When my husband and I decided to sell everything and move from South Africa to the USA, the reactions from friends and family were a mix of surprise, good wishes, and just plain jealousy. When I decided to transition to a plant-based diet, however, I might as well have said that I was joining the next mission to Mars. And so began my vegan journey. 🙂
One unsuspecting day, my husband and I went to see the movie “Noah”. Yes, as in the Russell Crowe version. Who knew that wham, bam and thank you ma’am, I would never eat meat again. In the movie, one family loved and appreciated plants, animals, and had a beautiful connection with the Earth. The rest of society was a shocking portrayal of greed and violence. Immediately, I was confronted with some glimmer of truth that I couldn’t brush away.
I decided to stop eating meat that night and do further research into our modern day society and the treatment of animals. I was shocked and disappointed with myself for not opening my heart sooner to the plight of animals. I fervently searched for vegetarian recipes and substitutes, of which I found plenty, and began making some changes. I started to transition with a lot of processed substitute foods like Lightlife and Gardein, which were great at the time. These days (3 years later) I try to eat more whole-food vegan options but I just can’t resist those Tofurkey deli slices. Thanks a lot Ensley. 😉 I still don’t eat seitan, I mean, can you blame me? “Say-tin” people. I rest my case.
Turns out, everyone has an opinion to share when you make a change like this! Spending time with my grandfather soon after I had changed my diet proved to be the motivation I needed to continue my journey. He’d grown up as a herd boy in rural South Africa, riding to school on a wagon pulled by an ox. (Yes, pulled by an ox.) When I explained to him that I didn’t feel the need to eat meat when there were so many plant options available, his response was “I’ve been to a pig farm. All they do is shoot the pig straight in the head, between the eyes, with a retractable bolt gun and that’s it. The pig doesn’t see it coming.”
Say whaaat? I couldn’t argue with his experience, but just because that’s the way things have always been done doesn’t mean it’s the way it has to continue.
Especially because I was starting to feel good-really good. From the moment I gave up eating meat, I felt lighter and brighter. I knew that three times a day (if not more) I could make choices that were kind to animals, my body, and the planet. If there’s such thing as a win-win-win situation, this was it.
Soon after that I met my gorgeous friend, Ensley. We did Montessori teacher training together, had classrooms next door to each other, and ate lunch in the glorious sun almost everyday. She kindly told me about her vegan journey and let the thoughts stew in my mind day after day.
I listened to some podcasts and researched (read: Googled) the egg and dairy industry, and realized that becoming completely plant based was the natural next step for me. I took about 6 months to transition to being completely vegan and yes, the last thing to go was cheese!
I slowly found a milk substitute (Trader Joe’s unsweetened almond milk and later, canned organic coconut milk) that I loved and discovered the miracle food that is the avocado. I found out the amazing health and environmental benefits from eating a plant-based diet and was on my way.
My husband of 9 years, while not a vegan himself, has been an incredible support throughout all of this. He’s been my shoulder to cry on when someone makes an insensitive remark, and has been extremely flexible with all of the changes in our kitchen and house. Now he LOVES the diverse meals we eat (like Chana Masala), and is right next to me in the kitchen cooking most nights. Yes, I’ve given myself some grace during my pregnancy but I love this lifestyle.
Know that this is my story and everyone’s is different. This is truly a journey, not a destination. There is no “arrival” point in which you stop learning and growing.