I often talk a big game about becoming vegan at some point in my life ... not today, not tomorrow, but maybe, I don't know, next year?
Once I actually assumed A Vegan Life. It lasted about a month. I remember quite a few dinners consisting of fried potatoes with lemon tempeh. There was also the challenge of concocting dairy-free desserts (I think I gave up and resorted to chocolate sorbet most nights). I didn't drink much coffee back then, so half-and-half wasn't much in the picture, but how did I think I was going to survive without cheesecake, pumpkin pie, yogurt, or two eggs over easy? Or milk chocolate!?
Chocolate became my gateway back to fish, ice cream, and chicken (I had not, since 1979, eaten what I referred to as "red" meat--veal, beef, lamb, pork--though the fact that I did eat chicken and fish made me not quite the vegetarian I longed to be). Yes, chocolate, of course. Because I was hungry all the time (vegetables and rice just aren't that filling), I started nibbling this giant bar of gourmet chocolate I spotted in the pantry. More than nibbling. I was helpless. In one day I ate the entire bar.
This created a great dilemma: what was I to call myself? A choco-vegan? After all, there was not yet a word for my kind of cheater: a flexitarian. There was no place to hide, no sorta vegan or quasi-vegan, so I chucked the whole meat/dairy-free thing in one fell swoop. The next morning it was eggs in the batter and cow's milk on the Cornflakes. Done, finito, exeunt.
Until yesterday. Yesterday and today I have been 100% vegan. I have not even attempted to eat with others or in a restaurant, and I am here to report that this is quite difficult diet to adhere to. I think it's mostly due to habits of taste, habits of preparation. I am used to having chocolate nearly every day of my life (and I don't especially like the dark version), cream in my coffee (actual cream, not non-dairy creamer, not soy or rice milk), and, well, milk on my oatmeal. I am not a huge carnivore, but it takes some amount of intentionality (is that a word?) to not choose a dinner menu that includes chicken or fish or dairy. It's something I don't give much thought to, though I do eat a diet high in fruits and veggies, and low in processed foods, huge hunks of charred flesh, burgers, fries, etc.
The diet I am on is drastic. I'm not eating any bread-related foods, or sugar, or distilled spirits, for instance. Maybe I could be a vegan most days if I could have one of these three vices now and then.
I will probably only last one more day on the 100% austerity diet--rice, beans, quinoa, fruits, veggies, and nuts. But I am considering going sugar, meat, spirits, and dairy-less for the month. No promises, but the thought has definitely entered my mind.
Any vegans out there who want to share their stories of conversion? Was it difficult at first? Why are you (or were you) vegan? Health reasons, animal rights, or some of each? Are you grossed out by all the yucky chemicals and harmful bacteria in meat and dairy products, even, in the case of meat, in the organically-labeled ones? Discuss among yourselves!
Like Anne Sexton, the business of words often keeps me awake. My favorite tulip? Queen of the Night. My books include The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception & Reckless Lovely. I also wrote a book of 366 writing prompts, one for every day of the year, with Kelli Russell Agodon: The Daily Poet. I also serve as poetry editor at Crab Creek Review. New work appears in Poetry, The Cincinnati Review, Orion, Southern Indiana Review, & Crab Orchard Review, among others.