Not a day goes by when we don’t make decisions that impact our lives and the world. We buy cars, listen to music, work several jobs, marry life partners, plant gardens, attend plays and musicals, eat food, and run marathons. Many of the decisions we make are small ones that we think have no deeper connection, such as whether or not to drink coffee black or with cream and sugar. Other decisions are much more significant or require a more in depth look at all of the realities of making one decision over another. Deciding to attend one university over another is not a decision one makes in an evening, but through conversations, research, visits, websites, and if so inclined, prayer. When one decides to run a marathon, it is important to know all that it requires to make it all 26.2 miles…the right shoes, the right diet, the proper running form, and the most effective training plan to build the amount of mileage necessary for your body to run that far. If we were to say, “Hey let’s just run 26.2 miles” and then go do it, we would fail miserably. All of this to say, most of us do not make life decisions, whether marathons or universities or vocations or what kind of diet to follow, in a vacuum and neither do most of us take it lightly. Some decisions we make are in the moment and most of them are small and rather meaningless decisions in the scope of things. Others take weeks, months, or years to form a decision. It was the latter of these two that formed our way of thinking in becoming vegan and forming our vegan life.
We are Shannon and Chad. We’ve been vegan since July of 2006. We have 2 vegan children and a vegan dog (yes, a healthy vegan dog). Chad is a full-time pastor, a lover of jazz music, a runner, and frisbee golfer. Shannon is a full-time stay-at-home-mom and a (very) part-time yoga teacher and massage therapist, a rock collector/lover, one who enjoys the idea and results of gardening but not the weeding part, and someone who is discovering the joys of cooking colorful and flavorful foods. Like most people, we weren’t always vegan. It was a gradual decision we made over a period of years.
Neither of us were raised vegan. We were both raised in meat eating, dairy loving families. Chad’s paternal grandparents are Midwestern farmers, who grow soybeans and raise cows and pigs for food. Shannon’s family is from the South, which in and of itself means that meat (or meat fat) is an important part of the meal. She also remembers growing up that she and her sister could finish off a gallon of milk in 1-2 days. It was not something that was thought about. It was just the way people ate.
It wasn’t until our last year of college (1999-2000) that we began reducing our meat consumption. Both of us being religion majors, we started by giving up pork, as a spiritual discipline in concert with our Jewish sisters and brothers. Over the next couple of years, we discovered that we didn’t eat much meat at all, especially red meat. During this time period, we both also discovered that we were lactose intolerant. Since we didn’t eat much meat anyway, in 2002, we became pescatarian (no meat except for fish). We were pescatarian for 3 years, and then reverted back to the omnivore diet when Shannon was approximately 4-5 months pregnant (because she had an aversion to many vegetarian protein sources during the pregnancy). When our daughter was about 6 months old, we began talking about becoming vegetarian, primarily for health reasons, since Shannon’s family has a history of cancer and Chad’s family has a history of heart disease, and both families have a history of diabetes. But we also considered being vegetarian out of a philosophy of non-violence. (If we are what we eat, what does it mean for us to consume slaughtered animals?)
As a result, Shannon began doing research on the vegetarian diet, because if we were going to do this, we wanted to make sure that we were getting all the nutrients we needed, especially for our growing child. When our daughter was 9 months old, we were specifically in the process of deciding whether to introduce her to yogurt made from animal milk or soy milk when Shannon came across some disturbing information about the process of dairy and egg production that made us pause and think. We won’t go into the details, but essentially we decided that if non-violence was a part of our reason for being vegetarian then we could not in good conscience participate in the dairy or egg industry either. And so it is that we became vegan.
Our daughter is now 6 years old and we have a 21 month old son. We maintained our vegan diet throughout our second pregnancy. Our children have never known anything other than living a vegan life, and are very healthy, intelligent, creative, and loving children. When our daughter is asked why she doesn’t eat meat, she replies, “Animals are friends, not food.” It is this compassion for all of life that we hope to pass on to our children through raising them vegan.
Why this blog and what’s it about?
Many friends who are interested in vegan food (but are not vegan themselves) have asked us to share recipes of meals that our family enjoys. Initially we had only planned for this to be a place to share recipes and photos of food, but then we remembered that we have had many a conversation about writing a book concerning raising a vegan family. As a result, we have decided to divide the blog into three sections: Food, Family, and Fun.
Food: This section will be comprised of recipes and photographs of some of our favorite foods and food adventures. (Special Note: All recipes will (of course) be vegan, and because we have family and friends with gluten intolerances, some will also be gluten-free. Also, because our son has a peanut allergy, all recipes will be Peanut-Free.)
Fun: This is the “fun” part….Here we will include fun activities, crafts, and many other joys of our vegan life.
So, whether you are a long time vegan, just starting out as a new vegetarian or vegan, seeking to know more about raising families vegan, or just simply someone who loves to cook and would like to expand your scope of recipes and love of food, then this blog should be something you can return to regularly for information, stories, recipes, and advice to accompany your journey. We continue to be amazed by the journey to this point and learn more with every year that passes about what it means to be vegan, to live with a philosophy of non-violence, to raise kids, and to enjoy the fun of experimentation along the way. We are not the first to have made this journey and neither will we be the last, but it is our hope that this blog will at least speak on some level to the joy we experience as a family in being vegan. It is a joy and it is a journey and we hope your journey, vegan or not, is as fulfilling as ours is.
Blessings of peace and loving-kindness to you and all beings.
–Shannon and Chad