I’ve always been a pretty healthy eater. Sure I fall off the wagon every now and then to indulge my cravings, like wanting to experience my first cronut, or devour something chocolatey. But overall, I include fruits, veggies and lean meats in my diet every day. That is until lately. Actually, until I saw the documentary Vegucated.
This film on animal agriculture has changed my perspective on being a carnivore forever. It really has changed my life. And I’m now wondering how can I still enjoy eating the treats that I love when I know that they’re not the best choice for the humane treatment of animals?
I’ve always had a weak stomach when it came to handling raw meat. I was grossed out to some degree or another as a kid. I couldn’t stand looking at the bones and fat wrapped in the styrofoam tray soaking in red liquid. I finally quit eating it once I was old enough to stand up to my parents’ demands to clean my plate of steak or be grounded.
But I was a big fan of chicken and fish. I was able to trick my brain into not seeing these as raw because they didn’t look like a Brontosaurus steak that Fred Flintstone would eat. And once they were cooked, they not only looked delicious in their disguise of breadcrumbs or cream sauce, they tasted delicious. I’m aware of all the hormones, dyes and chemicals injected into fish and chicken simply to make the product look more appealing and to keep up with the growing demands. So, I only bought free-range, hormone-free, organic chicken and wild salmon. It cost more, but I didn’t want to be an indirect contributor to the mistreatment of animals by funding the pockets of insensitive farmers and hypocritical companies. I thought I was doing my part to help encourage the humane treatment of animals by supporting organic farmers with a conscience. Then I watchedVegucated and realized that there are still a lot of unethical practices going on. Food labels aren’t closely monitored and, therefore, aren’t always truthful. You can’t always believe what you read.
When I discovered that many dairy products and eggs are also filled with antibiotics, additives and chemicals, and that free-range doesn’t necessarily equal happy chickens, I was really turned off. I’ve been an avid yogurt fan ever since I was a kid. I watched all those commercials that suggested that yogurt could help you live to the ripe old age of infinity. Those commercials left such an impression on me that I asked my mom to start buying yogurt so I could live to be that old too. But now I know about all those chemicals, not to mention the sugar, corn syrup and food coloring. I switched to an organic yogurt and searched out organic eggs from grain-fed chickens. Boy this was a lot of work. Not to mention pricey.
Back to Vegucated. Now I know how meat and dairy products aren’t really healthy for us at all, including chicken and eggs. I also learned that a vegan diet is far superior in nutrients, offers plenty of protein and prevents a host of illnesses and diseases. In contrast, meat and dairy are major contributors to illness and disease. There are many stats on this, so I would just recommend you check out the documentary on Netflix for yourself. By the time the movie was over, I wanted to commit to a vegan diet. Chicken, fish, eggs and dairy no longer appealed to me in the slightest. I watched the movie about two months ago and I’m still going strong.
Here’s where my dilemma comes in. I love to bake, especially during the holidays when I give my desserts as gifts. But now I’m not sure about the etiquette of baking for non-vegan people. Am I going against my new principles if I bake cookies that require butter and eggs, thereby being a vegan hypocrite? Or do I bake vegan treats only and force the gift recipients to try something new? I could just not tell them it’s vegan, but that seems too dishonest. If I tell them it’s vegan, will non-vegans automatically assume they won’t like it as much? What if they have preconceived stereotypes of vegan desserts and choose not to give them a fair shake?
When my neighbor decided to move back to Korea, I wanted to make her some biscotti that she loves so much. After thoughtful deliberation, I decided I should bake it the way I usually did, meaning with eggs, butter and milk chocolate. As they baked, something I wasn’t prepared for happened. My repulsion for dairy products diminished. The biscotti smelled divine. My mouth watered. I wanted to taste a buttery cookie so badly. But being a new vegan I’m not sure of the rules. Is it all or nothing? Or is there a happy gray area where eating heavenly-scented baked goods that disguise my forbidden foods is acceptable to a small degree?
It’s easy to turn down a half-bloody slab of steak or a plate of squishy, runny scrambled eggs. What’s difficult is turning down a chocolate-dipped almond biscotti or a blueberry and cheese Danish that’s hiding these non-vegan ingredients. My willpower may just crack.
So this is what I’m currently struggling with. And Halloween is right around the corner, so how will I ever be able to resist all that milk chocolate, caramel and nougat? I guess I’ll just have to believe that as long as I’m making conscious decisions and doing what feels right for me, and about how my choices affect the bigger picture, then that’s gotta be okay. I’ll take it one bite at a time. But I do know I’m never going to eat another steak, chicken patty or fish fillet. In the meantime, I’m searching the net for some amazing vegan dessert recipes. Please share your favorites.