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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The Milquetoast Vegan Grows Up

If someone had told my younger self that I wouldn't be a famous creative genius by the age of 29, I don't think she would have believed it. She definitely wouldn't have believed it if the same person had told her that it wouldn't matter to her 29-year-old self. "What on earth could matter more than being a famous creative genius?" my incredulous teenage self would demand. I've changed a lot in the past ten years, but the most important change has been achieving something that many people go a lifetime without doing: I know myself. And as nice as that is, in the past few years, I've accomplished something even better--I've started to develop the courage to *be* myself.

I've really seen the change in my approach to veganism. I made my first attempt to become vegan two and a half years ago, but it was a project doomed to failure because I so wanted to avoid upsetting anyone. I had known too many judgmental, aggressive vegetarians, and I responded by becoming a milquetoast vegan, smiling politely and saying "No, thank you" when relatives, with infinite mirth, would offer me yet again a big slice of ham, turkey, or whatever the carcass du jour was. I never looked for the middle ground between silence and aggression, and therefore never found it.

But even my smiling nondefensive stance wasn't enough to make people comfortable with my veganism. Because of what I ate, other people attributed virtue to me. Sitting eating with other people, I could feel their tension, which spiked briefly with every pat of butter, every slice of meat taken. I couldn't tell if people thought I was some kind of saint, or if they just thought that *I* thought I was some kind of saint. Either way, the weight of all those people's ideas about my goodness was a heavy burden--it made me want to be "bad." Not surprisingly, after just a few months of veganism, I furtively bought a big box of malted milk balls--at that moment, I preferred being a hypocrite to owning all the meanings other people ascribed to my eating choices. It wasn't long before I officially went from vegan to vegetarian, a designation that draws considerably less attention to itself.

Because of my fears about how my choices regarding food and clothing would make other people *feel,* I allowed other people not only to shape my public response, but also to pervert my private understanding of what it meant for me to be vegan: there would have been no context for my "sin" of eating malted milk balls if I had not passively assented to other people's interpretations of the meaning of veganism.

It wasn't enough for me to know what I thought about being vegan; I also had to grow enough to have the courage to live my beliefs--not apologizing, not thinking that it's impolite to be myself if who I am makes other folks uncomfortable. Now I'm two years older. A lot has happened--I had a miscarriage, quit a job for moral reasons, survived that and started an at-home business, went through pregnancy and birth, embarked on motherhood, and experienced two more years of learning about marriage.

In these two years, I've learned that there are things more real than niceness and truths that politeness only obscures. I'm ready to live my beliefs by becoming a vegan, but more important, I think I now have the courage to defend my choices without being defensive, to mount an unapologetic apologia to all my critics. In my mind, I rehearse Thanksgiving dinner--my brilliant logic, the wittiness of my verbal thrusts and parries, but most important, the way I'll respect not only my omnivorous family, but also myself.

Rachel H. B.
Kansas

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Vegan Vittles: Second Helpings by Jo Stepaniak

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The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook

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Review by Dan Balogh

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The Food Allergy
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