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What is The “V” Word?

 -an excerpt from The “V” Word Cookbook

Prior to the summer of 2008, I had never even heard of the “V” word. Now it’s not only a word I use hundreds of times each day but one that I have found elicits a wide range of reactions from people: from pride to shame, from welcoming to fear, from knowing to ignorance, from admiration to disgust, from happiness to anger. I always knew words were powerful but it amazes me every single day to see the impact, whether positive or negative, of this little, two-syllable word – Vegan.

If you look up the word “vegan,” you will find several similar, yet slightly different, definitions. However, they share the same theme: vegans are “strict” vegetarians; vegans seek not to consume or use animal products of any kind; veganism is not just a diet but also a lifestyle. For me, the learning process was so much more than these definitions. I will tell my story in the next two chapters but for now, I want to say that I love, love, love being a vegan!

So many people I know are afraid to tell their families and friends they are vegan (or vegetarian) for fear of being rejected, laughed at or criticized. They hide their veganism, which, to me, is sad and makes no sense. Why should anyone hide their compassion while the majority of the world engages in cruelty right out in the open? People I know have made jokes, felt the need to stick their meat-filled sandwiches in my face the way a child would dangle a scary spider in front of someone, and have tried to argue the facts (“how do you know plants don’t suffer?”) Others have admitted they know the animals suffer but they do not want to “really know” because then they will have to do something about it. I have told waiters and friends I am vegetarian or vegan only to be asked whether I eat fish or chicken. Yet other people have shown me respect and acceptance, happily eating at vegan restaurants with me, delighting in the colorful bounty of delicious, cruelty-free food.

Other people protest that vegans are too thin, don’t get the proper nutrients and eat nothing but grass. They claim (while having never tried it) that vegan food is bland, tasteless and could never be indulgent. Meanwhile, these people are eating the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) filled with fat, sodium, sugar, chemicals and empty calories. Most of them don’t know what is in the food they are eating. More adults and children are obese than ever before and these same people who are worried vegans aren’t getting the proper nutrition are dying of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses. I used to be one of those people but eating a plant-based diet completely changed my health and my life.

I am proud of being vegan. I wear t-shirts and buttons that proclaim my veganism. My office has posters, signs, and pamphlets about choosing compassion. While I try not to impose my beliefs on others, I silently pray someone will ask me why I am not eating meat, dairy or eggs so I can proudly state, “I AM A VEGAN.” They might reply with “you’re a what?” and that just gives me an opportunity to teach someone the “V” word that I learned not so long ago.

Becoming a vegan is my proudest accomplishment. It has given my life a new sense of purpose and direction. It has taught me responsibility – to myself, to the animals and to the planet. It transformed the way I look, the way I feel and the way I live.  I want others to feel that same way.

I started my blog, The “V” Word, in August 2009. The name came from a conversation I had with a friend about writing a book. She suggested that I not use the word “vegan” in the title because the book would never sell. Either people wouldn’t know what the word meant or they would be turned off by it. That saddened me to think that “vegan” was considered a bad word, a word to avoid. If I wanted to write a successful book, I had to not use the “V” word.

I decided that The “V” Word was the perfect name for my blog. I wanted to help bring the “V” word into the mainstream and let vegan voices speak out loud and proud! The blog was a place for me to write my thoughts about veganism and post recipes. As I posted more recipes, the blog took off and became very popular. My recipes showed up on well-known web sites, in articles alongside those of famous vegan chefs, and even published in the cookbook of a famous TV cooking show personality. People kept urging me to write a cookbook which brings me to this point.

This book is a representation of my journey in veganism, particularly in food. Chapter 1 describes my vegan journey and Chapter 2 describes my health journey. When you read them, you will see some parts of the stories repeated. As they are really two facets of my total journey, they are intertwined and so the stories overlap. However, my first motivation has always been and will always be the animals. Whatever your motivation is, I hope that I can be of some help to you along your own journey. Most of all, I hope The “V” Word becomes a positive and proud part of your vocabulary, your food and your life.


 The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.



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