Today I am tickled pink to share with you a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers, Chrissy of The New Me. Chrissy and I “met” recently through our blogs, and we became friends quickly. Chrissy has written a lot about her adventures in (mostly) vegan cooking, and she’s working her way through Veganomicon, a massive and much-loved book devoted to vegan cooking. Chrissy cooks frequently and shares her kitchen adventures and recipe finds on her blog. She’s got a bit of a sweet tooth, too, so you’ll find plenty of cakes, cookies, pies, and other treats in her recipe archive. Chrissy’s food photography is beautiful and inspiring; all the photos below are hers.
What I admire most about Chrissy is her unique mix of ambition, compassion, and fun. She’s a dedicated goal-setter, a talented writer, a passionate advocate for animal and human rights, and a devoted yogi and runner. It’s such a thrill to have her as a guest blogger during Veg Bootcamp, and I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did.
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My path to vegetarianism started in the public library. In high school I worked as a page, shelving books and making sure everything was in proper Dewey Decimal order. I also liked to skim each book before placing in on the shelf. While this slowed down my efficiency, it made me great at recommending materials for patrons, as I knew the plots of 95% of the books on our shelves. One day, I came across a stack of books about vegetarianism and, as was my custom, started reading one of them. Then I read the next one. And the next one. I dragged the rest to the back corner of the library where no one ever went and finished the stack. By the time my shift ended, I had visions of crude slaughterhouses, cows mourning their stolen young, and beak-less chickens crammed into too-small cages dancing through my head. I decided that I would go vegetarian for one month, just to see if I could do it.
It was not an easy transition. My family is very meat-and-potatoes (it was only in college that I realized spinach is a leafy green and existed as something other than a creamed side dish) and my parents did not have the time or desire to cook me a separate meal from unfamiliar ingredients. I had to learn how to cook. The first time was a disaster—I stir-fried broccoli and and tofu, except the broccoli was undercooked, I bought silken tofu instead of firm and it congealed at the bottom of the pan, and I doused everything in a sodium-rich soy sauce. It was disgusting, but I ate every bite—I wanted to prove to my parents that I could do this vegetarian thing. After that, I survived on grilled cheese and veggie burgers until I left for college, where a cafeteria that offered a meat, a vegetarian AND a vegan option every night was my savior (art school = highly recommended!).
Ten years later I am still a vegetarian who leans mostly vegan. (My parents are still convinced that it's a phase.) And while I've steadily abstained from meat all these years, my attitude toward vegetarianism has evolved. For example, I've always been in this for the animals and not for health reasons. The fact that I feel healthy, rarely get sick and have enough energy to run marathons and practice yoga are nice perks, but I also know that any diet (even ones that include meat) can be healthy if done right. There was a time when I was more militant about vegetarianism—I felt it was the only humane way to eat and that anyone who didn't turn their nose up at carcass-based meals was directly engaging in a terrible cruelty.
These days I'm a lot more open-minded about my beliefs. I recognize that the ability to choose what I will and will not eat, based on a personal moral code, is a privilege. Such decisions require a certain amount of education, resources, and freedom, and not everyone has access to those things. I'm also much more sensitive to where my food comes from. What is better for the world—an organic kiwi shipped from New Zealand to Texas, or an egg from a chicken that lives in my neighbor's backyard?
This is why I consider myself "mostly vegan"—the world is not black and white and living the best life you can requires a certain amount of flexibility. The 18-year-old version of myself saw flexibility as weakness; the 28-year-old me now understands that it is necessary to live in harmony with the world.
I love food—preparing it, presenting it, writing and reading about it, and, of course, eating it! And knowing that my food has caused as little harm to the planet as possible makes every dish extra delicious.