Coming Out of the Cupboard

Nikki - Wasilla, Alaska
Entered on May 22, 2008

I met my first vegan seven years ago. We don’t see many of her kind in Alaska. She was an au pair from Austria, nondescript and bland—the way I imagined vegan food to be.

One night, she joined a group of us at a local pizza joint and I was appalled when she ordered her pizza first with whole wheat crust followed by a request to have it made without cheese. What a freak!

I’ve always considered myself to be a hip, accommodating vegetarian: Someone who made sure there was meat on hand for guests to add to their tacos, sandwiches, and the grill; someone who politely picked meat out of food and off pizzas when friends forgot.

Giving up meat, over a decade ago, was easy. I was born with a revulsion towards it and packed it into my cheeks with more finesse than my hamster Peaches during my adolescent years to spit into the toilet once dinner was over.

As a self-proclaimed Cheese Head, going vegan was a surprise not only to those who know me, but especially to myself. By the reactions and confusion it’s caused, veganism feels akin to coming out of the closet.

No, I really don’t have any hidden urge to feast upon the four-legged and feathered food groups, nor do I want cows’ milk or hens’ eggs. No hidden fantasies in those departments.

I imagine people think being vegan equates to a hyper sensitivity towards our furry friends: The Animals; and that it is their transition from little piggly wiggly to the dinner plate that makes us all weepy in a way that’s childish.

If only!

Taking time out to educate myself on modern day agribusiness practices, I’ve come to learn that thousands of animals are stored in sheds and crates, unable to take a step forward or know the light of day. It is customary for these creatures to be de-horned, de-beaked and castrated all without anesthetics.

I understand people’s reluctance to look into the origins of their food. It is easier to get enraged over the past; to watch a film like Schindler’s List or Amazing Grace and sit spellbound and repelled by small groups of people’s cruelty and a larger group’s disconnect toward genocide and the slave trade: to suffering. To fight immorality in the present is to fight a lonely battle, not because people don’t care, but because they don’t know or don’t want to know.

One of the things I find most encouraging is that everyone appreciates a delicious meal, no matter what their preferences.

I’ve found that the best way to look at a vegan lifestyle is as an adventure rather than a sacrifice. I even made my first vegan pizza. And this from the girl who once proclaimed she’d rather not live than live without cheese! Who knows? Maybe next time I’ll even prepare it with whole wheat dough.