Gone Vegan

Lindsay Hutton discovers the politics and pragmatics behind a meat and dairy-free diet.

Welcome to Gone Vegan, a blog chronicling the good, the bad and the ugly of my leap into veganism.

Let me start by saying that telling people you are going vegan can be similar admitting you're about to join a cult. My friends are a fairly well educated, worldly bunch, but I was surprised at some of the chilly, backward feedback my announcement received. Eyes rolled, heads cocked and the responses covered a range of shock, surprise and concern.

"Your hair's going to fall out. No, really. I knew this girl in grad school who went vegan and her hair fell out. In like, two weeks."

"As a woman, you really shouldn't go vegan. I mean, I think it's okay for guys, but you know, you need all the iron you can get, because you, well... bleed."

"So, what exactly can you eat, then? Just tofu?"

"That's not natural. We were given incisors for a reason. To eat meat."

(And of course, nearly everyone had something to say about their inextinguishable devotion to cheese.)

Funnily enough, I used to be one of the smug naysayers. For years, I simply didn't get the inclination toward veganism, despite my progressive, environmentalist leanings. It seemed needlessly hard and fast in a culinary sense, and many of its most outspoken proponents I met came off kooky and garishly devout. Vegans appeared to me then as they likely do to many: a rather austere, combative bunch. Looking back, I was intimidated.

I recall one particular instance involving a bizarre young lady loudly taking issue that much of the food served at a communal dinner included dairy products. The finer points of PR were lost on the poor dear, and she proceeded to prattle endlessly as to the horrifying conditions of the dairy industry well into the dessert course. Geez, I remember whispering to a friend, all this fuss over a bit of lasagna?

Times do change, and my foot tends to find its way toward my mouth sooner than later. Six years ago, I became a vegetarian and the veganism began to make more sense soon thereafter. A closer look at the health-related, humanitarian and environmental reasons to cut out dairy products from my diet started to seem worthy of giving an honest go. We are what we eat, after all, and taking a closer look at the animal products we take into our bodies can make even the most cast iron stomach take a turn.

There's a lot of ground to cover in these next few months. What it means in our culture to leave furry and feathered friends off our plates. How to map out a healthful vegan diet with the help of expert foodies and dietitians. How veganism can help play a role in reducing my carbon footprint. How to source out the clandestine animal products in packaged foods. And, of course, how to convince your friends and family to accept your dinner party invitations without quaking in fear. This and all things vegan in between is the focus of this blog. You, dear readers, will be riding shotgun every step of the way with every inedible, dairy-free "cheese" substitution I make; the unassailable food cravings that will likely keep me up at night; the gastrointestinal melee I've been warned about, and of course, the possible (and hopefully temporary) fall off the vegan wagon.

Next on Gone Vegan: Real, live vegans from all over the country reminisce on their inclinations to axe animal products from their diet.

Image courtesy istockphoto.com/kcline