Q: Hey Erika, I often wondered about becoming a vegetarian. In college I tried it but I still consumed dairy products. Anyway to make things short I’m actually thinking of trying the PETA 30-day challenge. Just wondering if you know of Black vegetarians?
A: Not only do they exist, but they write books about being Black vegetarians (or, in this case, vegans.)
I have long stretches of time where I desire absolutely no meat or dairy, and spend my days eating like a vegan. I have stretches of time where I spend my days eating like a raw vegan, where I don’t cook diddly squat. I just.. don’t want meat in my system. And, because protein (the primary thing most people whine about when it comes to vegetarians and vegans) is plentiful outside of animal by-product (regardless of what anyone else may tell you), I do just fine. (I also have random days where I require – yes, require – buffalo wings, and hell hath rain down upon he who denies me them.)
The choice to become vegetarian is a personal one and while we could talk about the pleasures of a vegetable-based diet, the benefits of having a diet that’s infused with veggies in place of meats and (not to mention) the animal rights aspect, I’m personally not going to do so. I don’t think that’s something that should be sold to you by a person with an agenda, and I don’t think it should be anyone’s task to sell you on something you need conviction to pursue. What I do think, however, is that you should do a lot of researching regarding how to make a meat-light or meat-free lifestyle one that works for you.
I also think that it should be noted that it is okay to eat meals that don’t include meat. I’m not sure where this “if there’s no meat, then its not a meal” mentality came from, but there are plenty of damned good meals out there that don’t include meat and will leave you feeling beyond satisfied. The meatless/meat-free lifestyle, when pursued with intent and effort, can be just as satisfying as any other, and it is backed by the fact that you not only know your stuff but you are fully comfortable with your decision… not just doing it to lose weight only to go back to eating meat once you’ve gotten the body you wanted. The more I read about my ancestors and their eating habits, the more I realize that, no, every meal didn’t have to have meat… partially because they couldn’t afford it back then but also because it was unnecessarily excessive. Meat at every meal nowadays is simply another form of excess we participate in in this country, and it should be made clear that we don’t have to eat like that.
I don’t say these things to frighten you or scare you off of vegetarianism, but I do say them so that anyone who wants to dabble in veggie-based lifestyles can make a choice that they’re comfortable living with. I shared my story of giving up red meat (for no other reason than that I simply didn’t want to eat it anymore) as a teen, and while it’s all jokes now, it was definitely war back then. Not just with my Mom, but with myself. It’s hard going against what you’ve always known – be it a meat-heavy lifestyle or a lifestyle that contributed to weight gain – but you absolutely can make it happen with intent and effort.
If you decide to do the PETA 30-Day Vegan Challenge, be sure to check out Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul, which is a pretty dope cookbook. This way, if you get stuck, you’ll have a stash of flavorful recipes on hand to try. Best of luck to you in your endeavors, and remember that there’s tons of resources out there (and here!) if you need ’em.
Let her know, y’all – are you a Black vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, pollotarian, non-omnivorous something, anything? If so, why? How’d you make the change? How has it affected you?