First, I must admit that I am not yet a vegan (pronounced “veegun”). I’m not even entirely vegetarian – yet. At 59, I’m moving toward a plant-based diet and away from consuming animal products for a number of reasons, the first of which is that my teenage daughter has fully embraced veganism.
I was 42 when I went to China to adopt Michelle. I had a feeling that she would change my life for the better, and has she ever. She is smarter than her mother, healthier, and has more self-esteem than I ever did. At 17, she is leading me into a lifestyle more sustainable and compassionate than my former life of self-congratulation over merely eating some veggies and recycling plastic.
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
In 1944 London, Donald Watson (1910–2005) helped form a small group of what he called “lacto-vegetarians” into the Vegan Society. In a 2004 interview commemorating the organization’s 60th anniversary, a 94-year-old Watson said he created the word “vegan” to contain “the first three and last two letters of vegetarian – the beginning and end of vegetarian. The word was accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary [in 1962] and no one has tried to improve it.”
Watson’s first issue of “Vegan News” explains his philosophy of compassion for animals. Veganism was an ethical choice for him. Others follow the requirements of their faith, doctor’s orders, or financial concerns.
The 16th annual World Vegan Day is November 1st. It might be the date I choose to begin my new plant-based lifestyle, abstaining from all forms of exploitation of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. I am embarrassed to admit, however, that I won’t easily reject leather shoes and parmesan cheese.
“There’s a schizoid quality to our relationship with animals, in which sentiment and brutality exist side by side. Half the dogs in America will receive Christmas presents this year, yet few of us pause to consider the miserable life of the pig – an animal easily as intelligent as a dog – that becomes the Christmas ham” (The New York Times Magazine, “An Animal’s Place” by Michael Pollan, 11/10/02).
Beyond Michelle’s commitment to the lifestyle, there are health benefits that compel me to implement a vegan diet. It can help me lose weight, lower my cholesterol, and decrease my chances of suffering from diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. I’d like to stay around a good long while to find out what incredible things my daughter will get up to. I think a plant-based diet will help me do that, if I fully commit to it.
There are wonderful recipes available online, in magazines, and at the library. These take time and effort. Being lazy, I see preparation and planning as the major drawbacks to veganism. Michelle plans her food carefully. She generally makes oatmeal or a shake in the morning and packs her lunch. I like a breakfast of a pb&j on whole grain bread with strong black coffee, and a lunch of leftovers or a prepared soup or salad (preferably from Trader Joe’s).
If prepared from scratch, a plant-based diet is less expensive than the alternative. I am, however, all about convenience. As a snacker who goes for the quickest fix, I believe it can’t be overstated that carrots with humus dip is a lifesaver. Apples, dried fruit, and nuts are easy, too.
Michelle and I may or may not eat the same food in the evening, but we try to sit down together. Dining together provides sustenance in many ways.
American rock vocalist, songwriter, witty lyricist, and former model Grace Slick, may be best known as one of the lead singers of Jefferson Airplane. She is a vegan after my own heart:
“I am not strict vegan, because I’m a hedonist pig. If I see a big chocolate cake that is made with eggs, I’ll have it.”
I’m with you, Grace.