Granted and blessed with the opportunity to attend a food blogger conference over the weekend, I stepped into the doors of Vida Vegan Con amazingly grateful, excited to learn, and surprisingly unaware of all that I was due to encounter.
It’s very clear from reading most of what I compose that I am not, by any means, vegan. I did, however, practice a form of veganism for eight solid years, almost two decades ago. I refer to my chosen diet at that time as a “form” of veganism, due to the fact that I did allow for the occasional piece of fish (seared Ahi tuna, in particular – a continued fav of mine) to cross my lips, and never went so far as to abstain from wearing leather or worrying about the fish scales in my nail polish. So, attending this conference was not necessarily motivated by a personal passion or interest in veganism, but more out of a desire to gain some insight into the food blogging world – I’m always up for some education – and also to engage with other writers, in general.
With this simple expectation met from the very beginning, my disposition shifted from feeling somewhat afraid of mentioning that my own blog was not committed to vegan food choices, to a sincere appreciation for what this community of individuals truly represents. Due to my own multi-faceted and severely warped history with food, my impression of veganism really focused on the lifestyle choice being for “health” reasons. Certainly I am aware of the indy-punk vegan hipster side of the community, protesting on the corner of McDonald’s, donning fluorescent mohawks, multiple piercings, and rather impressive ink. Plenty of these folks were present over the weekend, for sure. Yet, again, the choice of a plant-based diet motivated by a desire to change one’s body has always been my assumption for most folks. This has also always been quite ironic to me, as I so commonly witness both ends of this oxymoronic health-minded vegan perspective: the emaciated, gray-skinned, hunchbacked cripple, crawling through the produce aisle, touting how fantastic they feel on a plant only diet vs. the acne laden, greasy-haired (and often times far from emaciated) being, scarfing down vegan potato chips, “pork rinds,” Voodoo donuts and pizza with free abandon. – Uh, let’s face it, America has become rather accomplished in creating junk food for any lifestyle – vegan, S.A.D. (Standard American Diet), or even Paleo. (Yes, we all know the Paleo crossfitter, subsisting solely on coconut flour pancakes, Paleo brownies/cookies/cakes – desserts, and bacon). My perspective of this community, though, shifted from viewing a group focused on food and one way of eating, to a group of people really passionate about something outside of themselves – animal rights. These folks believe in something. They are activists.
As I said, I have always been aware of this side of the vegan community, but never actually considered the activism to be the root of the choice for most people. The choice is about compassion. It’s rather admirable.
So, instead of continuing to clam up and fear I may be discovered as the one in the room (wearing leather boots) who actually swallowed some hard boiled eggs for breakfast and who was looking forward to my grass-fed burger for dinner, I decided to allow myself to be embraced by this utterly accepting and safe group, but to also relate myself to all those in the room. This was surprisingly easy.
I realized that my Paleo food choices, while they may primarily be for my physical and psychological health, also exemplify humane farming and animal practices as well. While the fact that the Omega-3 profile of grass-fed and pastured meat is far better for my overall health than the factory-farmed and massed produced frankenfood in commercial supermarkets is vitally important to my ever body-aware and health-conscious mind, my passion for local farming has much to do with the rearing and treatment of the animals too. I believe we are at the top of the food chain for a reason, but I also know through much scientific research and beyond, that the psychological and emotional state of the animals that we are consuming is directly related to the quality of food that results. A stressed out cow or chicken is going to create a heck of a lot of cortisol (I won’t even begin to mention any added antibiotics or hormones…I’m assuming reader awareness here…). I am working hard enough in my own existence to rid myself of excess cortisol production. The last thing I want to do is feed myself more from a poor stressed out cow! I prefer the image of pigs playing with bowling balls out in the pasture (yes, they apparently enjoy that), and cattle roaming through the green pastures, mooing at free-will.
All said and done, I am amazingly grateful for the opportunity I had to attend this international event. It was surprisingly more of a blessing than I had expected. I learned a great deal, formulated some wonderful thoughts and ideas, and met some outstanding and very genuine folks. Actually, I have admired many of these bloggers from a distance for years, drooling over gorgeous food photography and well-crafted prose. I even cross reference one, Angela from OhSheGlows, somewhat frequently. (And, she does GLOW from the inside out, by the way). I also met Emily from MyKindofLife. Stunning. And Sylvia and Jessica from SylviasVeganKitchen. What a kick, those two – really making me smile.
Sometimes life is just surprisingly more than we imagined, if we allow it to be.