I’ve written here before about the carefree approach I had to food in my 20s: I ate and drank with abandon, just shy of gluttony, with a penchant for trying new cuisine in new places (thus, I went on a month-long, semi-solo sojourn to India to try the food). I come from expert meat-grillers, and the art of the old-school, dairy brunch that could render a person immobile for two days was not lost on me. Didn’t everyone’s grandparents put sour cream in cottage cheese with dill and radishes?
And then, in my 30s, I married an awesome guy who happens to have always kept kosher. That we would keep kosher wasn’t necessarily written into the ketubah (marriage contract), but an agreement we made that I was, and am, just fine with honoring. I missed cheeseburgers, and now don’t really even give them a thought, like an old boyfriend I know in hindsight was a lot of fun, but bad for me.
Now I am 40. As do most people when they celebrate a major birthday, I took stock of who I’ve been and who I am becoming. Apparently, this person includes being a kosher, vegan, Buddhist Jew (more on that to come).
My journey to veganism began with my doctor’s recommendation when I kvetched to her that I wanted to feel better about my body, baby weight be damned, and I wanted to have more energy to play with my kids. But mostly it was about baby weight and feeling dumpy.
That same week, a friend posted on Facebook that having kept kosher all his life, he’d decided that buying organic food and eating in an ecologically-responsible way was, to him, the “new kosher.” (As I’ve mentioned before, the foundation of being kosher is to be mindful of what and how we consume. Traditionally, this means that one who keeps kosher cannot purchase or eat food that isn’t properly hechsured, or properly supervised and approved by Rabbinic counsel.) His post went right to my nerve center. It makes sense that the dietary laws that once kept the Jews from succumbing to disease and food poisoning are due for a makeover.
According to Dr. LindaJoy Rose, while eating some meat, eggs, and dairy is considered to be part of a sustainable diet for most, the vast majority of people in developed countries can benefit by reducing their meat intake to some degree and also greatly reduce their carbon, water, and ecological footprints by replacing a portion of their animal based proteins with plant sourced ones.
If a plant-based diet is an ecologically-responsible one, then my act of eating is a small contribution to Tikkun Olam. I may be oversimplifying things a bit here, but at least I can look a cow in the eye.
Just as good, though, is veganism’s physiological benefits. I feel good, my skin is happy, my body isn’t as bloated, and–YES–the baby weight is coming off. I’ll always love food, but now, I can love myself a little more than before.
So at 40, I am a practicing Kosher vegan. Mayim assures us that you can find vegan options anywhere in the world, so the next time I travel abroad… well, let’s hope I don’t fall off the wagon. Seriously, Mayim? I don’t know how you resisted le petit cookies in Paris, but you’ll continue to inspire me Stateside.
Meat, I loved you once, and think of you fondly sometimes. But I have a new squeeze. It’s earthy and always available for me. And it loves me back.