Monday, November 28, 2011

Being Vegan

I celebrated Thanksgiving with family and friends.  It is a traditional American holiday filled with foods that I no longer eat that no longer have the same focus for me.  In the past, it meant gorging on unhealthy foods that made you feel lethargic afterwards and to be grateful to eat it among family and friends.  It was something I thought (along with millions of others) an event that actually seemed quite fun.  As I evolve, I realize that the meaning of this holiday has changed.  Now...for me... it is no longer fun to eat something that will not help in the grand scale of things.  Now...for be grateful is something that needs to be addressed per diem, not just on the last Thursday in November.  Now...for is a responsibility to eat kindly every is just part of being vegan.

First Raw Thanksgiving

1st Raw Thanksgiving
Marking the milestone as one year Raw approaches
Everyone around me had the traditional  animal by-product based meal.  It was something I did not wish to partake in.  As their meal was prepared, I worked, excitedly, to create my own raw meal.  My first raw meal at a table filled with just the opposite in both palate and guests.  As I put my dishes together, I rejoiced that I did not have to prepare myself mentally to be defensive for I was fortunate to be in the midst of those I love and who love me.   There was no judgment in the room.  The focus was on the ambiance and spending time together.  Afterwards, a wonderful thing happened.  One of the guests came up to me and began to ask questions regarding how to get started on a vegan path of their own.  Exuberant  and happy to assist,  I immediately gave him taste samples.  He was surprised at how "tasty" they were and that the food was "uncooked".  I gave him a bag of raw goodies to take home with a heart-felt promise to help him transition.  I am proud of the decision he has made for his health and quality of life.  My meal appealed to him and sparked inspiration.  For this, I am thankful.  I had carefully thought out the meal, wishing for an opportunity to speak about live foods, not realizing that this small wish would come true before the night ended.  This meal was special for me, it symbolized my gratitude as I look forward to next month in which I will celebrate, marking one year since converting to raw, live foods.  I was happy to express how my life has changed, and overjoyed to share my appreciation:

Yellow Squash Noodles with Cashew Cheese Sauce
Grate squash with a noodle maker or spiral vegetable slicer
Soak 2 cups raw cashews for 4 hrs, drain, puree in blender.  Add garlic and lemon juice to taste
Garnish with slithers of red pepper

Mushrooms Stuffed with Chopped Kale and Tomatoes
Core Mushrooms, stuff with chopped kale and diced tomatoes

Savory Corn Cakes
    Adapted from the recipe by Michael Lloyd-Billington, 
Yogi, raw chef, fitness instructor, and owner of Alternative Personal Training: 

                                4 c. sweet corn
                                1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
                                6 shittake mushrooms, finely chopped
                                2 shallots, finely minded
                                Juice of 1 lemon
                                1 t powdered rosemary * (adapted - substituted with sage; taste preference)
                                2 c. raw cashews, processed to light meal * (adapted -  I chopped cashews and added to mixture)
                                1 T olive oil * (adapted - omitted from my version)
                                Cracked black pepper & salt to taste * (adapted - omitted from my version)

Whisk lemon juice, oil & seasoning.  Pulse corn very, very lightly in food processor -- literally just 2 quick pulses--then fold in chopped ingredients & dressing.  Add just enough cashew meal to very lightly bind.  
Form into cakes & then very lightly dust with a little more meal.

Pureed Sweet Potatoes
Yes, you can eat raw sweet potatoes!

Banana Pudding
Puree 2 bananas, sprinkle with cinnamon

Wow.  It turned out to be a wonderful holiday.  It had changed yet stayed the same.  I enjoyed a wonderful meal with wonderful people.  As the day ended, one of the guests remarked that I looked different.  Hmm, I didn't think I looked different other than the obvious weight loss. As I thought about it though, I guess my look had changed, especially to those who haven't seen me in a while. Since my transition, my hair has grown, my nails are strong, my skin is clear, my smile is wide and my heart is happy - all because...I Am Vegan. I wondered...did I "look" vegan?

Faces of Vegan Project

What does being vegan look like? Lisa Viger,  photographer, vegan artist, chef, and author of the blog "Raw on $10 a Day (or Less!)"  who describes her work as "art : food : life" asked herself this very same thing.   She asked vegans to engage in her "Faces of Vegan Project" in which she set out to answer the question.  I, along with several friends, eagerly volunteered to participate and was honored to be included in the resulting video that was appropriately released on Thanksgiving Day:

What does being vegan look like? Vegans look like me and you, the man next door, the woman upstairs, the child playing in the yard outside.  There isn't a formula of what a vegan should look like as we all are walking through divergent points along our paths.  The passion though, is congruent - does this mean that vegans look "different" from those not vegan and the "same" as other vegans?  It's possible - perhaps that is what my guest sensed in me...the difference in my spirit and in the being of who I am now from that which I used to be.  I can not tell you what being vegan looks like. It is up to you to decide.  I can, however,  tell you what it being vegan feels like.   If these feelings flow from within the body and demonstrate themselves physically on outside, then I guess that what being vegan looks like is .....happy, beautiful, and free.  With that, as I reflected on the day, I wasn't far off tradition after all.  I had much to be grateful for - to Michael for sharing his recipe; to Lisa for putting together the video project; to the many people who have inspired and changed my life this past year; for enjoying a meal with family and friends; for the opportunity to rejoice in the prospect of helping someone transition; to being able to say openly, "I am proud, I am different, I am ... Vegan".

Yoga: Anjaneysana -
 Crescent or Low Lunge 

Anjaneysana, which strengthens balance, back, and legs, is practiced to stimulate the diaphragm and open the heart.  It's expansion and reach is also an expression of praise, abundance, joy and gratitude.

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