments, going vegan is a piece of Wacky Cake (see the recipe at the end of this chapter). The biggest obstacle most would-be vegans face is feeling different from other people, but you can change how you see that by replacing different with pioneering.
People who worked for the abolition of slavery in the 1700s and 1800s were considered different, extreme, and out of touch with economic realities. Suffragists in the US and the UK were seen as hysterical and out of control because they believed that women should have the right to vote. Both blacks and whites who were part of the American civil rights movement in the mid-20th century were called radical, even criminal.
You’ll be in good company, then, when some benighted soul tells you to stop being a “health nut” (I’d rather be a healthy “nut” than a sick something else), or a “bleeding heart” (vegan Chloë Jo Davis of the fashion site, GirlieGirlArmy.com, recently tweeted: “Better a bleeding heart than no heart at all” – cheers to that!). Let’s face it, being ahead of one’s time is always inconvenient; but if nobody forged ahead despite inconvenience, nothing would ever change for the better….
Somebody way smarter than me said that we reap what we sow, and in living as a vegan, you sow the seeds of an amazing life. People who live on unadulterated, plant-based foods, and who make some effort to take care of themselves in other ways, tend to be trim, attractive, energetic, and effective. If this is what you want – and you must, since you’re reading this book – hurray for you! Decide that you can do this. And prepare yourself for a grand adventure.
From MAIN STREET VEGAN: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World, by Victoria Moran, with Adair Moran.