It doesn’t feel like 3.5 years have past but that’s when I first started my vegan life. I spent most of December 2013 and January 2014 watching documentaries about food and it really got me thinking about what was on my plate and going into my body. It wasn’t just all slaughterhouse documentaries. I grew up in a family where food was very important culturally, but somehow over the years it lost it’s importance on me. I was eating a lot of processed foods and had no idea what was on my plate or how it even made it’s way there. What was the story behind this meal? I think that question is how veganism made its way into my life. The more I thought about the “story” of my food, the more I didn’t want to have formerly living animals on my plate. Some vegans have labelled this as becoming conscious of your choices. By the end of that January, I made up my mind that the only way I could be truly satisfied with my meals and food choices was to become a vegan. At that time, I was also getting ready to move into my first “big boy” apartment so it was nice to have this change also be part of my new beginnings.
The last week in January while finishing packing my belongings, I made a little outline for how I would start this vegan journey. I did research a bit into it and also watched even more documentaries about it. Some people may see a vegan diet & lifestyle as restrictive but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I was making a willing and positive change to my lifestyle and I think this also helped with my thought process along the way (and shut down the skeptics). Over the course of February, I was going to eliminate one type of meat from my diet and would be eating fully vegan by the end of the month. I also allowed myself one non-vegan meal per day but tried to eat vegan whenever possible. I decided to make it a point when buying groceries to buy only vegan items.
My transition plan
-Feb wk 1: no red meats or pork
-Feb wk 2: no chicken/poultry
-Feb wk 3: no fish/seafood
-Feb wk 4: no dairy/eggs or other animal byproducts
At the start, the hardest part wasn’t actually trying to eat vegan, it was more so trying to blocking out the negative feedback from family and friends. Suddenly everyone cared and had an opinion about what I was eating. I truly believe that becoming a vegan made be more resilient to negative. At the same, to be going against the norm and eating food that made me feel good was empowering. I began to win over family and friends when they noticed that my food was not bland and had plenty of colour and variety. I was also still able to indulge in my food favourites such as cupcakes, cookies, ice cream and chips in a vegan way. There are also so many “accidentally vegan” foods around that most people don’t even recognise that they are eating vegan food.
My vegan path has changed quite a bit compared to when I started 3 and a half years ago. I have posted over 100 photos to Instagram using my hashtag #cookingwithdoryane in an effort to document the foods I personally make. I also have hosted plenty of family dinners and holiday parties for friends featuring a fully vegan and down right delicious menu. It’s also been exciting to see new vegan friendly spots in Toronto and exploring some of the older ones I didn’t know existed.
If I were to give advice to a new vegan, the veg-curious and omnivores would be this: you do you. It’s your decision what gets put on your plate and goes into your body… at least it should be. I never try to push “vegan propaganda” onto my loved ones, but at the same time they’ve come to an understanding that they should not push a pro-meat stance onto me. I’ve made myself open to questions and answer them as positively as I can to the best of my abilities because I know that I would want that person to make an informed decision too… even if it ends up that that still consume animal products. It’s also important to say that adopting a vegan lifestyle may not be for everyone. Culture, social pressures, accessibility, food security, lifestyle… these are all major factors that influence someone’s diet and no one should be shamed for choosing and having what they do.