Monday, November 1, 2010

Vegan MoFo: My Vegan Story and a Giveaway



I've mentioned before that I've been a vegetarian most of my life. I'm going to tell you a bit more about that, since a few of you asked, anyway.

I came into this world ready to eat.

Apparently...
Food, however, quickly became a very confusing issue for me. A lot of people assume that a life-long vegetarian must have had vegetarian parents. I did not. In fact, I grew up in the Midwest: my Grandpa raised cattle, my dad often had his own cows, and most of my neighbors were farmers, as well. I honestly had feelings about being a vegetarian...as soon as I could comprehend the situation at all.

As soon as I started showing signs of vegetarianism (seriously, I was probably 3 or 4), my parents (bless their heart) lied to me about where meat came from. Vegetarianism obviously wasn't too prevalent in the Midwest during the late 70's, early 80's (still isn't), and I don't blame my parents for worrying about my health and well-being. They were able to stall me for a year or two. I stopped eating red meat first. They convinced me that "chicken" was "store-bought," therefore I ate chicken for awhile longer, sincerely imagining the workers concocting it in the back of our IGA. My older, wiser brother, who did not miss an opportunity to tease me, would make "Bawk, bawk" chicken noises with his nuggets. He also ended up informing me that all meat came from animals. So that was it for me. I found the whole idea of eating a dead animal revolting and sad. I have this early memory of pulling back my bun on a McDonald's hamburger, just staring at it, thinking it looked...gray...and just wrong.

Although my parents were probably annoyed and surprised by such final decisiveness from a 5 or 6 year old, they could have been much less accommodating than they were. My Mom always made sure I had something good to eat. They could have tried to force me to eat meat, but I think they understood my feelings about it. I think they also realized early on how stubborn I can be.

I do remember sitting at the kitchen table in my first house (so I couldn't have been more than 3 or 4), refusing to drink my glass of milk. (I did still eat dairy, but I didn't like the taste or idea of straight up milk.) My parents told me I had to sit there until I finished it, but I sat there so long, it got warm. I refused to drink it warm so they put ice cubes in it. I don't remember if I ever drank that glass of milk, but I'm guessing...no.

I found this old questionnaire I filled out at school, at the age of 11. It says: I hate____, and my answer was "meat."

As the years went on, I began reading labels and turned away anything with chicken broth or lard, etc. (There were a lot of mainstream cookies back then baked with lard.) I stopped eating eggs in elementary, and by late elementary, I even stopped eating anything that contained eggs.

It was hard on me, raising baby calves. On one hand, it was fun to have them as pets, and we gave them all names. (We named them after St. Louis Cardinals: Whitey, Ozzie, Reggie, etc.) I helped bottle feed them, and I always fought back tears when we had to send them to the sale barn. Once, one of our calves (Bug-Eye...the only one not named after a Cardinal) was sick and wouldn't eat. I sat up in his calf hutch with him, petting him, crying and pleading with him to eat so we wouldn't have to sell him early. Warning - more sad stuff ahead if you want to skip the rest of this paragraph: When Grandpa and Dad would castrate our calves, I would shut my bedroom door, with the pillow over my head to keep from hearing their cries. It was also really hard to listen to them cry the first nights we had them...as they were missing their mommas...I just felt it, really early on...how could you look into those beautiful eyes of a cow (because honestly, cows have the biggest, most sincere eyes), then later on that day eat a hamburger.

I know that one reason my parents didn't worry about my health was because I ate a LOT of dairy. I grated cheese on almost everything I ate. I loved ice cream. I am aging myself here, but this was all before we had internet so I really felt alone in my decision. I never even saw a health food store until I was in college. I felt almost embarrassed and apologetic about being a vegetarian. As in, I realize I'm the weird one who doesn't eat meat.

This was another page of the questionnaire: I said I wanted to be a "super writer" and live on a big farm with a big house and have lots of animals. My favorite foods were lasagna and burritos (same kind of food I prefer present day). And, incidentally, my favorite books were the Sweet Valley High series.

Then during my first week or so off attending classes at college, I was listening to my geography professor. I don't remember exactly what he said, but it had something to do with different cultures and how we drink cows' milk. Something within me immediately clicked, and I decided then and there, I would never eat dairy again. I had even just started working at a place that was famous for its cheese dip, and I also had to make twist ice cream cones all day. I was not tempted anymore.

