I am in the process of transitioning from being a vegetarian to being vegan. After watching (arguably) a few too many documentaries and spending a significant amount of time being uncomfortable about eating meat, I decided to do something about it. Switching to vegetarianism was easy enough, but the move from vegetarian to vegan has been a bit more difficult for me. To those of you who can go cold turkey, I applaud you — but for me it has been a process.
I suppose I should start out with the difference between being vegetarian and vegan. Vegetarians don’t eat meat — although there are some people who eat fish and claim to be under the umbrella term “vegetarian.”
I don’t particularly agree with this. You’re still eating an animal, after all. Call yourself a pescetarian and be done with it.
Vegans split off from vegetarians when animal products other than meat come into play. For example, many vegetarians will consume cheese, eggs, or milk and dairy products, while vegans do not.
Also, most vegans won’t wear clothing derived from animals, such as wool or leather.
A lot of this isn’t so hard to manage — the gap between vegetarian and vegan isn’t exactly a gulf. It’s fairly easy for me to manage buying clothes, not eating eggs is simple and alternatives for milk are everywhere. This stuff isn’t a problem.
There are a few issues, though. One is the question that is all too frequent: Where do you get your protein? It’s fascinating to me that someone can make a meal out of pork chops and nobody bats an eye, but as soon as you try to make a meal without meat, people question your sanity.
So here’s a quick answer: I can get protein from beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan, lentils, quinoa and hummus, not to mention all of those faux-meat products. The list goes on. In fact, protein is in basically everything you eat, in some proportion or another. Even Oreos (which, imagine my surprise, are vegan) have some protein in them.
However, there is another issue with my transition to veganism. I have a weakness. Cheese is so unreasonably delicious. And the varieties abound. Mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, regular gouda, smoked gouda, pepperjack, swiss. They are all so beautiful, seductive, wonderfully creamy and impossible to resist.
It makes everything better, too. A little cheese melted in your pasta takes it from aggressively average to gourmet in no time flat. Sprinkle some on your salad to take it from soggy lettuce to sublime (although it is advised that you keep the soggy levels to a minimum). And don’t even get me started on pizza and garlic bread.
I love cheese. There. I’ve said it; it’s out in the open. I can resist for a while, but eventually I see that glorious piece of pizza, with cheese all melty and golden brown. I get weak in the knees. Frequently, I will give in. If you see me sobbing on campus, it’s probably because I just tore myself away from that heavenly temptation.
If you see me looking a little guilty, it may be because I just binged on a gloriously greasy calzone from Pizza Express.
Cheese haunts me in my dreams. Eat me, it says, for you know I am delicious. Go on, do it. You know you want to.
It’s hard, this process of leaving behind the love of my life. But I look forward to the day when I can fondly look back and say:
Yes, you are wonderful and beautiful, yes, you made me happy and yes, I miss you. But it was time for me to move on.