Vegan for a Week

Where did this food actually come from?

I’ve been asking myself the question before I eat anything lately, and it’s surprising how often I don’t know the answer.

For the past week I’ve avoided eating anything with known animal (fish, bird, animal) origins. I’m sticking to fruits, vegetables and grains. It’s my vegan experiment. The reason isn’t really because my cholesterol is high, although it is really too high. And it’s not because I’ve accepted anyone else’s challenge, I haven’t. It has to do with a strange conversation I had recently on the origin of cheese.

As a geneticist, the origins of things always intrigue me. I’m definitely interested in where all kinds of things come from originally. I am the one who is looking at anything from genealogy to the fiber content of the garment to the country of origin on the produce. Where the coffee was grown and processed, where the rice was imported from matters for quality, and whether fair trade practices protected the people involved. So many people touch each ingredient before we buy it. I often wonder about these web-like traces that connect us when I cook.

When it comes to food of animal origins, the answers to questions of origin quickly become distasteful if not down right disgusting. Take cheese for example. I really used to enjoy cheese. But last week a friend asked me if I really did feel the need to eat old, molded, dried out material that came from a cow’s nipple, which was actually meant for her calf. That did it.

You might think it is difficult to follow a vegan diet. But truthfully it’s become quite easy and natural, when I ask myself that question first: so, where exactly did this come from?

I expect I’m about to lose some weight.

Have you ever tried to change your diet?
Does the vegan diet appeal to you?

Please leave comments to share views and join the discussion.

10 thoughts on “Vegan for a Week

  1. Jennifer, I’ve been meaning to reply to this post all week. Thank you for making us all think about the source of our food. I would consider myself a “flexatarian,” ie, one who eats mainly a plant-based diet but eats meat on occasion. For me, “on occasion” varies. I enjoy a delicious burger every once in a while, for example.

    I often wonder about our canned beans and such. So many products contain preservatives. It’s no wonder that cancer is on the rise. It’s a scary thought.

    I commend your efforts!

    1. Hi Kristin, thanks for sharing this comment and the note about preservatives. Having worked in the lab, I remember things we used as preservatives were not things I’d want to put in my body. How do those fruits in the store stay so “perfect” looking for so long when on the vine, bush, or tree they quickly change and mottle? Food for thought.

  2. Jennifer,

    But last week a friend asked me if I really did feel the need to eat old, molded, dried out material that came from a cow’s nipple, which was actually meant for her calf.

    Maybe an udder is a strange origin for food, but of course cereal’s origin – earth with its earthworms, moles etc. – is strange too. To live vegan is more than to change the diet, it’s about animal rights, to understand that animals are Earthlings like us. If mankind would respect the rights of animals stories like the one of Tilikum (the killer (sic!) whale) wouldn’t exist.

    Of course to live vegan isn’t easy – for example I have to take meds each and every day and I’m convinced that these meds were developed with the use of animals for experiments. I have to live with this dichotomy.

    But I think if each of us makes a little, just a little step forward – even in mind, soul , attitude – toward the respect for the rights of animals Earth would be a better place.

    Joachim

    P.S. another interesting blog post on this topic via Dorf on Law.

  3. Good for you Jennifer. So often people who eat meat and animal products at every meal tell me what animal lovers they are, but I think they are just cat and dog lovers if they haven’t recognized the abuses of factory farming. It’s so sad how disconnected we are, and how often I hear people blame producers for the deplorable conditions (even though they contribute to the demand) or make ignorant remarks about the animal being dead anyway (heard it!)

    Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the ways its animals are treated.” I think our exploitation of farm animals (and the workers in these farm) is a dark mark on the heart and soul of humankind.

    I feel much more at peace when I eat vegan (which I do a lot. I eat vegetarian always). Good luck!

    1. Catherine thanks for sharing your thoughts and the Gandhi quote, it is so true that what we do for the least powerful shows who we are in the depths of our character. I’m still thinking about everything before I eat it, and thank you for your encouragement.

  4. It’s so true that many things are added before being packaged and along the way. Preservatives, coloring, etc. That’s part of why I love certain things that I eat the most of-rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables. When I buy them in the grocery store they are pretty much raw in that sense.
    Mindful eating as you describe here is a very rational way of keeping healthy and at the same time adhering to your morals and ensuring more happiness-as with doing most things mindfully! And it is surprising how much easier things become when you look at them holistically and rationally-impulse becomes more under control, rather than in control.
    Lovely post!

    1. Yes, I love that you tie impulsivity to eating habits. Bringing thought into it is an extra step, but maybe one that saves a life, maybe even our own. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here.

  5. I live in southern California now, where quite a few people think that food comes from the grocery store, but I was born and raised in rural Wisconsin. I am intrigued by where my food really started, but also concerned about what “extra” have been added to make it last longer, look different, or easier to store and transport. Eating and drinking closer to the source can help avoid those “additions.”

    1. Yes, it may be the distance itself that is a barrier to understanding what we are eating. Distance allows us to objectify the creatures who are processed into various types of unrecognizable products. Thank you for sharing your insights here, on the value of being close to the source, as some say, buying and eating local.

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