I only ate dairy knowingly three times after that, all within the first year of being vegan, and all of them happened to be on dates. (Once the guy said, "I know what you want...you've got frozen yogurt written all over your face." My eyes went large in the dark car, but I somehow choked the yogurt down. I hate that I was too shy and weak to speak my mind back then. (FTR, some of you reading this aren't vegan, and some of you who are vegan occasionally eat something non-vegan. What I'm criticizing here isn't that I ate something non-vegan; it's that I did it to avoid appearing less attractive to a boy.)

I wasn't the healthiest vegan in college. My happiest food days were when my Mom would mail me a Subway card filled with stamps so that I could get a free sandwich. I wrote more about my college years here.

Over the years (Yay, internet, which I finally got for the first time in 1999...we were a little slow...on a sidenote, I remember walking past people on "the internet" in the college computer lab, thinking, "Ew, I could never do that. The screen looks so busy; how would you ever know what to click on?!"), I've become more aware of the cruelty and nonsense behind the meat and dairy industry. I've also continued to realize more of what is and is not actually vegan. (My mom became less patient with me, the more stuff I found to cut out...vitamin D3, white sugar, etc.) I gradually added "health reasons" to my list of why I was a vegan. I stopped buying leather, wool, down, and silk probably within a few years of becoming a food vegan - as soon as it registered with me what it meant to support those purchases and as soon as I realized it was unnecessary to buy those things with so many alternatives. It has all been a gradual progression since I was...well, 3 years old.

So that's my story. I'll write more about how veganism fits into my own family's lives another day. I'd love to hear your vegan story so consider doing a post about that if you have writer's block during Vegan MoFo!

*****************************************

I mentioned yesterday that I am hosting a giveaway for CSN Stores. This is a $40 gift credit that can be used for anything in their 200+ stores. My last CSN winner picked out these dishes. You can buy cookware, bakeware, kitchen organization supplies, furniture, kid stuff, gardening gadgets, or a steam mop, perhaps? (Sorry: CSN can only ship to U.S. and Canadian residents.)

Mandatory entry: Leave a comment about this post.
Additional entries (leave a comment for each entry):
1)Become a google friend connect follower of this blog or remind me that you already are.
2)Put me on your blog roll or remind me that you already have.
3)Visit CSN Stores, then come back and tell me something you'd like to win.
4)Blog about this giveaway and tell me that you did.

I will pick a random number generated winner on Thursday at 9 p.m. on November 11th. Good luck!

84 comments:

  1. You entered the world looking quite well fed! I'm in awe of those who honored their dietary convictions at a young age. I refused eggs as a child but consumed dairy, and I found meat gross and disturbing, but ate it anyway. I became a vegetarian right after I moved away from my parents' house and realized that one's diet was a choice, not a given. It's wonderful that your childhood surrounded by farm animals expanded your compassion for animals and that your parents supported you in your choices.

    This was a wonderful and touching post. Thanks for sharing it. (You might enjoy reading Zoa's bio on The Airy Way.)

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  2. Great post. Thank you for sharing.

    tahearn at roadrunner dot com

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  3. I follow with google friends.


    tahearn at roadrunner dot com

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  4. I would get some cookware.

    http://www.csnstores.com/Farberware-50012-FBR1077.html

    tahearn at roadrunner dot com

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  5. I loved reading this post. It can be so hard sometimes to explain to people that you seriously don't want meat, don't miss it, don't crave it, kind of makes you ill thinking about it. I stopped eating meat when I was 18 and I definitely wasn't smart or healthy about it in the beginning either. I still get people looking at me like I'm a freak - I'm introduced often by coworkers as "This is Heather, she's a vegetarian." Like that somehow describes me or something.

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  6. I think I want to get a mini-food processor. I sometimes use mine 2 and 3 times for one meal, so a smaller one would be helpful.

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  7. I really enjoyed reading your story. I admire that you really stuck to your values as a child. I could never stand up to my mother like you did to your family. I most likely would have wimped out and drunk that glass of milk. Of course I have grown since then and am proud to say that I have gotten my mom to enjoy several vegan meals, including a spinach dip I made at my sister's baby shower.

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  8. I love to cook so I would love to get some Rachael Ray cookware.

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  9. Jenny, what an awesome story. How badass of you to stand up to the conventions like that at so young!

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  10. Seriously, that story was amazing!! Its encouraging to know that even when young you can remain strong and true to yourself!!
    cher_theblondeprincess@hotmail.com!!

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  11. I would totally purchase a ice cream machine... Even though its winter, screw it Ice Cream is DELICOUS year round!! Thanks for the giveaway!!

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  12. Beautiful story, so inspiring to read about young people with strong vegan morals! I adore the photos! They add a very cozy, old time feel to the post <3 Can't wait to read more of your entries :)

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  13. Also, I follow your blog and just added you to my blog roll!

