Being Consumerically Vegan

Becoming Mostly Consumerically Vegan

Though after watching the brutality of the violence against animals, becoming consumerically-vegan wasn’t a rash decision.

I have entertained and cultivated this idea for a really long time, and my understanding has evolved to the point where I feel like now’s the time. 

Now what does being “consumerically-vegan” mean?  It just means that I try not to buy products that use animals.  It means that I will still eat meat if its around, but I just won’t buy it.  We do not want to support the industry.  But in eating contexts where there is a lot of socializing such as family parties or with friends, we don’t really want to waste what has already been killed, so we will eat whatever they’re eating.

The first time I heard of Veganism was during my first year at UC Santa Cruz.  It was a big kid named Nils who took a lot of apples from the dining hall to brew beer in his dorm room.

Vegetarianism was one thing.  Fairly understandable if not untenable, at least to my 18-year old, son of a Filipino immigrant-grow-up in LA-mind.  Fairly understandable because I understood that OK, you just sit around all day and stuff yourself with leafy lettuce and tomatoes all day.  OK, that’s cool, for hippies.

But Veganism to me when I first heard about it was a little extreme.  Sitting around all day, stuffing yourself with leafy lettuce and tomatoes while also making sure that anything you eat has no milk, eggs, cheese --- dairy products.   Hippie.  Extremism.

To me it just seemed like way too much trouble.  Why go out of your way?  What’s one less dead animal?

A few days ago, I joined the hippie extremist part of my 18-year old mind.  31-year old going on 32-year old me has decided to become a consumerist-vegan.  A “consumerist-vegan” meaning I just try to actively not buy any animal products. 

I come in with the idea that I control my wallet better than I control my appetite.  So if I curb the spending and choose not to spend on meat, then it will not be available, and I won’t have any choice but to eat anything without animal products.

What had appeared to be a lot of rules and restrictions about what I could eat has now become something I’ve simply decided just not to actively seek out.

What’s Helped Me Make This Choice?

A lot of things have fallen into place over the years.

First and foremost, I was strongly inspired by the visual of what happens to animals.  Seeing videos of brutality against the animals drove the point home.

On a Saturday night in January, my wife and I had actually just come home with a meal from our favorite burger joint in Wilmington.  Not exactly a vegan-friendly establishment though I never looked past their fish sandwich and fries.

Per Saturday night, we watched a Netflix movie, of three people considering Veganism being coached up to become Vegan.  I thought the host of the movie was kind of self-absorbed and smug, but her movie did pack a few punches.  One, she showed the naked brutality of the treatment of cows, chickens, etc.  Two, she showed the foods that were “accidentally Vegan.”

There was a time in my life as a cynical prick-ish teenager when I wouldn’t be as disturbed by the contents of a documentary, but I guess a lot more life experience and regard for life has grown, so has the pull to make such a dramatic lifestyle change.

Secondly, we’ve each experimented with the lifestyles of Vegetarianism.  She more than me.  She actually was Vegetarian for a relatively long time.  She started eating meat while at the convent because it was the only food offered, and they made her feel bad. 

Me, I ate Vegetarian meals because of who I happened to be dating.  Girlfriends #2 and #3 were/probably still are vegetarians.  They didn’t try to force me into it, and I wasn’t at all interested when I was dating either.  I was just waiting for the times when I could eat meat.  However, from girlfriend #2, I learned about the Vegetarian-ish foodscape particularly in central LA, and from girlfriend #3, I learned about the concept of the foodscape, with which I am actively analyzing and deconstructing; more of that below.

Thirdly, little trinkets of conversation over the years to help me little by little come to the realization that Veganism was a mindset that I could actually attain.

I realized that eating vegan wasn’t necessarily focusing on eating vegetables to the exclusion of everything else.   I think the popular perception, certainly the idea my college-educated sister, and I had about vegetarianism and veganism were that they just ate vegetables all the time.

However, for me at least, someone on a basketball message board deconstructed that idea.   Just because they were vegan didn’t mean they spend their whole time obsessed with vegetables and greens. The poster made the point that s/he ate things like apples --- that’s vegan.  It's a subtle point that kind of stuck. 

It wasn’t till I watched the movie and they listed a handful of “accidentally vegan foods, that I decided OK, this really could be done.  On the list of accidentally Vegan foods:  Aunt Jemima and Pancakes, Lay’s BBQ Chips, teddy grahams.

Fourthly, not only this backdrop of information overload (Google and Yelp), but some more intimate knowledge of where I can get good Vegan take-out or sit-down meals around the South Bay Los Angeles area.

It helps that I’ve been somewhat exposed to a handful of vegetarian non-meat-based restaurants and products.

So far, my wife and I have “discovered” the Veggie Grill in Torrance as a fine substitute for many of the eateries we used to go to in and around the South Bay.  The only piece of meat that I really miss is In-N-Out, but apparently there's a few ways to make substitutes.

In addition to Trader Joe's, we've learned of the Vegan foods at stores we normally go to such "Vegan treats at Target" and "Vegan products at Costco." 

I’ve slowly came to realize that the quality of food matters more than scarcity.  My mom taught me how to go for anything cheap and convenient.  Cheap clothes.  Cheap shoes.  Cheap gifts.  Cheap food.  The more you get the better, every time.  And that’s just how I thought and shopped till I met my wife, who shopped at Trader Joes.   

We are appalled at how cheap and convenient it is to not be Vegan.  Going vegan, even as just a consumer is as if were paying for the privilege.  Apparently it's just cheaper and easier to raise and then kill an animal.

What does it mean to be consumerically-vegan?

I briefly told you of my wife’s story of converting from vegetarianism back to meat-eating.

Some Anthropologists have also told parallel tales of quitting vegetarianism only to eat meat because they would have offended their participants.

My wife and I am sensitive to the fact that many people around me and their diets are still based on animal products so a “consumerist-vegan” is the best compromise to “living” Vegan while also not putting people around us on the defensive.

Times where we have lapsed

We are definitely not strictly “consumerically-vegan” as we are learning all the dos and don’ts, and there are times when we have lapsed into buying animal products. 

Though its been far and few and between, here is a listing of times we’ve lapsed:

-Buying cupcakes at a small bakery in Lakewood;  I didn’t want to be rude to the one employee there after stepping in
-Buying a trail mix with yogurt chips in it at Costco in Lakewood;  kind of inexcusable
-Buying pizza while out with friends at Cpk in Lakewood
-Buying chicken pho and Thai Tea to celebrate my wife’s birthday in Gardena;  my wife’s favorite food
-Buying whole milk at Smart N Final in Compton;  for our kid
-Buying yogurt at Smart N Final in Compton;  for our kid

What makes it even harder is that my wife and I have a one-year old.  We were recently told by our pediatrician that it was OK to have him drink whole milk;  we asked if we could do Soy, but she gave us the impression that it was to be used only if he had lactose intolerance.

He recently also had a bout of diarrhea and vomiting, which to us as relatively new parents, is scary.  It seemed like he didn’t have a good reaction to the whole milk. 

One solution to his dose of double trouble was doing the BRAT(y) diet, which I read of online.   It consists of banana, rice, applesauce, and toast – a bland diet.  The [y} in parentheses stands for yogurt, and to me it makes sense because it is a probiotic --- good for his gut bacteria.

Neither of us are physicians, pediatricians, or nutritionists, and were not as secure in our knowledge of dos and don'ts. 

We want to be able to give him all the vitamins he needs, and were kind of wary of supplements.

So our education continues.

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