Musings On A Year Without Cheese

A quick recap: I went vegetarian in '94 and over the years phased out eating gelatin, buying leather, and cut way down on eggs and dairy. Toward the end of 2009 I decided to stop making excuses to myself and just go vegan.

Never imagined I'd do it, but it's now 1.5 years later and I've settled into it just fine. Not only am I not huddled in a corner in an anemic coma, but I'm better for it. I upped my fitness level, maintained tons of energy and even passed my iron test with flying colors the last time I donated blood.

It's been a great first year, though I definitely did the research and put forth effort into eating a mostly clean, balanced diet without an overt amount of meat substitutes or processed foods (and I'm taking B-12 supplements like a good vegan should). Over the last 12 months I've gone on all sorts of culinary adventures, gotten (even) better at cooking and creating recipes, spent less at the grocery store (bulk section is a must), and lost several pounds without trying that hard.

Sure, there are downsides. The main one is that I rarely get to eat dessert out. I run one of the most vegan-friendly dessert stops in town but most restaurants haven't given a second thought to having vegan or lactose-free options. Yet, I managed to keep vegan everywhere I went, surviving even the food court at Dadeland with a decently palatable Middle Eastern plate of falafel, hummus and tabouleh, and a soy milk-based smoothie for dessert.

A few of my friends have even started practicing "vegan solidarity" -- eating vegan when they're with me (because they know it'll be good) and going back to their regular vegetarian or omnivore diets when they're not. Years ago I said I'd never go vegan because fundamentalist anything always rubbed me the wrong way.  Still I did it because it felt right, and I generally tried to make it as little of an issue as possible when eating out.

The other night my friend came over for lazy Monday evening Netflixin'. We enjoyed a vegan pizza with melty, stretchy faux cheese, and followed it up with mocha almond fudge soy ice cream with thick ribbons of fudge and huge chunks of almonds. If you think vegans are suffering or deprived in the slightest these days, you are mistaken.

I know veganism is trendy right now. So what. For every person that reduces their meat/dairy/egg intake for whatever reason, cruelty is reduced, resources are more efficiently distributed, factory farms feel more pressure to change their ways (even if it's only coming from their shareholders), and fewer creatures suffer. As Martha Stewart -- who just did her first fully-vegan episode -- would say, that's a good thing.

There is now a Meatless Miami Facebook page. Please go drop a "like" for more recipes, news links, food photos and vege-centric tips and musings.

Follow Short Order on Facebook and Twitter @Short_Order.

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