Thursday, November 12, 2009

Flexi-Vegan

I came across this term last week, I’m ashamed to say I’ve forgotten where because the lady who wrote it deserves credit. If it was you do tell me because that’s me, in a nutshell!

I have been vegetarian since I was 13 years old after staying with my aunt in Tasmania who took one of her sheep off in the front seat of her car and brought it back as a joint of lamb. I knew where meat came from of course, I’d just never seen it actually happen.

I was lucky. My parents’ embraced my vegetarianism completely. My mother became vegetarian as well and my father barely eats meat to this day. My brother was 6 at the time so had absolutely no choice in the matter (he has since rebelled by becoming a sausage eating carnivore).

On top of this I have always been lactose intolerant. Not in a “I will die if you bring cheese near me” kind of way, but more in a “spasming stomach and unpleasantly icky kind of way”. I have always used dairy alternatives where I can and my mother has always been magnificent at inventing vegetarian recipes that do not have cheese.

I originally gave up meat for very typical “teenage girl” reasons. I did not want the lovely little animals to die. As I grew older I learned things about farming methods and animal cruelty. I became unbelievably strict with my diet. I became a fully paid up member of the Vegan Police. I ate no meat, no fish, no dairy, no honey, no eggs. I wore no leather. I was a woman obsessed! And then a few years ago I got ill. Really ill. It was around the same time I met Himself (a man who will not be vegetarian-ised!). Together we researched organic, locally farmed meat and eggs and slowly I started bringing them back into my diet. Slowly as the protein did its work I got better.

This year I decided I was in a position to give up animal products again but sensibly, using alternative methods of protein. Obviously the dairy’s not too much of a problem. If I do eat some cheese I’m soon reminded why I shouldn’t.

But then we have the egg issue. You see I love eggs so much. I never admitted to myself how much I missed them when I was vegan before. I love golden mounds of scrambled egg on (non-dairy) buttery toast. I love two perfectly fried eggs between two pieces of homemade bread – I love biting into the yellow domes of yolk and letting it run down my chin…. Mmmm-hmmmm!

I don’t want to live a restrictive life anymore. Life has enough restrictions anyway. So I have found my compromise. I don’t use eggs if I don’t have to. I bake without eggs, I make batter without eggs, I make the best sweetcorn fritters ever without eggs. But then, once or twice a week I treat myself.

I do not condone farming and shopping methods in the UK. I do not condone what the large supermakets do to the farmers. I shop at farmers’ markets and organic delivery stores. But my shoes are now leather, they keep my feet dryer and Tasmanian honey is too good not to eat.

Ahimsa
isn't just about being kind to everything around us, it's about being kind to ourselves as well. And that is something I have always been very very bad at.

7 comments:

Eco Yogini said...

awesome :)
Also- honey bees are suffering.. supporting local honey beehivers (lol, I'm sure not the technical term) is essential right now :)

green ink said...

The last line really got me - I too have had that problem for a lot of my life :)

Funny how I have similar memories of animals being bundled off to the abbatoir - my parents (in Tassie!) had four cows over two years. My parents did not embrace vegetarianism (obviously!) - I lasted a month before I finally caved in. I became vegetarian (well, more on that further) nearly three years ago, while travelling in Canada.

I completely agree with what you've said here - how life has enough restrictions as it is, and there is a way to live according to our beliefs and principles but not feel deprived, or labelled, more to the point.

I think of myself as vegetarian, because I'd say 98% of the time I am. But I do eat fish occasionally - mostly when I travel, because so many places in Europe (and even Australia to a certain extent, I found) aren't very vegetarian friendly and I, perhaps selfishly, don't want to miss out on all the fun. But the fish I eat is always fresh and caught locally, and not endangered. I reconcile this by living according to my principles in my everyday life, and not having fish at home, and not having it if I don't need to. I may eat meat again one day, I may not, but right now I am very happy with my choice and will continue to do it as long as it feels right for me.

At the end of the day, as you said, it's about being kind to yourself. There is no point being a martyr about this kind of thing, I don't think. As important as my beliefs are to me, I was never going to do something that took away from my enjoyment of life. I love my food, and I think I love it even more now! And isn't what you do 98% of the time more important than what you do 2% of the time? ;)

So, here's to doing our bit in a way that feels right for us. I'll enjoy my odd bit of fish, and you enjoy your eggs :)

Great post, thanks for sharing xx

PS: Tassie honey rocks. I have a jar of it with hazelnuts in it!

Christine Claire Reed said...

I am not a vegetarian but was for about 10 years. As I got older, my body changed...(too long to explain here).

BUT I make organic, free range, and local choices when it comes to meat, eggs, and dairy.

I think the most important thing is to listen very carefully to your body and then make the best choices.

The egg thing confuses me. If you buy from a local source, you know how the chickens are treated. And the eggs aren't fertilized. They are sterile.

Many vegans have no problem with abortion -- a fertilized egg.

Again, this just confuses me...

Rachel said...

EcoYogini - my mum has a honey beehiver (love the phrase) friend and she was telling me all about the suffering bees. Any excuse to eat honey. Nom!

greenink - Ah the Tasmanians and their one island crusade to make us veggies! Thank you for sharing your thoughts - I totally agree with you about not labelling ourselves. Learning to be kind to myself is a journey I'm on right now :)

Christine - As I've got older I've realised the whole meat -v- veggie issue is so much more complex than I thought it was as a teenager. I am learning to listen to what my body needs and make the kindest most Ahimsa choices I can :)

Jamie said...

I appreciate your thoughts on this matter, which is something that I ponder frequently. It sounds like you have found an excellent balance that suits your lifestyle and budget. I think that's the best anyone can strive for! : )

rand(om) bites said...

Sorry to hear you got sick there for a while hon but it's great that you can look at this with an open mind. And LOL, my partner will not give up meat either. Although, we don’t have meat at home so he eats it when he’s out. No pressure or anything, it just worked out that way and probably because he doesn’t like to cook at the best of times.

Education definitely is the key to being a good vegetarian/vegan. Lots of people I know just think it’s about eliminating meat from what you’re already eating. Another reason I'm going to focus on vegetarian/veganism when I start practising, especially being vegetarian myself. I totally respect and appreciate a person’s right to eat meat though and when practicing I’ll guide a meat-eater’s nutrition respectfully.

Eggs! I hear you about eggs. I go through phases with them. Sometimes the thought of what they are repulse me but then it is a good source of amino acids and when done right, taste fantastic. I’m actually having eggs tonight.

It sure is all about balance and finding what works for you as an individual on so many levels without judgement - both of oneself and others.

Crafty Green Poet said...

this is an excellent post, the flexibility is very important for many reasons. I'm a vegetarian, but if I order a veggie dish and it accidentally comes in the chicken version I may eat it to avoid wasting the food. I avoid leather as much as possible but have not yet found a good alternative to it for footwear (though I'm currently actively looking into this!). I could go on at great length here, perhaps I should do a blog post on the topic!

Thanks for visiting my blog btw...