I was born into a family of Southerners who ate meat at every meal. We usually started with fried pork for
breakfast. When I was in my middle twenties, I went to a Yoga potluck and was introduced to Vegetarianism.
I think I was so toxic that the aroma of their food sickened me, and after I was served, I actually was afraid
to taste anything. Instead, I hid my plate of food under a potted plant and left. But fate stepped in suddenly,
and I found myself living next door to a pasture near San Luis Obispo. That first morning I accidentally
looked deeply into the eyes of a cow. I heard myself say, “I've been eating you--oh I am so sorry!” From that
moment on, I never touched another piece of flesh of any kind, not even fish. I guess you could call it going
“cold turkey.” (That was in 1969.)
After my life-transforming experience with the cow, I promptly walked into my first health food store and
bought everything new and strange in sight, including Soy granules. It was fun spending hours in the kitchen
experimenting with different recipes for my roommates who were surprised that they really liked the food. I
included cheese and eggs, so it wasn't that foreign to me. With all the Soy “meats”, I honestly never craved
animal flesh again. Whenever I wanted a BLT, I used a great bacon substitute from the Worthington product
line of vegetarian foods.
For about 10 years I kept cheese and eggs in my diet. Then I began changing to Soy cheese, but still eating
eggs. Eight years ago, (1999) I became a Vegan. My body naturally stopped desiring eggs. In fact, every time
I would eat one, I had digestion problems. Then a boyfriend told me eggs are very hard to digest and that was
my letting-go point for eggs.
Being a Vegan has been socially challenging, especially now that I live in Reno, Nevada. I know it makes
people here feel awkward when they invite me over; they don't know what to serve. Also, because this society
is utterly dependent on animal products being included in almost everything from main course to dessert;
people are at a loss in preparing vegan food. I find it utterly astounding that this is occurring around me
considering that half of the world is Vegetarian. It seems like some sort of desperation for so many to keep
feeding on these animals. Yet, in my own experience and in others I have heard about, there is a spiritual
awakening to be realized from weaning oneself away (from meat and dairy). I feel lighter in my body and
mentally much more perceptive. Only once in a blue moon do I become ill. People say, “It's flu season.” I say,
“It's too much dairy around the holidays.” I feel sad that friends don't understand what is making them sick.
Last summer I tried to eat a meal with cheese because the restaurant accidentally gave me some on my dish. I
couldn't eat more than a morsel. It just tasted too gross. Once you get away from it, you can actually taste it's
from an animal. I have crossed over the mountain and feel it is impossible for me ever to go back to eating
meat or dairy.
I am now raising my granddaughter, Erika, (she's almost 10) who has been a Vegetarian all her life, because I
raised her mother, Charla, that way. Bless her; she held to it all her life. As a baby, Erika was allergic to dairy
so I thought that was a blessing. But my daughter did begin to allow some dairy after awhile because with all
the birthday parties and play dates, it became too difficult for her to be that rigid. And Erika, as she began to
mature, wanted to be more “normal.”
Last year, when my daughter died and I began raising Erika, I inherited a child who was attached to the taste
of eggs and dairy. Now that she is older she doesn't seem to be as sensitive so I am allowing both eggs and
dairy, as I don't want her to feel deprived. But my goal is to eventually move her away from animal products.
I am proud of Erika because she understands what it means to eat meat and she always tells the servers at
restaurants she is a Vegetarian as well as informing parents when she is a guest in their home. Since she was
so young, I didn’t want to pursue the vegan path just yet. I didn't want to show her the photos of how badly
abused the animals are even for their by-products like milk and eggs. I still want her to have a childhood of
not knowing the horrors of the world.
When Erika and I first came to live together last year, I insisted she drink fresh juice in the morning: I started
with cucumber, then slowly added celery, parsley and sunflower greens. At first she was upset and annoyed. I
just kept being persistent about how the juice went immediately into her body cells and would help her brain,
teeth and bones. Sometimes she would yell, "I don't care!" It was a struggle and there were times I wondered
if I was doing the right thing. At first, when I added the parsley, she said she felt like she was going to throw
up. It took a lot of teaching and coaching to get her to see the benefits. I knew I had won though, when a
parent told me Erika proudly shared at her house that she was now, “juicing,” for her health! I don't know if
it's a coincidence, but she hasn't been ill this last year even once, whereas I remember over the years her
being so sick that a few times she was on antibiotics. Erika was always infected with something a couple of
times in the winter. Aside from the juice, we eat a lot of raw food, big salads and lots of broccoli, spinach, etc.
I also grow the tops of carrots and turnips and other kinds of sprouts like Fenugreek and we add those to our
salads. I have just this week added the Omega 3-6-9 oils to her diet. What has also been difficult is that Erika
lived on a lot of microwave processed foods before, and was used to that kind of taste. She has been upset
overall by how different her diet is living with me, but I decided not to cave in, I just kept going-feeding her
what I thought was best while adding a few foods from her former life. I notice she rarely says anything now.
Not like she's resigned, more like she is used to the tastes. I also make delicious, organic desserts. One day we
were at a birthday party and there was this awful white flour, white sugar cake from the grocery store. I
whispered to her, “If you don't eat it, we can make a healthy one later.” She agreed. When we got home we
made the healthier cake together. Once she tasted it, she squealed, “Grandma I get it, we just trade up!”
That is our new catch phrase, our little inside joke; we “trade up.” Erika also watches all of her friend's
parents cave in by giving them anything they want. And she notices how they are all ill frequently. Their
parents will say, “Oh Johnny had a runny nose and he was around my kids.” It's always about these germs
flying around, never a thought about white sugar, meat and dairy. One little girl in L.A. will only eat pasta,
steak and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Several children had a conversation about her and said that
her mom is being manipulated! They actually used that word and understood completely what it meant, joked
about what a "sucker" her mom was to be so afraid to be stronger, and insist her daughter eat healthier.
Erika's uncle, Christopher (my son), now an adult has shared with me that he respected me for always feeding
him so well. He once came home from school, opened the refrigerator and said, “Thumbs up, Mom, for
having such wholesome foods for me to eat. When I go to my friend's houses there is nothing in their fridge to
eat--it's all junk.” I appreciated that a lot. To this day he honors me for being strict with his nutrition. I
believe that most kids want their parents to be stronger when it comes to their health, but parents are afraid
their child won't love them if they don't cave in and feed them whatever they desire, which is usually depleted,
dead food. I had a similar experience with Erika: A few months ago I overheard her sharing with a couple of
her other nine-year-old friends who were sitting in a circle in our living room: “My grandma won't allow
meat in our house and she, herself, is a complete Vegan.” Erika was sitting properly straight and her tone
sounded reverent and solid. The children were wide-eyed and listening, like it was a fairy tale. I remember
thinking, “Wow! It really is about being an example and all the talk in the world won't give you that.” I felt
content knowing in that moment that even if my granddaughter doesn't express anything to me up front, she
is proud of the stand I have taken.