This article is composed of thoughts on my one week test run with veganism. As someone who believes life is about experiences, I realized taking the vegan trip was vital.
My eyes finally open. The curtains have too, but they’ve been that way all night. The rays of sun pour in and ruthlessly penetrate my pupils. After being awake for nearly two days, over the span of a party and two all-night clubbing sessions, my body is spent. On a normal Monday morning, I wake up at 7 a.m. to get ready for class. On this Monday, I am up at 7 a.m., yet my night is just coming to a close. The world is a beautiful place at this hour if you have not yet slept. Regardless, it is far past 7 a.m., I am still hung-over from a weekend of continuously stomping my liver, and most importantly, I am hungry…
My number-one hangover commandment is to wait until 5 p.m. to eat; otherwise, food merely resembles a $20 bill entered into a change machine upside down. But today, commandments are irrelevant. It is the first of the most miserable month of the year and only a greasy breakfast can satisfy the thirty-day hangover that November brings. I rush to the cafeteria, wearing the clothes still caked onto my body from the night before, to make the impending breakfast deadline. Crashing through the double doors of Bishop Mountain Hall, I swagger into the food section just in time to fill my tray. I spot the elusive hot foods spread, and weigh my options. Sausage, eggs, French toast, and a couple others which I tend to ignore. What normally would be an ideal breakfast is instantly shattered however, by a sudden realization. I stare in confusion at the food as the sight of what I’ve come to think of as options are covered by locks. Jesus! What’s happening? Am I still intoxicated? I expected a green fairy, not a Masterlock. Regardless of my all-night clubbing habit, these locks are merely symbolic of the newfound element of my life: veganism.
I have not even begun to select my meal, and yet I can feel the limitations of a vegan diet spreading through my mind. On a morning like this, I would normally manage to utter a few grunts, and the cafeteria ladies, used to this often indecipherable Monday freshman code, would plop some food on my plate. However, this morning, I am forced to think – normally not that difficult a task. Yet in relation to food, it’s a rather newfound concept. I’ve become accustomed to the rez food process, and what it entails for someone like me. By this I mean that my weight is of no concern to me, I have no diet, and no restriction on what to consume besides whatever appeals to my appetite. And of course with a meal plan, I cook absolutely nothing, so ingredients and calories don’t concern me. But this morning, I have to think. Is this from an animal? Is anything in it from an animal? These three criteria reduce my options greatly. I eventually decide upon soy milk, a couple of grape fruits, watermelon, and strawberries.
This option bodes well, as I tend to feel freshened by consuming fruit in the morning, and have since incorporated far more – namely grapefruit – into my diet. As I sit at a caf table and cut my grapefruit, avoiding the projectiles of juice emanating from it, I think. My political theory TA told me the class would take over my mind. At first I thought he was crazy, yet now I understand.
In a paper for this class, we are expected to construct a thesis based upon a logical progression of premises. Counterarguments, of course, should be included in the paper, and the best ones attack the first premise, the most important leg of the chair. I realize that I would like to view myself as a fairly curious individual. I like to know why. I don’t like to take things at face value, and I like to ask questions. This would be my argument. Yet only a few hours in this vegan experience have led me to realize the major flaw in my argument. One of my premises is off. For me to even be able to have an argument, I need to be alive. To be alive, I need food and beverages. Yet I have ignored something so essential to my wellbeing. I like to analyze political decisions and views. Yet thus far, I have skipped analyzing food.
My quick stint with veganism has taught me that food can be, and really is, an extremely political subject. For many, the manner in which one lives one’s life is the most political thing about oneself. I have a great number of political views, yet often do not act upon them. Veganism, in contrast, is acting on one’s views in the most explicit way. Of course, not all vegans choose the lifestyle for social reasons, but for many, it plays a factor. If one is opposed to animals being mistreated, abstaining from using animals or animal products in any way is a logical political action. Holy Shit! Vegans incorporate their views into their life in such an essential way. In a world of loudmouth coffee shop revolutionaries, constantly blabbering about what’s wrong with the world but continuing to pour gasoline on the inferno of rapidly spreading issues, vegans have the commitment to embody what they want to accomplish. In this sense, though I do not intend on becoming a vegan in the near future, I admire their principles.
This realization was the main benefit of my experience as a vegan. It is hard to understand how much of an impact the choice makes on your life, as well as just how difficult it is to do, and to do well. With my dive into the depths of veganism, I was not prepared with the knowledge that I would assume most who want to be vegans acquire before they take the plunge. I did no research on how to sustain a healthy vegan lifestyle.
For the span of the week, it was worth it. But, my body felt the lack of research by the third day. My stomach hurt, and my body felt weak. I am sure that this is due to the quick jump from eating anything to just eating non-animal products, or to the diet issues brought on by my lack of research. I wouldn’t place the feelings on veganism itself. Beyond the physical discomfort, I also felt far hungrier. At times I felt frantic, running around the campus drastically searching for food to satisfy my appetite.
One notable experience came at the Subway on campus. I had done my research and discerned that the Veggie Delight option, with no cheese, on Italian bread, met the vegan standards. So I ordered it. The man making the sandwich asked me if I really wanted no cheese a couple of times, as if he did not believe me. After I assured him no cheese was wanted, he stopped, gave a look of utter despair, and muttered, “That’s depressing.” When I think about the reasons for becoming a vegan, the decision certainly wasn’t depressing. However when I sank my teeth in the sandwich, and was still incredibly hungry after it had vanished, my taste buds and appetite were more depressed than ever.
As the week came to an end, I craved meat more than anything. The famous smoked meat sandwiches at Schwartz’s appeared in my dreams several times throughout my experience. It felt natural to have the “fat” sandwich as my initiation back into the world of the omnivore. As I plastered my sandwich with unusually large amounts of mustard, I thought about the week. I concluded that it is unlikely that I will become a vegan, at this point, or in the future as I know it.
The type of dietary and lifestyle change required to become a vegan takes a great deal of commitment, which for me, would require a raging passion toward the issue at hand. I have not yet found that passion. To be fair, I have not done much research on the matter. I certainly will now, however, as the experience has gotten me interested in veganism, at least in an academic sense. An article was brought to my attention which claimed that vegetarians and vegans are more empathetic than omnivores, which leads them to make their dietary choices. I believe this to be true, and place my decision not to adopt the vegan lifestyle almost solely on that concept. I have not developed the passion which would allow me to make such a drastic alteration in my lifestyle. Yet, all it took to return to my omnivore routine was the thought of the uniquely appetizing hallmark of Schwartz’s.
The time for veganism in my existence is not yet here, but this experience has led me to believe that if my soul is heading in the direction of veganism, it has increased its pace…
Davide Mastracci is a U0 Arts student. His article originally started as a project for theveganomaly.com, a website devoted to veganism. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.