Last week I randomly picked up Alicia Silverstone’s book “The Kind Diet” at our library, thinking it might have some good vegetarian recipes I could try out. I was pleasantly surprised by her writing skills (admittedly, I can still only imagine her as a real-life version of the character she played in “Clueless”) and her vast knowledge and experience relating to all things plant-based.
She writes extensively about her personal journey to a vegan lifestyle, but is really non-threatening about it. There is no judgement, just an opportunity for her to present some information you might not have heard of before, and come to your own conclusions. She writes very conversationally and I was hooked after the first page.
I have been on the fence when it comes to meat for about five years and could easily give it up without much sacrifice, save for the occasional pepperoni pizza craving or sudden urge for bacon with my pancakes. I don’t like the fact that animals have to be killed in order for us to eat meat, factory farming is a nightmare, and I don’t even really like the flavour or texture of most meat. But I had never considered a vegan lifestyle before. It sounded so extreme and all-consuming. You could never eat at a restaurant, you’d be a total pain in the rear if you ever got invited to dinner at a friend’s house (and, I imagine the invitations would stop rolling in faster than you can say, “soy nuggets!”), and you would have to live a life without cheese. I mean, seriously.
Before reading the book, I had no qualms eating cheese, dairy and eggs, since I reasoned that it was more humane than slaughtering the animals. It’s not like it hurts the chickens to lay eggs, or the cows to be milked, right? Well, it turns out the life of a dairy cow or a laying hen is horrific right from day one. I won’t get into all the details, but my eyes were really opened to the conditions they’re raised in and I don’t feel quite as innocent about my cheese-covered omelette anymore.
I am not planning on going vegan anytime soon, but this book made me consider it as an option for the first time in my life. A little bit of knowledge can go a long way. Now that I’m chewing on some of these new notions and ideas (she also discusses the perils of white sugar, processed foods and pretty much anything else that tastes good) I find myself wondering about a few things: how are we supposed to find balance in the messed-up system we find ourselves living in? There must be a fine line between enjoying this one life to its fullest, but doing it without cruelty. And, when one makes changes, are they destined to become nothing more than phases, in retrospect? I have many friends who have gone vegetarian or vegan for a few months, then fall back into old patterns and stop caring about the things they were once so passionate about.
One of the great things Alicia touches on is that we don’t have to completely commit to a new lifestyle overnight. We can flirt with some of the ideas she presents, try cooking without meat a couple times a week, maybe cut out some of the refined sugars in our diets, and see how we feel. Baby steps are a-OK. So that’s where I’m at right now: baby-stepping my way to a life that’s a little more aware of the food I eat, the impact it has on the planet and my body, and maybe one teensy step closer to becoming a total hippie vegan who wears a burlap toga and spins wool from her own armpit hair to use for knitting booties for the chickens who live in the bedroom with her and whose eggs she tenderly gathers while humming folk songs. Or something.
Have you ever considered a radical change to your diet? Have you gone through a vegetarian or vegan stage in your life and then quit? Do you feel as though you’re moving in a direction you’re pleased with in regards to the food you eat and making small changes that will eventually bring you to the place you aim to be? I’d love to hear from the vegans out there, how they make the lifestyle sustainable, how they live without a thin slice of havarti cheese on a freshly buttered baguette. Do tell!