Happy Herbivore Blog

What Vegan Means: A Compass

Posted by: Andrea Dermos |

Category: Guests

Hi Herbies :] Today's 'What Vegan Means' post comes from our friend Don, a PETA web designer based in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can find him tweeting his life away (follow him, he makes me laugh!) at twitter.com/donaldG and occasionally writing about food or other issues at dongaines.com.

It's difficult to tackle this subject in such a concise manner. My initial thought is I should probably just write a dissertation and withdraw an excerpt for this post, but alas, there's no time for that! There isn't a very easy, concise way to sum this up but I'll try to do it with a little more than just saying, "I'm trying to suck less" or "I'm doing the least amount of harm possible."

For me the journey began about five or six years ago. I became vegetarian after talking with a converted friend and 4 years later felt like a hypocrite for still consuming dairy and eggs so I went all in. My journey has always been motivated by the ethical/moral side of things and not for health, though recently I've become more interested in that aspect. The conversion from vegetarianism to veganism was fueld by Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals.

If you haven't read it, please do. I'm not a big reader but I devoured the book in less than a week. Foer writes from the perspective of our food telling a story. When we sit down to eat we tell a story, when we purchase things we tell a story. The story we choose to tell is incredibly important and impacts our entire world.

My veganism isn't intended to be one of selfishness (although you could get psychoanalytical and say that I'm being selfish by making myself feel better by not contributing to so many ongoing problems). Veganism to me is more about my environment: the people, the animals, the land, the water, the atmosphere. I strive my hardest to impact my environment in the least negative way. For me, this isn't simply about a diet, it's a way of life, a sort of spiritual thing. Veganism is often a compass for my decision making. The lifestyle forces me to consider all parts of the equation and not just what benefits me the most. I've centered my career and life around the vegan mindset and don't plan on changing.

Being vegan means I don't eat meat, dairy, honey or any other animal product you can dream up. However, like I said, it's not just about this diet. Being vegan also means I'm not supportive of capital punishment, war, unfair wages, sexism, racism, or any situation that chooses to exploit. Surely this isn't the same for everyone, but this is what a vegan life means to me.

Minimalist Monday: Kitchen Essentials

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: Minimalist

I like gadgets, don't get me wrong --- I look at an avocado peeler and think "that is so cool!" even though I don't have the need, space or budget for one. Sure it's only $10, but that $10 could be better spent...

Point is, I think people often get caught up in thinking they need fancy tools and gadgets to cook or to eat healthy... and you don't.

Maybe I was even a victim to this thinking, too --- but then we moved abroad and I had to leave all my cherished kitchen appliances behind.

My food processor--which I loved (and still miss) is in my storage unit along with my ice cream maker that I also loved (but hardly ever used) and my beautiful, sturdy stainless steel pot collection, and all my bakeware... I could go on.

These are my kitchen tools... drum roll please:

3 pots, 1 skillet, 2 cookie sheets, 1 muffin pan, 1 bread pan, 1 square baking dish, 1 glass oval baking dish, 1 blender, a spoon, a spatula, a cheese grater, 1 colindar, 3 mixing bowls, 1 whisk and standard utensil plus 2 sharp knives and measuring cups/spoons (that I brought with me from the States in my luggage).

That's it. I cook three meals a day with this limited collection of -- might I say, cheap and crappy cookware -- and I wrote an entire cookbook using them. That's right, Everyday Happy Herbivore uses only these basic tools.

Ahh... minimalist indeed.

Of course if you have the space, budget or desire for fancy equipment -- go for it... but don't feel pressure to outfit your kitchen with expensive appliances and tools. You can cook with the bare basics and still eat delicious, 5-star tasting meals.

For those starting out, I recommend spending your budget on a really good knife. You only need one and if you take care of it, it will last you a lifetime. I'm not fanatical about too many things, but I'm fanatical about my knives. I won't even try to cook or chop unless I have a good knife to use. (Andrea side note: She's not exaggerating- when she stayed with me I had almost nothing in my kitchen except for good knives and she practically hugged me!) 

Next, keep your eye out for a mini food processor on sale (you can snag them for $20-$30 on sale). It's not necessary, but it certainly can make things easier if you're not fast with the knife. I never thought I'd be able to live a year without a food processor -- but I have and I have some pretty terrific knife skills now.

Also, get a blender -- but don't get sucked into thinking you need a $400 vita-mix or blendtec. You can get by with a cheap, $20 blender, but a $100 blender will do just a good job as the ultra-pricey ones. Breville and Kitchen Aid have some great, affordable options.

Stainless steel pots and pans are nice, and a great investment (something else that lasts a lifetime) but even a cheap pot set will do (it's what I use, after all). Save the expensive pots for your wedding registry.

Lastly, although I love my juicer, if I knew how easy it was to make my own juice with a blender  I wouldn't have bought it -- it was really expensive, and really heavy and it's a pain to clean. And now it's in storage. boo hoo.

So there you have it -- all you need, all you don't.

Thoughts? Tips? Questions?

What is Vegan

Posted by: Lindsay S. Nixon |

Category: FAQGuests

A few weeks ago on Facebook, I asked people to share what "vegan" means to them -- to answer the question what is vegan? There were so many answers; so many different viewpoints. A real reminder that the vegan community is just as diverse as any other community.

What brought us to a vegan (or plant-based) diet is unique for each of us. What it means to us, how it is interwoven in our lives -- we all are walking our own vegan line.

Over the next week we'll be sharing what vegan means from a variety of people and perspectives and introduce you to a few new faces from the vegan blogging world --- but for today, we'll start with me.

What is vegan? What does vegan mean to me?

My veganism started out from an ethical and moral standpoint. I was moved by the plight of farm animals. I went vegan to make a difference, save lives and practice compassion.

But after a while my veganism started to shift. It was still grounded in my love for animals, but as I started learning about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and the negative health effects of eating animal products, my veganism became about my health, too.

And still there was more change. I always considered myself an environmentalist -- a real tree hugger, and when Iearned about what the animal agriculture business and fishing industry was doing to our land and oceans, my veganism also became something I did for environmental reasons.

I look at my veganism now as a three-legged stool that can't stand upright without one of its legs. My motivations are always in play, always working together in my life.

For example, I was visiting a friend of mine that lives way out in the country on a beautiful and large piece of land with his dog, wife and pet chickens. He loves his chickens the way most people love their cats or dogs. They are his babies. During one visit my friend said to me, "Lindsay, I know why you don't eat eggs at the store -- because of the cruelty. But you know me. You know I love my chickens. They have a good life. They are going to lay eggs anyway, and they're just going to go to waste. You sure you don't want some?"

It caught me off guard, really. I'd never really thought about this scenario before...

My friend had a good point... and if my only objection to eating eggs was cruelty, I wouldn't have a reason to say no... but because my veganism is rooted and interwoven with so many beliefs, I declined.

I declined because putting the cruelty and moral issues aside, I don't think eggs are healthy. In fact, I think they're unhealthy given their cholesterol (read more about that here.)

But the point is, why you come to a vegan or plant-based diet, or why you stay with it, or what it means for you may change over time. It certainly has for me. My veganism continues to be an evolving journey and the best decision I have ever made.