Saturday, March 19, 2011

Interview # 3 Sally: Steve's Vegan Partener in Crime

Sally is a 30 year old vegan from Australia who loves to eat, swim and laugh a lot.  Her boyfriend Steve connected us over the dear old internet and I am glad to share her insight on my blog. She has a very interesting perspective on veganism, and brings up some great questions … so without further a due; here’s Sally!

How long have you been vegan?
Since the age of 21, so 9 years now.

How difficult did you find the transition?
I became a vegetarian gradually, and was fully so by about 16, so the transition to veganism was not very difficult- particularly because I grew up in a household that didn't really eat cheese or milk. I did find it a little socially isolating at first though, because I was no longer up for pancake brunch, or grabbing an ice-cream etc etc etc

Why did you become vegan?
I never liked meat, but became vegetarian ultimately for ethical reasons. At 20 it suddenly clicked for me that I couldn't separate the ethical considerations of dairy & eggs with those of meat. After that I started to read up on the environmental impact of these industries and it became clear I had to become vegan. Additionally, I knew that dairy products really weren't very good for me personally.

How does being vegan affect the environment?
I used to be armed with a great wad of statistics on this, but don't remember anymore- hopefully not a symptom of B12 deficiency ;). I do know it takes much more water and land to produce 1kg of meat vs 1 kg of veggies and then there's the methane :). Animals are fed largely what humans can eat too, so why not just grow food once!? AND as a vegan I eat mainly whole foods rather than heavily processed ones, which has some impact I think.

Do you feel like you are depriving yourself?
No:) I LOVE vegan food. The only area I feel any deprivation is culturally. Jonathan Safran-Foer has a bit to say about this in his newest book. I can no longer eat my Italian grandparents 'famous' gnocchi or pancakes... or learn how to make them the way they do, and teach future generations etc... This makes me very sad.  Also sometimes I wish I could just sit down and share a meal with friends/family without having to ask (or them think ahead of time) 'does this have any milk, cheese, butter, cream, ice-cream, meat stock, meat, chicken, fish, gelatin, red food colouring, eggs, casein etc etc in it???'

How do you find traveling as a vegan?
Self catered travelling poses little problems, however I still have the sense of feeling somewhat cut off, as food is such a big part of culture. Steve and I faced this on our recent trip around Europe. We ended up eating some non-vegan local specialties (like Romanian donuts-yum!). Non-self catered travelling is not difficult, but in my experience rarely nutritious! It's a lot of tomato spaghetti, bread, salads and potatoes.
Is it difficult to find vegan options at restaurants?
No, but it is hard to find interesting or nutritious vegan options. I have through necessity had numerous meals of chips and salad when out.
How do you get enough calcium, B12, and protein?
I don't really know if I am or am not! I think Steve touched on it already, but a big difficulty is getting sound, easy to follow nutritional advice […] I particularly worry because as far as I can tell there has been no fully vegan people before. Even communities that are amongst some of the healthiest in the world have, while eating loads of veggies & grains and little to no dairy products- eaten fish and/or eggs.

Do you feel like you have enough energy?
Hard to say. What IS enough, what IS normal? I don't think I have the same energy I had before I turned vegan- but am I incorrectly remembering? Also I don't think many 30 years olds have the same energy as 20 year olds. I rarely feel 'up and at em' but at the same time, playing hockey and ultimate Frisbee I seem able to at the very least keep up with non-vegans of around my age.
Are there any stereotypes you feel that you face as a vegan?
I think because a lot of people were bought up on meat & 3 veg they wonder how you can be healthy and not eat meat. Then when you are vegan, and you're also not eating dairy or eggs, forget healthy, they just wonder what on earth is left to subsist on! Many people think I must just eat salads. They think being a vegan must be very boring and difficult- how do you bake a cake without eggs!? The best way is to just cook for people, especially cakes- people hear the words: vegan cake, and they imagine a dry tasteless health bar probably with nuts in it :)
Do you have any tips on going vegan?
When I first became vegan I bought 3 vegan recipe books off Amazon. It was a great move because it forced me to experiment rather than just eat what I already was eating minus the dairy & eggs + gave me tips on vegan nutrition. It also introduced me to vegan baking. Years later I also connected with other vegans online (including Steve :) ). Especially for new vegans, I think it's helpful to be part of a community. Haha I also think it's good to arm yourself with a fairly good knowledge of vegan nutrition. For your own health YES, but also because vegans are in the minority, individual vegans are often called upon to be spokespeople for veganism... I was asked countless times in the first couple years, how do you get your x y z?- usually protein and iron!

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