Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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When I grew a beard, let my hair grow long, and starting acting and speaking like the stereotypical "hippie," one of my best friends called me a phony, and stopped being my friend. But I didn't care. There was a war going on, young people were dying, and I was going to do whatever I could to stop the carnage.

The "Sixties" was more than just the decade that came after the fifties and before the seventies. It was more like an epoch, a place in time when almost everything we knew changed forever. Some of the movements that changed the world had their roots in the sixties. Many of the basic tenets of our society were scrutinized and either rejected or embraced by a generation, depending upon where they fell in along the continuum of "hipdom." Was love cool? Sure, "peace & love man," but not when Sinatra sang about it, because he supported the war effort, and went out of his way to criticize the new music. Was working and getting a job cool? "No, man, not really," it just supports the corporations who support and fund the war. Was getting an education cool? Well, yes, but not business or financial curricula, the arts and sciences only.

And so it was that virtually every institution in our society, many of which had remained unquestioned, unchallenged, and unchanged for centuries, suddenly came under the microscope of this new generation. What percentage of this country's and the world's young people were "hippies" remains an open question. But the influence this group had on this time period and beyond was way out of proportion to the number of people who actually participated in the "movement." Paramount among the concepts examined was the whole spectrum of human rights and whether we even approached the high-minded idealism of those who proffered them. Whether it was the Bible, the ancient Greek philosophies, or our Constitution, my generation wanted to know why we weren't living up to the ideals held within them, ideals to which, allegedly, we all subscribed.

How could war, any war, be reconciled with the primary doctrine of the Bible, which so clearly and unambiguously states: "thou shalt not kill". How could we reconcile the bedrock tenet of the American Constitution, "all men are created equal," with segregation and racial and gender discrimination. These had become such accepted threads in the fabric of our society that they became institutionalized in the form of Jim Crow laws and exclusionary voting rights. How could man be "good," as Plato postulated, when he continued to be so heartless to his fellow man and other living beings? How, in fact, could we go on building our nest, crafting our futures, and striving for success, when everything seemed like such a sham?

Well, many of us didn't. We developed an alternate culture, "tuned in, turned on and dropped out." This counter-culture's basic ideology was "peace, love and compassion for others." Included in this anti-establishment movement were the seeds of the environmental and animal rights movements, as a large percentage of this generation began to extend its compassion to future generations and those non-human beings incapable of protecting themselves. The movement that was fueled by drugs, free love, and rock and roll music, developed it own institutions such as "love-ins" and Woodstock, and gave new life to the appreciation of nature and Eastern philosophies.

And then a funny thing happened. The war in Viet Nam ended, and suddenly we were a generation of rebels without a cause. And just as suddenly, in the years 1973-1975, almost everyone got busy with their careers and building their lives. The pursuit of the all-mighty buck now re-asserted its influence on those who had, just a short time ago, rejected it. So what became of the high-minded ideals and compassionate concepts we lived by during those years of turmoil? Well, most of us dismissed them as so much youthful angst and replaced them with a more realistic view of life as an inevitable struggle to survive at any cost.

A small minority, however, remained loyal to the causes for which they fought. No clearer can this dichotomy be seen than in the "post-revolutionary" lives of two of the movement's leaders, Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. Rubin made the 180 degree turn and became a thriving member of the "establishment." He opened a New York disco and became a millionaire, attaining the lifestyle he had so vehemently opposed just a few years earlier. Hoffman, on the other hand, continued to fight for the down-trodden and against social injustice. He died broke and alone, at a very young age.

So in the final analysis, what were we? Were we a bunch of spoiled self-indulgent trouble-makers, running from a war, and afraid for our own skin? Or were we the vanguards of a new, more compassionate, caring humanity? No matter how we will ultimately be judged, no one can deny the influence we had on society. "Equal Rights" are now much more than just an empty slogan. The "Sexual Revolution" produced a society with much looser mores than those of previous generations. And the environmental and animal rights movements, quite tangential to the main raison d'Ítre of the movement, have stuck, and have been gaining strength over the thirty years since their re-birth in the "sixties."

On a personal level, I got my act together, but not without a great deal of difficulty. I went back to claim my destiny, that of being the first in my family to graduate college. I got the degree, the good job, the wife, kids, home in the suburbs. I lost my starry notions along the way. Some people still view me as being a phony in those years, running away from my problems and toward a bogus, pointless life. And who knows, they could be right on some level. But when I stopped to look at my life at forty-four years old (my mid-life crisis), I became a vegetarian, because I needed to get myself back to the garden. I needed to get back in touch with who I was, and more importantly, who I am. I was NOT pretending.

Fred F.
New Jersey

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