Local vegan consultants Veronica Dailey and Skye Pratt have a message for you.
No, it's not about screaming in your face, splashing your grandma's mink coat with red paint, or shaming you and your double bacon cheeseburger back to the evil, faraway commercial farm from whence it came.
They just want to say, "Come as you are."
Come as you are to the 5-Day Vegan Jumpstart cooking class. Come in your underpants or sweatpants, even. The course is held online, so you don't have to get into your gas-guzzling car to learn how to make a vegan brownie (look how Earth-friendly you already are).
Whether you want to consume less meat in the New Year to whittle your waistline, do your part to save the planet, or just feel better about your food choices, the Jan. 8 through 12 online class isn't a bad idea.
As Pratt likes to say, "Whatever your reason for eating vegan, they're all good choices."
Notice how I didn't write, "going vegan."
This article is not about indoctrination into a restrictive food cult, and that's not what Dailey or Pratt are about either.
It's more about a subtle shift in perspective that can make a huge difference in your body and the planet.
Maybe you go from commercially farmed mystery meat three meals a day to one meal a day. Perhaps you start buying more locally raised, natural meats farmed by your neighbors in SLO County and treat them like the premium delicacy that they are.
Maybe you take a break from the meat for the month of January and just start making more delicious, filling vegan meals the rest of the year.
After all, we are Americans, no? We could all consume more greens. Experts have been saying that for years!
And that cheese on your veggie burger? Don't wig out just yet.
What follows is a conversation with two compassionate vegans who truly understand your need for a beautiful blob of brie now and then. Well, cashew milk brie, but—and here's the shocker—it's still really, really yummy.
New Times: What do you think people think being a vegan is?
Veronica: That it's a strict diet that they'll be doing for a period of time to lose weight or they might think it's all about people pouring red paint and screaming in their face. In reality, it is our own personal and moral code. Because of the environmental impact, I am passionate about spreading information about a plant-based diet, but I'd never scream in someone's face.
Skye: We don't protest and we don't shame—shame is not a good motivator. We provide information and support. We want to show that eating vegan is delicious, fun and attractive. I want to say to carnivores and omnivores that might feel judgment toward vegans: We have gone through a hard time, and many of us just really love animals and the planet. We aren't angry at you. We are angry at the system. ... The way our food system is set up now is not conducive to anyone. Not to people eating the meat filled with antibiotics, nor the animals or environment. It's not a whole, sustainable system.
New Times: Commercial farming is messed up. I do shop from the SLO Co-op and the meat is local. There is something to be said about our small farmers who are creating a local, organic product. There is a culture of this in SLO County and plenty of agricultural folks here really honoring their meat.
Veronica: Yes. There's absolutely a space for that, and I am best friends with Larder Meat. Co. However, what we suggest is: If you eat meat—and we know people still want to eat meat—it needs to be smaller, more delicacy type of meat.
Skye: Yes, to help the environment, we'd need to return to eating 90 percent less meat. I'm an ethical vegan, so it's hard for me to condone carnism at all, but if people are compelled by just the environmental aspect alone, that's great.
Veronica: We're just here because people are going to need to learn to make food that doesn't contain meat. We want to teach people how to create simple, plant-based meals.
Skye: We are so passionate about not participating in the culture of meat, but it's hard. The odds are stacked against you. We decided it needed to be easier, and that's where we come in.
New Times: How do you get the ball rolling?
Skye: We jump into how to actually do it. We're also doing some stuff with SLO City Mayor Heidi Harmon about reducing waste, which I could be better with. Promoting conscious consumption, in general, is important to us. It's about opening your eyes to what you're feeding yourself, being conscious about your food choices, and all of your choices, too.
New Times: What's the most surprising thing that's vegan that you provide that's actually good? I know you provide catering and even cheese plates.
Veronica: The nacho cheese sauce! The doughnuts ...
Skye: There's a cashew cheese made the classic French way, but with cashew milk instead of dairy. How similar the taste is—and how delicious and creamy it is—I mean, I love brie cheese. This is the closest thing I've eaten.
Veronica: It's about saying, "If traditional dairy isn't serving me, what protein could serve me better?" It doesn't mean you'll never, ever be able to enjoy cheese again. I loved cheese too, and I ate it all the time before going vegan—so when I stopped eating it, it was a big adjustment. When I found out about vegan cheese, I thought, "There's hope!" Δ
Hayley Thomas Cain is in love with vegan nacho cheese. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.