The Veganista’s Kitchen is a website dedicated to the vegan lifestyle, a lifestyle that you can take with you, anywhere in the world, and not have to worry about having to compromise your beliefs. It isn’t just for the vegan however, as it can benefit anyone with an interest in finding new recipes, travel, and general information about living a healthier, greener lifestyle. It is also designed to be a companion website for my books, Recipes From The Kitchen Of A Self-Proclaimed Veganista and the upcoming Vegan Wanderlust: Your Guide To Being Vegan Anywhere In The World! (due to be released in the near future-stay tuned!).
A little about me: I have never been a huge fan of meat or fish or poultry or even milk (only used it on cold cereal). I was probably destined to become a more compassionate consumer as a result of my less than enthusiastic relationship with animal derived ingredients-it just took me a while to fully realize it. I gave up all pork products at the age of 8 due to a sensitivity to preservatives, particularly nitrites, which are used in pretty much all cured meat products. Something about nitrites (and actually sulfites too) triggers a response in my nervous system to set off a severe hemiplegic migraine attack. At the time, I didn’t know what was going on – I’d slowly lose my vision, half my body would go into paralysis, and then excruciating pain would set in. Eventually my vision would return and the paralysis would go away, but the pain lingered for no less than 24 hours and on occasion, it would torment me for as long as an entire month.
I didn’t make the connection until one day there was nothing to eat in the house except peanut butter and hot dogs. I took a big scoop of peanut butter, ate that, and then chased it down with a hot dog (terrible combination, I know). Within minutes of ingesting the hot dog, I knew then that I would never eat cured meat products again in my life. At the age of 12 I decided that I no longer wanted to eat red meat. It was partially a textural thing, but I wasn’t a big fan of the taste and I was tired of having to chew it so much because it made my jaws hurt. A good enough reason to never eat it again. At the age of 15, I decided to give up meat entirely. I found out about factory farms and how horribly treated the animals were.
Dairy is basically the by-product of the veal industry, and I should have given up all dairy after discovering this, but it isn’t as easy as some would have you believe. It was really difficult to get away from because it is found in so many things. For example, misnamed “non-dairy creamer” contains casein in it, which is a milk-derived protein. Just because there are miniscule amounts in there doesn’t mean it should be qualified to be called non-dairy. For me, it was probably cheese that was especially hard to phase out, so I am glad that there are new and better vegan substitutes being discovered and invented every day! (As I love my enchiladas and lasagne & nachos, grilled “cheese” sandwiches and even vegan mac ‘n’ cheese).
At the same time, I became an avid animal rights activist. I thought I was the only vegetarian in my entire school, but now I find out that many of my high school friends have become vegetarian (and some are even vegan now) as a result of my activism all those years ago. I guess they did pay attention to what I was saying afterall 🙂 I was voted “Most Likely To Save The World”, which probably isn’t too far from the truth. I strongly believe that one person does make a difference in the world, and every little thing someone does leads to something bigger as a whole. I was lacto-ovo vegetarian for the first 6 months, then lacto-vegetarian for the next six years.
I did a fair amount of cooking throughout high school at home, and all my own cooking during my poor college student years. Although commercially available vegan substitutes for things like meat & cheese & milk were available, many were really horrible and also too expensive to purchase on a regular basis for a student only working part time earning minimum wage. As a result, most things I had to make completely from scratch because non-vegan counterparts just were either too expensive or not available commercially on a regular basis in my area. The biggest obstacle in going from lacto-vegetarian to vegan was finding products without dairy-derived ingredients. Otherwise I know I would have made the change much sooner. Dairy is everywhere and it really doesn’t need to be.
Being forced to make everything from scratch was a good thing though, as it improved my cooking skills considerably. Everything tasted better than what I could purchase an equivalent for at the store, and I could control all the ingredients that went into the final product to suit my own tastes rather than what the commercial producers thought my tastebuds would prefer… It hasn’t been the easiest lifestyle, being a vegan, but I have to tell you, it really made an astronomical difference in my life and how I perceive the world. I love to travel, and finding vegan-friendly places to eat is quite a challenge. Eating out all the time is both expensive and probably not all that healthy.
When I travel, I like to find places that are self-catering, where the option is there to prepare my own meals. This way, there are no surprises, no disappointments (and no grouchy husbands). The main perk in all of this is how it opens up the opportunity to live like the locals do, by visiting all the local markets and being able to experience everyday life wherever in the world we happen to be. Traveling as if you are a local is far more of a rewarding and memorable experience than being just another tourist. As this blog develops and grows, I want to include photos and videos of all the recipes I have created as well as tips and tricks to be able to rely on what you can get locally anywhere in the world. I try to stick with ingredients that are available pretty much anywhere; for ingredients that are not available everywhere, I will offer up substitutions that can be used in in their place. If you happen to live someplace that doesn’t have certain ingredients, let me know what those are and will do my best to find suitable substitutions for your area.
Thanks for checking out The Veganista’s Kitchen!