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When the subject of veganism comes up with my friends or family, or even complete strangers, something I always hear is how they could NEVER give up beef/pork/butter/whatever because it tastes so good.

I think they understand at some level that they are being selfish and choosing taste over life. And while telling them how selfish they are and criticizing them for their lack of compassion or restraint is one way to make them open their eyes to the issue, I prefer a much different method: feeding them.

When I went vegan, my coworkers made a lot of jokes. They even said I would never be able to bake again because, “you can’t bake without eggs”. I explained that isn’t true; flax seeds, tofu, and applesauce are all great alternatives to using eggs in baking. They turned up their noses and announced that they would never eat vegan baked goods.

A couple of weeks later, I brought in chocolate brownies and left them in the kitchen with a note that said the brownies were for everyone. By the end of the day, the plate of brownies was bare of even crumbs and my coworkers were very curious as to who had brought in the delicious brownies.

“That was me,” I said, “I made them last night. I found a new recipe I wanted to try that involved using tofu instead of eggs. I’m glad you guys liked them so much.”

My coworkers were very surprised and didn’t say much.

The topic of vegan baked goods wasn’t mentioned again until a month later, when one of my coworkers brought in half of a chocolate cake. A vegan chocolate cake she had made herself.

This coworker and I have since talked more about vegan baking and I’ve even sent her some recipes for vegan cookies and bread to try. Will she go vegan? Doubtful, but she has become more willing to try vegan food and no longer uses the argument that vegan food is gross. Would she be making more vegan food if I had sat her down and told her of the horrors of factory farming and how selfish she was being? I honestly can’t say.

Is culinary activism the best form of vegan activism? No. Does it always work? No. But can it be used as a starting point, a way to slowly dispel the myths surrounding veganism? Absolutely. My friends and family know that if they want more information on factory farming they can always ask me; just like they know they can always come to me for a delicious recipe for vegan sloppy joes or a vegan chocolate cake.

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As a continuation of the first part, here are another three small things you can do to make going vegan easier.

1. Buy or rent a cookbook. There are many great vegan cookbooks out there. Libraries are even starting to carry them. So go to the nearest bookstore or library and browse the selection. I have written a couple of reviews (here and here) but there are many more options available. You can try “Appetite for Reduction” if you are looking for low-fat and healthy recipes, “The Kind Diet” if you are interested in a macrobiotic diet, or “Color Me Vegan” if you want a little bit of everything. Many libraries are even offering the option to electronically download a book to rent.

2. Don’t give up on your favorite food. You love sushi but think you’ll never have it again once you go vegan. I have great news: you don’t have to give it up!  Quail egg shooters are out of the question, but many sushi restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan rolls. I’ve found that many places are willing to make substitutions if you ask nicely. Sushi is also very easy to learn to make at home and very inexpensive. Learning how to modify your old recipes will make going vegan that much easier. Check out sites like VegWeb for recipe ideas.

3. Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you are like me, you spent a good portion of your life being told that meat and other animal products are vital for your survival. Our culture holds the belief that animals are at our disposal and it can be hard to go against this idea. If you slip up or need extra time to fully make the transition, don’t fret. What matters is that you are trying and you are making a difference for those whose voice cannot be heard.

I recently bought the cookbook “Vegan on the Cheap” by Robin Robertson. The cookbook is geared to those who are on a tight budget but want to eat healthy and fresh foods. The cookbook has recipes for almost everything you want to eat: soups, stews, salads, pasta, burgers, desserts, and more. The first part of the book offers tips on budgeting and eating for less.

So far I’ve tried about half a dozen of recipes and have liked all but one. The recipes are pretty simple to make and rarely require ingredients you won’t already have on hand. As a time-crunched student, I really liked the fact that the recipes don’t require me to be constantly monitoring the food.

My favorite dish so far is the Farfalle with White Beans and Cabbage. It is simple, delicious and very inexpensive.

While this is a great cookbook, it is not perfect. I was not a fan of the Stovetop Cheezee Mac. I can’t place exactly why I didn’t like this recipe, but there was something missing for me.

Overall though, I highly recommend this cookbook. The recipes are good, easy to make, and really lives up to the title. Nothing in this cookbook costs more than $2.00/serving.

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