Last September I lived for 30 days as a vegetarian. During that time, Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA, challenged me to take it one step further and go vegan. This year I did.
A quick recap: Vegetarians don’t eat anything that – at one time – had a face or a tail. Vegans are vegetarians who don’t even eat anything that came from an animal. Vegans don’t eat eggs or dairy.
Notes from my life as a vegan – Week Two:
1.) Welcome to the minority, Mr. St. John.
For all of my life – good or bad, and through no choice of my own – I have been a part of some type of majority. I am about as WASPy as WASP gets. Today, I find myself in the minutest of minorities, wandering the planet foraging for nuts and berries (and the occasional tater tot), a part of a little known and seldom recognized lifestyle. I am a vegan.
According to a Time/CNN poll, about four percent of Americans are vegetarian. Of that group, only five percent are vegan. That means 0.2 percent of Americans are eating like me. In other words, if you gathered 1,000 random people and put them in a buffet line, there would be two people heading for the salad and nuts – the scrawny girl wearing the patchouli-scented hemp clothing and me.
2.) Vegans, for the most part, are extremely nice people.
I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe some radical-fringe types who spend their days throwing red paint on ladies who wear fur, and maybe those people are out there – but everyone I have encountered is friendly and encouraging.
I received a letter from my old friend, Ingrid Newkirk the other day. She congratulated me on going vegan and threw some helpful tips my way. She said, “eating cheese, which contains small amounts of casomorphine, yup morphine, is an addiction, hard to shake, and requires discipline for most people.”
I had never heard about the morphine in cheese and planned to take the time to research the claim, but I kept getting distracted visualizing a World War II combat scene, with wounded soldiers lying on blood-soaked cots in a battlefield hospital moaning and writhing in pain, while pleading for smoked cheddar, gouda and Kraft American Slices.
Actually, cheese hasn’t been that hard of a habit to kick, eggs and milk, that’s another story.
3.) Speaking of milk, I hope I can live another 48 years and NEVER have the taste of soy milk cross my lips. However, through friends’ recommendations, I have starting drinking almond milk, and that is some pretty good stuff. I don’t know where the udders are on an almond, and I really don’t really care, as long as I never have to drink that soy stuff again.
4.) I received a letter from a fellow in Washington, D.C., named Max Fischlowitz-Roberts, who is the communications coordinator for an animal abuse group (they’re against it). He, too, was very encouraging and sent a pamphlet entitled, “Easy Vegan Recipes.” I have yet to try out any of the recipes, but they all have normal titles – Cheesy Broccoli Soup, Fluffy Pancakes and Mint Chocolate Cake – but use strange ingredients like nutritional yeast, soy margarine, and Ener-G Egg Replacer.
5.) I went dove hunting with friends the other day. It wasn’t until about midway through the hunt that I considered this might be a major breach in the vegan rulebook. Have no fear, my fellow sojourners in the 0.2 percent minority, the doves are safe around me as I am a terrible shot.
6.) Last year when I did the vegetarian thing, a lot of people wrote and said they, too, were going to go veggie for the entire month. This year, I have only one taker. That, my friends, speaks volumes.
Now shut up and pass me the nutritional yeast.
Robert St. John is a restaurateur, chef and author of the newly released “Dispatches From My South.”
ROBERT ST. JOHN