I hate labels. Because I am of mixed-ethnicity, I always got asked growing up (and still do) “what are you??” Any of my other “ambiguous” looking friends will surely relate. To end the line of questioning as quickly as possible, my standard response is “Jewrican” (half Jewish and half Puerto Rican) which is true, but what I really want to say is, “why does it matter!” I’m a person. I’m a woman. I’m a daughter. I’m a student. I’m a thinking, feeling, caring and ever evolving human being, and I don’t want to be judged by any label society coerces us into believing we need to define and explain each other.
I don’t fit into a neat little box. I never have and I never want to.
And now here is where the vegan thing comes in.
I eat mostly vegan. I love eating vegan. I love the health benefits and ethical freedom and the community I feel apart of as a result of calling myself vegan. And now here is where I might lose some of you: calling myself vegan is a lie. The truth is, sometimes I eat vegetarian and not fully vegan. Do I still eat mostly vegan? Yes. Do I still absolutely understand/am committed to/embrace/promote a meat-free agenda? Absolutely. But when I go out to eat, sometimes I eat cheese. And sometimes I eat a dessert that has dairy in it. And sometimes I don’t. And I don’t think that makes me a bad person. A bad vegan? Maybe. Which is why I am writing this post to “come clean” so to speak on the truth about my choices when it comes to food.
In my humble view, being flexible about the vegan/vegetarian continuum makes it appear that much more accessible and possible for those who could not even fathom giving up meat, which is sadly the majority of the American population.
In a 2008 “Vegetarianism in America” study, published by Vegetarian Times (vegetariantimes.com), it showed that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. Approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 million, of those are vegans, who consume no animal products at all. In addition, 10 percent of U.S., adults, or 22.8 million people, say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet.
According to the statistics above, if I include options on my site for both vegans and vegetarians, I can reach a greater audience than I would if I just offered vegan options. I want to reach people all over the world. I want to help people learn the joys and simplicity of cooking and dining out without feeling that meat must appear on their plates at every meal. I want everyone who stumbles upon my site to leave saying, “hey, I could do this thing, it’s not so hard!” In my wildest dreams, I would love to one day have the first vegetarian/vegan cooking show on mainstream television. In expanding my scope and my brand, and most importantly in being honest about my food choices, I think I am being authentic, and hopefully for that I will still have most of my readers’ support.
Of course I am aware of the cruelty cows face as a result of our consumption of dairy products, and the horrible conditions chickens are subjected to as a result of our egg consumption. This is not an easy pill for me to swallow nor something I wish to forget or ignore. Of course I feel guilty that my own palate outweighs my commitment to animal welfare at times, but sometimes it does, and that is the just the truth. It’s not all of the time. It’s some of the time, and I still think even in eating vegetarian at times, I am doing a lot for animal welfare, my health, and hopefully the education and inspiration of others. I want to enjoy an authentic and truthful life and not feel like a label and/or the backlash from a community that embraces a vegan lifestyle would ever stop me from that.
I don’t buy dairy or eggs to eat at home. I eat dairy products maybe once a week when I’m at dinner with friends usually in the form of cheese or dessert. So I’m 90% vegan? 95% vegan? Sometimes 100% vegan or vegetarian if you count meal by meal? 100% flexible? 100% honest? Who knows, and I hope after reading this you will agree, who cares. Labels aren’t fair. They feel militant and rigid and leave no space for deviation from a set norm. I would rather be transparent than feel like I have to hide the times when I do eat vegetarian and not vegan. I am imperfect, at times selfish, impulsive, and hedonistic, but I refuse to be a liar, keep secrets, or feel I need to hide a part of myself in fear of being judged.
I had a nightmare last night about this “coming out,” no lie. I was at some benefit or big banquet dinner where I made a speech to my fellow vegan community that I ate cheese and the like and how incredibly guilty I felt for somehow betraying those more committed than I. I was received by this dream audience with ridicule and some compassion and harsh judgement and some love. I actually woke up crying. I don’t doubt the same will be true of the waking version of this scene.
And so, I’m writing not only in hopes of reaching and inspiring a wider audience, but to liberate myself from labels: the vegan label, the vegetarian label, the flexitarian label or any other label that makes change/growth/evolution feel wrong, shameful, scary or embarrassing. We already live in a society that has a love/hate, and in my opinion, very unhealthy relationship with food. I don’t want to be a part of that discourse. Change, grow, make mistakes, care about the world, care about animals, care about others and care about yourself. Food should be celebrated and enjoyed; the source of joy and pride not shame and fear.
I promise all of my future posts, recipes and reviews will be clearly labeled as to what is vegan and what is vegetarian and all of them will ALWAYS include vegan options. I hope to make each post useful for those who are vegan, vegetarian, vegetarian inclined, flexitarian, or just curious about a healthier and more compassionate lifestyle. Or even better, those who don’t choose to label themselves by the food they consume. This site is evolving and will continue to evolve, just like I am, just as we all are.
Lastly, as far as the “your vegan girlfriend” title is concerned, I still love it and own it. I think it’s cute and catchy and I don’t have plans on changing it anytime in the near future. I hope my friends and readers are cool will that. I do however have plans on revamping my site, with clearer categories, layouts, search options and more, and surely a new about me/site description to appropriately inform readers of what I am/this site is all about. I can’t wait!
I feel blessed to have a forum to share my personal journey with food and my passion to inspire others on theirs. Thank you so much for reading. I hope you still will!
Your Vegan Girlfriend