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  14. aw "bless their heart" the most vieled put down in history. i love saying that!

    you had very nice hand writing when you wre 11. thank yous so much for taking the time to put that up.

    that your mom sent you a punchcard for a free sub. that made my day. moms are so nice.

    i LOVED your post! can i be honest and say that im a little envious that you wre so in tune with your food at such a young age? my parents did the same thing, kinda skirted the issue of where meat comes from eetc. i bought it though, i trusted them you know? but if you have to skirt an issue...that means their is something wrong. and there is a LOT wrong with killing. recently(after being vegan for nine years, i cut out white sugar. i kidded myself into thinking that "not all white sugar is processed using bone char, they probably dont even do that anymore" i wish i could have been stronger about that. not using wool silk etc, well, its nice reading about somebody else that doesnt use it either. beautiful post you have here!

    i wouldnt mind* reading how your husband became vegan. im always interested in a vegan guys point of view, there are so few!!lets exploit him!

    *lol "i wouldnt mind" snickers*haha

    ps, what a life growing up on a farm! did you have chickens? what a double edged sword though. knowing that they were all going to be sent off. im sorry for what you must of had to see growing up.(the bad stuff)

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  15. Good story. I worked with a girl who raised cows, and, like you, really came to love them, as pets. She'd cry when they were "shipped" but didn't feel bad enough to stop eating them, I guess. Why not? That's really what I don't get. I'd ask her and she'd just look at me quizzically, not mad, but as if I were the weird one and didn't get what she was sad about. Your story makes perfect sense; thanks for posting it.

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  16. Great story. I love the pictures, and I especially love the I hate: meat comment. Your story is definitely inspiring, and I love seeing how we can all come from so many different backgrounds and end up making the same decisions about our diets. Great post, thanks for that!

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  17. Also, I would LOVE a waffle maker - the Black & Decker one on the CSN website looks good. I want to make the waffle recipes from Vegan Brunch!

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  18. i always wondered how people who spend a lot of time around animals can turn around and eat them. your compassionate reaction also seems like the logical one to me! thanks for sharing your story.

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  19. This is an absolutely incredible story. Thank you for sharing it.

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  20. You were an unattractive newborn.

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  21. I just signed up to follow this blog on google reader.

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  22. I would buy a little food processor.

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  23. I blogged about this giveaway.

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  24. Thanks for sharing your story. You were a gentle, caring, compassionate soul from the very start. And, it sounds like your parents did their best to let that shine through, esp considering the farming circumstances. It must have been heart-breaking with the baby calves.

    I really admire people like you so very much. I was 18 before I coped on during my first year in college, and even then, I went vegetarian, not vegan.

    Your grade school handwriting is very pretty...another thing I've always admired, as mine is dire.

    I really enjoyed this post, esp. the pictures...love the baby pic, and the one of you in a poncho...I used to be garbed in ponchos all the time when I was a kid too.

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  25. My sister always hated meat.My grand dad would try to pay her to eat meat!My dads family were huge hunters and owned a taxidermy where they stuffed animals.I am not much of a meat eater,maybe once or so a month but I do eat it.My son is allergic to milk and dairy products so we don't keep much of that around.
    Please count me in.I do love me some CSN!
    jacksoncrisman@yahoo.com

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  26. I am a new follower
    I hate to think of animals suffering or being hurt.I am far more sensitive then other people I have met.I am a real Lets do something about it kind of person and other people I know are more like just ignore it kind of people.I hate to think of anyone or anything being in pain or being outright murdered.
    jacksoncrisman@yahoo.com

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  27. I would like to get a hand mixer.Mine broke and now my cakes are lumpy.SAD!!!

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  28. I'm really impressed by your story. I may share mine too, but it's not really that impressive. As a child I had some of the same inclinations as you did about eating animals, but like Rose, never stopped until I was on my own at 18. And being vegan was very difficult until very recently.

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  29. Wow, I can't imagine raising calves and then having to watch them be shipped off for slaughter like that. (I totally skipped past the paragraph bearing the disclaimer!) It must have been a conflicted childhood indeed. I was lucky enough to have one vegetarian parent growing up - my dad, who went veg at 17 - but he wasn't especially outspoken about his beliefs. I wish he had been; I didn't go vegetarian until I was 18, and it took another decade for me to fully embrace veganism.

    Those old school papers are priceless, btw!

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  30. Oh, and I could really use some new cookware; probably I'd apply a certificate towards a nice set...

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  31. Also, I added you to my blogroll, under "foodies." I'd love to get through the whole veganmofo blogroll, but 700+ participants? Probably won't happen!

