I still remember the day I stopped eating meat.
I was dating a guy who was vegan – a Morning Star brand eater. He got me to watch this gruesome video about what happens to animals for the purpose of our so-called food chain. I was just 22 years old at the time, and I’d been raised eating meat just like so many others during those days.
I remember telling my mom that I wasn’t going to eat meat again. She thought it was just a phase (albeit one she’d never heard of before) so she just laughed it off.
Whenever I contemplated not eating meat again, it wasn’t like I had this sudden clarity. There was no flash of “Oh, now I know what I’ll do!” in my brain. It was more like, “Okay Frances, how can we do this? First, let’s stop eating red meat, then we’ll work on the chicken.” (I wasn’t a fan of seafood, so no biggie there.)
But even when I had a little piece of chicken on my plate, I just couldn’t do it. I never ate meat again.
I was always a picky eater. Even during my childhood, my family would go out of their way for my specific eating habits. As a small child during summer trips to my grandparents’ home in Puerto Rico, I’d have them buy me the chicken from the supermarket rather than the one I knew my grandma had just killed to cook for us. Seeing that chicken alive and then on our plates was something I just couldn’t grasp as a little child.
When I decided to stop eating meat it was still a subject that many, many people did not understand. My other immediate alternatives for food were rice, beans, and avocado. And even then I had to make sure that no bits of pork were cooked with the beans. Morning Star was the only vegan product around at the time, and you could only get it at select supermarkets. It was a rare find, and boy was I happy when I got my hands on it!
With my changing diet, my tastes evolved too. In time, I started to explore the cuisines of other nationalities – like Indian, Asian, Mediterranean, and Ethiopian food. Growing up, our salads basically consisted of iceberg lettuce and tomatoes, so I had a lot to learn about vegetables too. I was never really a fruit person, so I was okay without the sweets. I do still have that craving for the savory and hearty foods from my Hispanic upbringing though. While my palate has evolved, I still love my parents’ rice, beans, and aguacate, and I probably always will!
It took a while for my mother to get it – to understand I won’t eat her food if it has meat in it. But for years she made me the best vegan zancocho I ever had!
As the years went by, I learned so much about the production of food thanks to brave animal rights workers who’d gone undercover to get the facts and share them with us. Thanks to the freedom of voices being heard through the internet, I heard the truth about what so many food companies do to get our money. And don’t ever think for one minute that they did those things for our health!
I became a mother at 17 years old, but the only pregnancy I ever went through as plant-based was with my fourth child. Everyone thought I’d for sure start eating meat again for the baby. This was just the way of thinking at the time. So I asked the maternity doctor about it, and I loved his advice:
“Your body will crave what the baby needs.”
I listened and listened hard. I craved lots of rice, beans, and avocado – so that’s what I ate! And I had a full-term pregnancy. My daughter was born at the same weight as my son who was born years before while I was eating meat. Being vegan didn’t affect the health of my newborn.
In terms of my vegan lifestyle, I’ve been putting the dots together over the years. I still learn more every day about the things that companies sneak into our food or the products that come from animals and their byproducts. It’s sometimes unbelievable what we put into our bodies – orally through foods or even externally with creams, makeup, etc.
I have a friend who wasn’t a vegan when we first met. She’s now a vegan and cancer survivor. Her dedication to animal rights in her short stint of being vegan inspired me to take my own veganism even further. Now at 45 years old, I am a full 100% vegan. I don’t eat anything that comes from a mother (not even honey), and I don’t wear animal products at all, whether it’s makeup or a leather jacket.
Becoming a vegan may not happen overnight for you. It didn’t for me. You may become a vegan for animals right or for health reasons. To be honest, I don’t care where you start. But I do believe that if you sincerely to start your journey towards veganism, it will affect you in an extremely positive way. Your journey and the things you learn may even keep propelling you forward until you’re a full 100% vegan as well!