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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A True (If Slightly Unbelievable) Dating Story

When I first decided it was time to throw myself into back into the dating pool, I had to confront the fact that, as a vegan, I was in a definite minority. In fact, living in a city whose nickname is "cowtown," admitting that I was vegan was not something that was safe to do except in carefully selected company.

How could I find a partner whose beliefs were compatible with mine? Obviously, a vegan partner would be ideal, but surely I would be severely limiting my choices, if indeed I could find a vegan woman at all. Maybe I could settle for a lacto-ovo vegetarian? Still pretty slim pickings -- I might have to settle for an open-minded omnivore. I had heard of such mixed relationships working, though I knew I'd have to set some firm boundaries. The one thing I was sure of was that there was no way I could ever compromise my beliefs, even to find a partner. I knew I'd rather stay single than stop being vegan.

I joined the local vegetarian society in the hopes of meeting people who were sympathetic to veganism. I quickly discovered that it was moribund. A handful of people were hanging on to the memories of the "glory days," when a public denunciation of "Vegetarian Week" by the beef industry had temporarily swelled membership to several hundred. While the pot-luck dinners were vegan, and I did learn of several veg-friendly restaurants, there was not much happening, and few people to meet.

How else could I meet a compatible partner? I knew that, to me, my values were everything. But veganism was not my only value. Perhaps if I followed up on my other values, I could find someone with similar views. Probably not vegan, I rationalized, but compatible, at least. I knew I needed to find some activity that would put me in contact with lots of people.

Years before, I had heard of a particular hiking club. While out hiking with friends, we would often be passed by a large herd of determined-looking middle-aged hikers. "Who were they?", I would ask. "They're the Ramblers." I had always dismissed them, since they were "old fogies," and they had a reputation as a lonely-hearts club. I was way too cool for that.

Now, as a single, middle aged man, I was finding that my old hiking buddies were too busy taking their kids to soccer practice to go hiking any more. Hiking, cross-country skiing, and outdoor activity in general, I had come to realize, were a reflection of some of my core values concerning nature and the sanctity of life, yet I was doing less and less of them. Suddenly a club for middle aged hikers, with a reputation for matchmaking, was looking pretty good.

Fast-forward a year: I am a member of the Ramblers, and I have met a pretty, athletic, female hiker with a delightful sense of humor. There follows a series of coincidences that would make the most serious skeptic believe in karma.

Just as I am trying to get up the nerve to suggest getting to know one another a bit better, and trying to figure how to go about it, she calls me up to ask if I can give her a ride to club meetings. Turns out, she doesn't have a car, and I am the closest member to where she lives. Then, after a couple of weeks of driving her to meetings, she tells me that there's an outdoor concert she wants to go to (a flamenco guitarist whose music I happen to like), but that she's afraid to walk home alone at night after it. Would I mind going with her as a "bodyguard?" To this day, she swears that she had no ulterior motives, and that she was not thinking of it as a "date."

So, there we are, sitting on the grass in the park, listening to the music, casually chatting and, in the process, feeling more and more comfortable with each other. The conversation turned to the various fast food booths that surrounded the stage area, and, figuring that I might as well put my cards on the table early, I mentioned that there was probably nothing there that I could eat, since I was vegetarian. (It is a safe assumption here that most people have never heard the word "vegan.") Well, I was totally blown away when she told me that she had been vegetarian for years. She even asked me if I was vegan, and said that she had always wanted to go vegan for ethical reasons, but never had because she had never been able to find out about the nutritional aspects of it. The rest, as they say, is history.

The moral of the story, if there is one, is that values are everything. Follow your values -- not just veganism itself, but the other values that you hold dear that support and reinforce veganism. In my case, it was following my love of nature and the outdoors that led me to find vegan love.

Keith W.
Calgary, AB, Canada

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