About two months ago, I was at dinner with friends and clients of Ryan's. I mention the company I was keeping right off the bat, because I do believe we were in a steakhouse, but... I can't actually say for sure. I can remember that night that Ryan went from work to the restaurant, while I tried to clean myself up and care for the kids at the same time until the babysitter arrived to set me free. So yeah, the details are a bit of a blur. Anyway, I do remember there were plenty meat and seafood apps being passed around by the time I arrived wearing a pretty thrifted dress and my favorite Rouje lipstick smeared in the general vicinity of my lips. (I'm wearing it again above. It's the prettiest red!) That night, I still identified as flexitarian, which is someone who mostly doesn't eat meat-- partially, because they're afraid of offending their friends and family and partially because switching from a meat-eating diet to a vegetarian diet is HARD. Or it feels like it is. (More on that in a sec.)
Have you ever heard the joke about how to tell if someone is a vegan? Don't worry: they'll tell you. Bada bada boom. Well, this is the story of how I began my own transformation into a proud and loud vegan-in-the-making: long story short, at one point a platter of octopus appeared on the table. I had literally just watched this gorgeous YouTube video (below) about an octopus dreaming. One of my friends noticed I wasn't sampling the dish. "Are you not eating seafood anymore?" she asked. I had just ordered salmon, so I felt foolish and conflicted. BUT I COULD NOT EAT THAT BEAUTIFUL DREAMING CREATURE.
I didn't say any of that. I hate making people feel bad. But here's the thing: I'm not eating animals, because I don't want to feel bad. I love animals. For one thing, as a mommy, I'm constantly watching funny animal videos or talking animal movies like The Lion King with my kids. Following that night, the first thing I did before I made any grand veggie plans, was to finally crack The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. A book that had been on my night table for ages. I was scared to read it. I was scared it would make me feel bad. It didn't. What could after reading about a billion animals dying in the Australian wildfires? (By the way, The Soul of an Octoupus is a non-fic page-turner. I highly recommend it for carnivores and omnivores alike. Montgomery writes scientific facts with the heart-warming coziness of a best friend gossiping over coffee. Although if you ever eat octopus again after reading it, there is definitely something deeply wrong with you.)
Like I said, I didn't say any of that. I hate making people feel bad. Who wants to be cornered? I assume if you clicked on this link, you're down with chatting about a vegan diet. And I'm not eating animals not to be holier than thou or to make other people feel bad about themselves, but because I myself don't want to feel bad. I don't know how much of a difference my own actions make in the grand face of climate change, not to mention global fires either directly or indirectly caused by modern agricultural practices, but I do know not eating animals makes me feel better. Both literally and figuratively.
I can already report that my bloating and digestive issues have vanished since I've switched to a plant-based diet (with the occasional vegetarian digression). Ever since I confronted the conundrum of my flexitarian status that confused night and just decided to go for it, instead of feeling restricted by my diet, instead, my life has improved as a whole. My mood. My sleeping. My skin. My recent weight gain reversed without once feeling like I was dieting since I'm eating three yummy, brightly-colored meals a day plus a snack and dessert. (I don't believe in dieting. Life is to be enjoyed. And diets don't work anyway.) That said, Ryan was still carrying a bunch of sympathy weight from my last pregnancy and couldn't fit into almost any of his suits. He was feeling frustrated, because the old-fashioned route of diet and exercise wasn't working at all. After six weeks of only eating vegan part-time, he's already lost 15 lbs. of the baby weight!
The key difference in our transformation to a veggie diet was not only the will but the way-- aka knowledge. It was watching a documentary called The Game Changers and learning some cogent facts about a plant-eating diet, namely that it is not inimical to an athletic program. It was realizing I now have a ton of veggie snacks in my arsenal/ plenty of options, and, most of all, it was making the decision to learn to cook. Ryan (still a flexitarian but eating more and more vegan meals) and I feel better about ourselves and about the planet. And according to a UN climate change report, even cutting back on animal protein means we're reducing our footprint by a whopping 40%.
Below are the five basic meals I've learned to cook in the past two months that have helped me keep up the change plus one of my favorite vegan snacks: a coconut yoghurt and dark chocolate chip banana split! These are all super easy recipes that even a kitchen klutz like myself had no problem following. (P.S. Don't forget the hot sauce.) Or check out my Pinterest page for more winter veggie comfort meals.
1. Easy spinach lasagna
2. Vegan slow-cooker chili (As we call it. You can also add Greek yoghurt and make it vegetarian.)
3. Vegan lentil stew (Slightly different version from the one I found on Instagram @plantbased.recipes but excited to try this equally budget-friendly & delicious version!)
4. Vegan jambalaya
5. *Cheesy cauliflower casserole
*The dish above rendered the smallest portion of the five basic meals I've learned to cook regularly. One of the nicest things about vegan, besides how budget-friendly and waist-friendly it's turned out to be, are the large portions from each dinner that can be safely stored all week! We're going to try a slow cooker version of the cauliflower casserole above next time instead: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/277917/slow-cooker-cheesy-cauliflower-casserole/
If you've also made the switch to a veggie diet, I'd love if you shared your own triggering moment. What caused you to make the switch? If you've been considering it, but haven't made up your mind either way, I'd also love to hear from you! And don't be shy: like I said, I'm not interested in making people feel badly. Unless you eat sweet, curious, brilliant octopuses. Then yep, I'm trying to make you feel bad. (Also, cool fact I learned from reading Sy's book: the plural is octopuses!)
Isabella & Ryan
This is the one section Isabella is currently collaborating on with another. She's learning to cook, while her husband is already an excellent chef. You can follow Ryan on Pinterest: @rmccaffr