Today I’m interviewing my favorite vegan – my husband, David.
David, to give people a better idea of your background, tell us about the diet that you grew up eating.
I grew up on what is probably a very typical Midwestern American diet. The centerpiece for most meals was probably meat, whether it be hamburgers, meatloaf, fried chicken, or some such.
We generally ate a decent amount of vegetables, but often they were vegetables out of a can, such as canned green beans or corn. We would often have salad with a meal too, but it would typically be iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber.
In addition to that, we ate pizza fairly regularly. Although, I never liked cheese on pizza so I was at least one step towards becoming a vegan.
And my favorite meal of all time while growing up was a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder Value Meal, always with a Coke.
How is that different from your diet today?
Today Cadry and I eat an almost entirely whole foods-based, organic diet. I eat a lot more fruits and vegetables than I used to.
And any grains that I consume are whole grains, which honestly are probably something that I had never had until this decade. Any time I would have had bread growing up, it would have been white bread, possibly French bread, but definitely no whole grains.
Nowadays I love a good thick, coarse, whole grain bread, preferably with lots of seeds and sprouted things in it.
Most of the food we eat we cook ourselves, or she cooks for me in many cases. But we never eat at fast food restaurants. And if we eat out we usually eat at places that serve fresh, organic food.
I have a much broader palate now that I’m a vegan than I ever did beforehand.
So what inspired you to go vegan?
Like a lot of people, I didn’t really see the harm in eating cheese or eggs. But then Cadry started telling me information that she was learning about the suffering that happens when milk and eggs are produced in the animal agriculture industries.
I’m somebody who even when I was a meat eater would never have even dreamed of eating veal, thinking that was way too far to eat and kill a baby animal for pleasure.
But when I found out that the veal industry is a byproduct of the dairy industry because dairy cows are kept constantly pregnant, and the male baby cows are sold into veal and used for that, then I stopped immediately.
What is the biggest benefit of veganism?
The major benefit is that I feel much more connected with other living beings. There’s a whole level of compassion that I would have thought before that I had, but realize that I really didn’t until I became vegan.
I always would have described myself as an animal lover, but that was always sort of qualified by animals that we are expected to love, like dogs, cats, baby animals of all kinds, and you know, any domestic animals.
But now I feel closer to all animals and that they all deserve their lives as much as any of us.
I have volunteered at an animal sanctuary and have spent time with turkeys, chickens, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, horses, and have come to realize that these animals are every bit as loving and sensitive and intelligent as the animals that we regularly keep in our homes.
The other benefit is that my health has improved incredibly. I maintain a low weight without even thinking about it and have lowered my cholesterol by a huge amount.
However, actively living my ethics is an even greater benefit than all of the health benefits.
What is the biggest misconception about vegans?
I think the biggest misconception about vegans is that we’re depriving ourselves of something wonderful and that the way we eat is both boring and unhealthful.
People sometimes react as if they’re sorry for me that I can’t eat a cheeseburger or a steak or cheese, and it’s almost as if I’ve got a disease.
They might offer me something and be like, “Oh, you can’t eat that, can you?”
And my response is, “Well, I can eat it. I just don’t want to.”
I feel like when I was a meat eater there were roughly four different meals that I would eat and rotate them regularly. Hamburgers, pizza, chicken, and tacos.
But now being a vegan, I eat so many exciting and different cuisines that I had never really thought to try before. I still eat pizza and tacos, but just without the meat and cheese on them.
But I also eat Ethiopian food, Indian food, Thai food, Chinese food, Greek and Mediterranean food.
I eat things I never ate before regularly like hummus and chickpeas and tempeh and avocado and so many more fruits and vegetables that I feel like I’m constantly trying something new.
I have more passion for my food than I ever did before.
Also to address the idea that eating vegan is unhealthful, I had very high cholesterol and was 50 pounds overweight when I was regularly eating meat and fast food. And now I weigh what I weighed in high school, and I’m 37 years old.
I have more energy than I’ve ever had in my life.
Do you think began vegan as a man is different than as a woman, and if so, how has being a man affected your experience of it?
I think there’s a strong pre-conception in our society that in order to be manly you have to eat meat, that eating tofu or a salad is a feminine thing to do, and should be avoided and mocked at all costs.
However, I think that a lot of people go along with that stereotype because they have been conditioned to think it is the normal, correct way and are concerned with going against societal norms.
But the most manly or macho characters that you ever see in movies are the ones who don’t care about societal rules and do their own thing when they know it is correct. Think of Clint Eastwood or Paul Newman or Harrison Ford in any number of movies.
And I think there is no greater way to buck the societal norm in our society than to be vegan. I think it can often take a lot of courage to assert one’s ethics or beliefs in the face of near universal resistance. And I think standing one’s ground and fighting for what you believe in is a very macho thing to do.
Also I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t find a man attractive when he is caring towards animals.
Of all of the animals that you’ve developed relationships with since going vegan, who has been the best surprise?
I would say that goats have been the best surprise.
Goats are animals that I never really gave much thought to one way or another. I didn’t see them anywhere in real life. I didn’t eat them or partake in goat’s milk or goat’s cheese. So I hadn’t ever thought of them as an animal with a personality before.
However, since volunteering at Animal Acres I’ve realized that goats are very funny, intelligent, and affectionate animals. They love to nuzzle you just like a cat does and will follow you around like the most loyal dog.
And then they casually try to eat your straw hat while you’re not looking. And they don’t feel guilty about it, which only increases their charm.
Tonight for dinner we’re having your favorite meal. Tell us about it.
Well, I am of the opinion that all orange foods are good, and the greatest of all orange foods are sweet potatoes. So a cornerstone of our meal tonight will be roasted sweet potatoes.
I am also a firm believer in the power of three when it comes to food. In other words, I like to have at least three distinct dishes on my plate with different flavors.
So the second portion of the meal is a dish that I learned to make from a restaurant we like, and it is sautéed mushrooms and onions with garlic in red wine sauce.
The third choice will be steamed kale, which will then be lightly sautéed in a bit of olive oil with some garlic.
I’m also a firm believer that garlic makes pretty much anything taste better, and indeed, that red wine does the same.
This meal is very easy to prepare, doesn’t take a lot of time, and is extremely healthy and delicious.
If you had to give advice to a new or potential vegan, what would it be?
I would say don’t be discouraged if it seems hard at first. It can be hard, but mainly because we all have habits and are used to eating certain things and going certain places.
One of the things that held me back from being a vegetarian was that I didn’t know where I was going to go eat for lunch everyday. But once I figured out where I could go for lunch and get vegetarian and vegan options, that worry fell away.
It’s all about changing your daily habits and routines, and once you have broken the old habits that you had, the new ones form and become as routine as the old ones once were.
Nowadays, I don’t even really think about being vegan when I eat, because it is just the natural state for me.
Look upon it as an opportunity. It is an opportunity for exploring new tastes, new restaurants, and new cuisines.