This I Believe

Tera - SOUTH PASADENA, California
Entered on August 22, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that every piece of food that goes into my mouth is important. I believe with every bite I take, I am doing something good for my soul and for the planet. I believe every thing we do, every act no matter how simple, makes a difference, and I believe that my food choices – plant-based, no animal products – go a long way toward making myself, and the planet, better.

I never imagined I would end up vegan. I grew up in a small town in Arkansas. Cave City, population 2000, and until I was 22 I never heard the word vegan, and I didn’t even know any vegetarians. I was a full-fledged meat and cheese woman.

Then I moved to California and became vegetarian, thanks to prodding from my best friend Amy. She told me about the harm done to animals, ourselves, and the planet by a meat-based diet. I learned that no good comes out of eating meat; it is in direct opposition to my values of compassion and justice for all beings, in addition to being a major contributor to global warming and many health woes. Growing up I hated seeing the dead deer my dad proudly brought in after a big day of hunting. Even seeing the frogs in the pot after he had gone out frog gigging was too much and sent me into waves of tears. So moving away from chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers was relatively easy. But I’ll never give up eggs and cheese and baked goods! I declared proudly. I thought vegans were really weird and extreme. I mean, come on, what’s one little piece of cheese going to hurt?

After a few years of being vegetarian, I saw a film about animal farming, and I experienced a visceral feminist reaction to the realities of this industry. That’s what turned me into a vegan. The film showed the reproductive systems of cows and chickens being violently manipulated so I could enjoy milk and eggs whenever I wanted them. If I ate those products, then I was participating in an oppressive system. For once, I had the personal power to make a difference. Every time I went to my refrigerator, I had the power to say no, and I did just that to Grandpa Burl’s fried catfish and Grandma Lula’s summer strawberry cake, and I never looked back.

Once vegan, I quickly found a whole hidden world of culinary delights. Cooking became one great big experiment. Nuts transformed into cheeses. Tempeh and tofu made hearty meals. And I learned eggs aren’t needed to make the tastiest banana nut muffins ever.

I believe that changing the world begins with the simplest, most universal of acts: by eating. I believe with each bite, I am saving myself. I believe with each bite, I am untying the knot of oppression. I believe with each bite, I am creating a cleaner planet. Who knows, maybe the solution to world peace is lying in your refrigerator.