I've had the pleasure of knowing Val for quite some time now. We met online and connected almost immediately. The more we got to know each other, the more we realized just how much we had in common. Although we've yet to meet in person, I already consider her to be one of my greatest friends. She's a dedicated wife and mother, awesome vegan cook and photographer, a voice for the animals, a reliable friend and an overall beautiful person inside and out!
What do you do for a living? Tell me a bit about yourself.
I'm a German national stay-at-home mom of two children, 10 & 7 years old, and happily married to my soul mate, a US Navy man. We've been stationed overseas in Sicily, Italy for the past 4 four years, but will be returning to the US next spring, which we're all looking forward to! We have two indoor cats, who were both rescued by us. They're my furry children! ;)
How long have you been a vegan? What made you decide to go vegan?
I've been a vegan for a little over one year now. In May 2011 I finally decided to go vegan after having been vegetarian for over five years prior. I actually tried being vegan right off the bat after having read "The Skinny Bitch" (and bawling my eyes out over the description of those poor animals being treated so horribly!), but I didn't take the time to really inform myself thoroughly enough and when we came shortly after to Italy, I found it easier to be "only" vegetarian....
What changed it for me was the fact that I kept reading more and more things about the dairy industry as well as the egg industry and realized I couldn't live with myself in good conscience any longer, consuming eggs and diary while at the same time claiming to be vegetarian out of compassion for the animals! It just seemed too hypocritical.
Do you find it difficult to be vegan?
Quite honestly, sometimes yes! But only due to our location. Sicily/Italy is not really open for anything vegetarian, not to mention vegan! If you're out for dinner and mention you don't eat meat, you only get weird looks. If you then claim that you also don't eat eggs or anything dairy, it just adds another notch of weirdness!
But aside from the obstacles one might face while being out, certain things are just not readily available, or some not even at all. While I'm not a big fan of anything "fake," I'd love to at least have the option to try some faux cheeze that you have in the US or Canada for example! It just doesn't exist here. Soy yogurts are hard to find and often it's just pain or only offered in one flavor (and on top of that, very expensive). Not to imagine finding vegan ice cream, other than maybe vanilla soy. I'm just very lucky to have access to the US base with US products where some of them are vegan (Silken tofu comes to mind, as well as the water packed one, which sells like hot cakes, as well as soy and thankfully almond milk). Due to our military address, I can order many things as well, like nutritional yeast for example.
Of course there's the bright side of having the option of finding fresh produce at the markets as well as beans and grains, so it's not really that bad. But I'll admit, I look forward to getting back to the US and getting my hands on all of those wonderful vegan things I haven't even tried yet!
What kind of reactions do you get from people when they find out you are vegan?
Truthfully, so far I haven't really gotten any big positive reactions. Most people immediately claim that animals exist for us to eat them (which upsets me greatly to hear those kind of statements and I try to respond accordingly, depending on the situation, as I don't want to start a heated debate), or they just shrug their shoulders as if they'd like to say, "Your loss."
I think many times people just want to keep their blinders on and not be confronted with the people who actually try and make a change because it might make them feel bad that they don't? I'm not sure! Also there are some vegans out there who are very hardcore and can give quite the "holier than thou" attitude. That alone can be intimidating and off-putting to omnivores (but also to vegetarians)!
What are your favorite dishes?
I absolutely love any kind of soup with a fresh homemade bread, but also a big homemade veggie pizza or pasta dish. Basically, anything that spells comfort food! Isa Chandra's Mac n' Shews is something I could eat on a weekly basis! I'm a big carboholic and not afraid of it! =)
What are your favorite vegan products?
Hmm...I'm not actually sure! I like what cashews can do in sauces and I love my nutritional yeast sprinkled on anything from popcorn to veggies to pasta! I also love the versatility of Silken tofu, being able to use it in sweet dishes as well as savory ones, or even creating condiments with it. I'm sure once we're back in the US, I might add some more favorites to the list!
What would you like to tell people who are considering switching to a plant-based diet?
Don't worry about making the switch 100 percent right away. Start slowly, inform yourself, and do as best as you can. It if seems overwhelming to suddenly quit eating meat, dairy as well as eggs, try limiting one thing at time little by little, until you're ready to give it all up for good! Most importantly, don't beat yourself up if you realize you ate something that contained hidden diary or eggs. It happens. Move on and remind yourself that you're doing a great job. Don't get discouraged! Living vegan is basically going back to our original roots; grains, beans legumes & fruit! It doesn't mean complicated.
To find out more about Val's vegan lifestyle and her delicious vegan recipes, you can follow her blog, A Cowhugger's Life.
Photo credit: Val