Sunday, November 30, 2008

A New Path

I just celebrated my first vegan Thanksgiving. Ever since becoming a vegetarian 20 years ago I have wanted to be vegan. Not just to BE vegan, but to make more ethical choices. I always felt like I just wasn't doing enough simply eliminating meat. After all, the dairy and egg industries are really the worst. I was simply in denial eating my mac and cheese. On one level I felt like I wasn't doing enough, but on another I was patient with myself in the way that I am with others: we all do the best we can in the moment. I just never thought I would be able to "go all the way." Not that I have gone all the way, but I have taken a first step.

What made this such an easy step to take? Two things:
1-I read an interview with the author of a vegan cookbook who suggested taking baby steps instead of quitting all animal products "cold turkey" (pardon the pun.)
2-A friend and her husband have a realistic approach: vegan at home, and vegetarian/do the best you can when eating out and visiting.

The fact that these two things had such an effect on me is an insight into my personality. I can sometimes fall into the all or nothing mentality (Jim had this figured out a long time ago). If I can't be perfect-I don't do it. Well, with the "permission" of these respectable models - here I am. Still just doing the best I can, but at a new level.

Why does this matter-veganism? I guess the primary reason is still ethical. Why should anything have to suffer so that I can eat? Generally I feel cleaner, lighter, and better about my choices. I know one person can't save the world, and I still wear leather shoes. No perfection or preaching here. Mostly I feel as though more of my choices align with my belief system. Continually seeking inner harmony so to speak.

The amazing thing is that with every choice I have made to "limit" my diet, I have actually expanded my horizons. From picky (meat) eater, to foodie vegetarian, from vegetarian to experimental and curious baby-stepping vegan, it has been a delightful process of discovery. For example-who knew Jim would start to steal my vegan cheeseless pizza to the point where now I buy him his own? Who knew that vegan baking would solve all of my high altitude baking dilemmas? And who knew that a vegan Thanksgiving could be so totally delicious, without a pang of deprivation? Nut loaf, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, roasted brussel sprouts, sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, pumpkin pie. With the exception of the turkey, we all ate the same thing. It is amazing that with just a couple substitutions, a gentle menu can emerge from the tradition of butter and cream laden sides.

A side benefit to all of this: mindfulness. As I thought about the menu and my choices, I became aware of each bite and each flavor. For the first time in eons I wasn't stuffed. Just content. This mindfulness has miraculously continued into leftover week. Amazing.

Thanksgiving was a successful step for me. Next on the list of experiments: Can I continue on this path, be true to myself, and still visit family, go on vacation, eat out, etc. I think I will grant myself imperfection and see what happens. Stay tuned.