(Mirrored at conformer.wordpress.com.)
To-day, for lack of a better (or less clever) term, is Your Humble Narrator's two-year "veganversary." At this moment, and probably for the remainder of the day, this will trump "blog" as my number one loathed post-millennial Newspeak word.
I chose Cinco de Mayo for an official starting point primarily as a mnemonic device; whenever I'm asked about my relatively uninteresting vegetarian origins, I'm able to rattle off the location (Original Joe's in downtown San Jose, CA) and the circumstances with mimeographic clarity. But when it comes to recalling the precise date and year, that's when everything gets all fuzzy, kind of like when your body's blood sugar starts to crash and you get all cranky and sluggish at around siesta time. Was it New Year's Eve night or New Year's Day night? Was it on my birthday or Boom-Boom's birthday? Was it just some randomly chosen date in the summer, or was it just some randomly chosen date in the winter? (Believe it or not, even in a temperate, desert state like California, there is a discernible difference between the two polar seasons)
So, I just say that my vegetarian career lasted for "about fifteen years," a number which sounds both impressive and excessive. The other reason for using to-day as a temporal bookmark is that it gives the day slightly more legitimacy than the fake Mexican holiday it shares.
Two years ago, I was still working at GDI, a company flush enough with cash and smart enough in the personnel department to take the connection between happy workers and happy products to a whole new level by providing massive amounts of complimentary food for the staff throughout the workday. I think you already know which company I'm talking about, and I can credit this generous black hole of resources for turning me towards the dark side of veganism. By making the ingredients of their menus freely available, I was given a unique insight as to what I was putting into my body. At a certain point, the barrier between a "mere" vegetarian and "full-fledged" vegan becomes little more than a single act of what might be seen as denial or exclusion, but which I like to interpret as just a different level of choice and free will.
It reminds me of the oft-repeated conversation, which never really happened:
Q: You're a vegan? So what do you eat?Last year, I evaluated my choice to date and more or less came to the conclusion that, while I took on the lifestyle as an experiment and gave myself an out at the six-month mark, I had taken it far enough already for it to be a lifelong change. Additional benefits included a hyperawareness of the kinds of food all around me, a transparency of the food that I was eating, and an almost complete dearth of eating out. (barring free lunches at work)
A: Anything I want.
So, what about the long-term benefits? Like Prozac, the larger changes of a lifestyle switch-up like this aren't always immediately observable. It often takes periodic retrospection for any positive or negative effects to jump out at you; weight loss, clearer skin, more regular regularity, etc. All of these have happened, which is not to say they've been permanent changes. Everything you eat is eventually exuded through your skin, moodswings and chemical imbalances can radically alter the volume of food we shovel into our mouths, and gastrointestinal stability is a crapshoot at best. For me, the larger takeaway is what something like vegetarianism or veganism does to your overarching attitude concerning food.
I started as a pragmatic vegetarian, because "Joe's Special" at Original Joe's made me so physically sick it convinced me that the change would allow me to live longer, assuming I survived the night. And while I adopted the same stance when I went vegan, I also believe that there is no such thing as a pure pragmatism or pure ethics when it comes to dietary lifestyles like these. Perusing the myriad food blogs in my newsreader might give you pause, as a number of the vegan bloggers can come across as militant and polarized, but for the most part people will eat what they want, enjoy what they eat, and let any transgressions or screw-ups roll off their backs.
Veganism may be the original green diet, but it's not my place to say it's the only way to eat. Because in the long run, food is still just fuel for the body. Comedian Chris Rock put it pretty well (even though he was talking about religion at the time) when he said, "I refuse to believe that on Judgment Day, my diet is going to come into question." But because food can be both pigeonholed and demonized, it can't always maintain a single occupation for everyone, and its significance is often multifaceted from person to person. While we all have to eat to live, not all of us live to eat, although the influence of foodies, locavores, and gourmands is certainly helping to bring the pleasurable aspects of food more to the fore.
Eat what you want.