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  32. That is interesting that you leaned towards vegetarianism from such a young age! I guess some people's brains/hearts just develop sooner than others! I stopped eating as much meat in middle school, because I have always been an animal lover and I didn't want to eat them. Into high school I became quasitarian and that is where I am at right now. So occasional consumption of poultry/fish but 90% vegetarian. I feel so much better consuming minimal animal products... both mentally and physically!

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  33. Just added you to my blogroll too :)

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  34. I would love the Nordicware platinum holiday mini loaves cake pan so that I could bake little holiday loaves for all my friends! I'm getting creative with my Christmas gifts this year :)

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  35. Great story. Times sure have changed even in the past 16 years since I've been a vegetarian (later vegan). I can relate to a lot of what you wrote. I made some connections early on but I don't know if I would have gone through with my decision if I hadn't had my cousin who was already vegetarian to guide me a bit. At least on what to eat.

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  36. Wow, that's amazing that you made the decision not to eat meat at such a young age. I think it's awesome. I knew nothing about being a veggie person when I was young. I actually hated vegetables. Now I eat almost every vegetable there is. It amazes my mom when I tell her what I cooked. She still doesn't understand me not eating me, but my mom is 82 and I wouldn't expect her to. I loved reading all this about you! Thanks for sharing it.

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  37. You are already on my blog roll. :o)

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  38. If I win the CSN giveaway, I will have to buy some more dishes. :o) We want to have enough place settings, so we can have company over.

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  39. I will mention you and your giveaway in my next post, which will hopefully be tonight. :o)

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  40. If I won this, I'd get a Bodum Bean 8 Cup French Press!

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  41. Here is the greatest thing I've read all day:

    "What I'm criticizing here isn't that I ate something non-vegan; it's that I did it to avoid appearing less attractive to a boy."

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  42. I would absolutely love to have some rolls of paintable beadboard wallpaper.

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  43. 'I felt almost embarrassed and apologetic about being a vegetarian. As in, I realize I'm the weird one who doesn't eat meat.'

    That is exactly how I feel. Thank you for putting my thoughts into better words than I could have done. I'd honestly never felt like that until I moved here, in the whole six years I've been vegetarian.

    It was very interesting to read, thanks for sharing :)

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  44. I love seeing your answers on that old questionnaire! (Oh, and you're not the only one who loved Sweet Valley High, haha!) Your story is really fascinating. I'm so impressed that you've been veg since age THREE! Your decisiveness and devotion are so admirable to me. :)

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  45. This post really opened my eyes to what it means to be vegetarian. I keep forgetting that it's more than just not eating meat and being vegan is even more restrictive. Good for you though for being able to handle it. I tried it out but I can stick to vegan diets easily but then there's the clothes and other daily basics that I keep forgetting about!


    deeg131 at gmail dot com

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  46. I follow you as DG through gfc

    deeg131 at gmail dot com

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  47. Loved the emile henry bake for the cause pink pie dish! :)

    deeg131 at gmail dot com

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  48. what an amazing story you've told...thank you for sharing it!

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  49. csn stores...i buy shoes or kitchen gadgets from them :)

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  50. Wow, what an amazing story- thank you so much for sharing! I love that you saved the questionnaire. I hate meat too!

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  51. Great post--I became a vegetarian as a kid too. I think I was 6 or so at the time. I went vegan in high school, so a little earlier than you, but our progression was similar!

    Courtney

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  52. I signed up to follow you on google!

    Courtney

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  53. I would totally buy a mandoline--I have wanted one forever!

    Courtney

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  54. great site. I'm looking forward to being a new follower.

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  55. I admire you for being a true vegan... I am also from the Midwest, and often cringe when I think about what I am eating, it takes a strong lady to pursue such a lifestyle!

    I've seen your blog a few times, and figured now was as good of time as any to leave my first comment! Thanks for hosting the giveaway!

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  56. If I won I would pick out some Fiestaware dishes! They're so bright & fun! I'm in the process of buying my first home and there's a whole list of things I need so this would come in handy!

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  57. Thanks for sharing your story! It's so powerful to read stories of transformation. I think all children have natural compassion towards animals. I think it's really great that you kept listening to yours.

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  58. i think this is a beautiful story! thanks for sharing. :) i'm glad your mom was respectful enough to support you.

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  59. Wow. Didn't realize you had that much vegan history. It's amazing that your farmer parents were so supportive of you. Having been farm raised (short time) myself, I would imagine it would be hard for them.

    Preparing for your visit, I'm looking more at labels than ever before...and know you will speak up if something isn't right for you all!

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  60. I think I'd like an electric blanket!!! They have several to choose from!

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