I’m a vegan now, but I wasn’t always.
At age three I had an epiphany and made the connection between what I was eating and where it came from. But being young, I was easily fooled. Call it “chicken” and I wouldn’t eat it; call it “meat” and I would.
For me, meat was a frozen patty in a box in the freezer. I hadn’t really thought about the connection until I was ten. That’s when I moved from Toronto, a large metropolis where it’s easy to be removed from the origins of food, to a tiny, farming town in Germany.
I was already shunning fish. Especially if I’d bite in and see a chunk of scaly skin. I started passing fish sticks under the table to my dog. But when I saw the local butcher kill a pig in the driveway of a neighbor’s house, my meat-eating days ended. I was in the back seat of the family car and we were driving away. To this day, I can picture the scene in slow motion. The blood, the cruel smiles on the kids’ faces as they participated in the event. Ugh. It was a nightmare. I’ve always loved animals and I didn’t want to be part of that.
Fortunately, my family was practically vegetarian. My mother has never liked meat and didn’t object to my change in eating habits. I still ate eggs and cheese and drank milk, but I was becoming a conscientious consumer. I started to learn about food and what we need to be healthy.
The next year, I moved back to Canada. I packed PB&J for lunch and blended in with the other kids. I didn’t make a big deal about my choices and neither did they.
Not everyone thought me being a vegetarian was a good idea. When I was 15, a boyfriend begged me to eat a burger. That’s the only time I’ve fallen for peer pressure. I ate the burger but told him I wouldn’t do that again. He relented. A few months later though, just to be polite, I had a chicken casserole at his mom’s house. I realized that I couldn’t keep “being nice” so I explained to her that I didn’t eat meat and I didn’t lapse again.
My grandmother’s husband said I’d be dead by twenty if I stuck with a vegetarian diet. I called him on my twentieth birthday to remind him that not only was I very much alive, but I’d grown nine inches and gained about 40 pounds since I was ten (gained in a good way–I was tall and slim and healthy). He forgot his warnings though, so I didn’t have the pleasure of gloating.
Being a vegetarian suited me fine. I’d met a couple of vegans when I in college but thought they were a bit extreme. I mean, what was wrong with dairy and eggs? Luckily, in my mid twenties, a friend handed me a copy of John Robbins, Diet for a New America. It’s a book that changed my life. It was absolutely eye-opening. It led me on my path to veganism.
But that’s a post for another day.