Is it hard to be vegan?

Every once in awhile I get surprised by questions about being vegan.  

The way we eat is cultural. (As evidenced by the fantastic variety of ethnic restaurants in most major cities in the US.)  So when you make choices that are counter-cultural it seems weird to the people who don't get the reasons for the choices.

Here are some of the questions I'm frequently asked along with some answers:

1. So what do you eat? 
I eat fruits, vegetables, grains (rice, quinoa, wheat), legumes (beans, peas, peanuts), nuts (almonds only...I'm allergic to the rest).  Sometimes for convenience I also leverage some "fake meats" that are soy based because grabbing something fast is appealing to vegans too. Those help a lot with navigating holidays like July 4 cookouts or Thanksgiving.

2. What's the difference in vegan and vegetarian? 
I think mostly how you get into it.  Many vegetarians do so for health.  Most vegans are about the ethical treatment of animals.  So vegans do not eat eggs, drink milk, eat gelatin (which is made from horses hooves) or wear leather.  If it is from an animal, it causes suffering for the animals in that pipeline so vegans avoid it.

3. Do you miss eating meat? 
I found when I first transitioned that what I loved about the food I missed was easily satisfied by matching the spices.  A tortilla filled with grilled onions, portabella, guac, pico and salsa is as satisfying to me now as fajitas were back in the day.  I heard a comic complain once that "if vegan was so great then why was all the vegan food fake meat?"  Again, food is cultural.

4. Why did you change? 
I started reading. The more I read, the more I felt I had a choice to make. The book that most influenced me was Bob and Jenna Torres's Vegan Freak . If you have a dog or cat, you know how intelligent and loving animals can be. Vegans think about cows, pigs and chickens the same way that we do dogs, cats and horses. We also know it is a complicated issue.  Farmers devote land and feed to livestock because there is an economic incentive to do so. (I'm assuming cattle make expensive pets.) However, consider that a pig--which is as intelligent as a dog--spends its life in a cage so small it can't even turn around. Or that  chickens have their beaks cut off so they don't harm others because they are packed tightly into spaces with other laying chickens. Vegans decide that they don't want to be part of that.

5. Where do you get your protein? 
Our ideas about protein are also cultural.  What our bodies need are amino acids which are abundant in plant-based foods. Consider that the muscular animals like cows, elephants and gorillas only eat plants.  How do you think their bodies do that?  Also, have you ever wondered why we drink another species milk? Something designed to double a baby cows weight in less than 50 days?  (Btw, human breast milk is only 6% protein.) Not only that, but when I stopped using milk products, my asthma improved dramatically and my face dropped the baby fat look.

So those are the answers to the most frequently asked questions.  I never mind answering them, but am often surprised by them.  After all, for me now, this is cultural.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall