I wish I could tell you that the idea to become a vegan was born out of some noble truth. That being vegan gave my life the purpose and meaning it was missing. It didn’t. No, I became a vegan simply because I was poor. And when I say poor I mean I had no money. What money I did have went to keep the water and power on. You see, after I graduated high school my father passed away leaving my mother and I in a mountain of debt. My mom had her own medical problems and couldn’t work, so that left myself; an unprepared teenager with the unwanted burden, of trying to dig my mom and I out of this unforeseen hole we were in. Fortunately I still had my little job working retail at the local mall by my house, but when the economy went south my hours were cut. At the end of the day I made enough to barley keep my head above the rising waters. What I couldn’t account for was having enough money to eat.
When I was growing up my family never ate "high off the hog", as my mom would say. I grew up in a small little town in Colorado nestled by the foothills. We were the steak and potatoes kind of people. Now I found myself standing in the meat isle at the grocery store looking to buy a steak for dinner and finding that its thirteen dollars for ten ounces of beef. Anyway I couldn’t afford to eat meat anymore, and that went for all meat. And for a state that also produces dairy, I couldn’t afford that either. At this time I found myself at a local church food bank, waiting in line with my canvass sack to help myself to their food pantry. And when it was my turn to get some food all they had to offer was beans, canned vegetables, and pasta. I remember at the time thinking of this as "poor food". But when I got home and showed my mother what little I had gotten, I remember her smiling gently and saying "This is all we need". That night my mom made the best dinner I had ever eaten. She had taken the beans and vegetables and with an array of spices concocted a soup that I could have never dreamed of. And with some canned tomatoes and garlic my mom made some pasta sauce just like her grandmother use to make in Italy.
From then on whatever hodge podge of vegetables and lentils and fruit I would end up getting from the church my mother viewed as a challenge to make something special out of. My mother taught me how to cook and experiment and come up with original healthy food. We were cooking together, which we had never done before. It awoke something inside both of us, and we were happy even though we didn’t have as much as we used to. Up until then I had never appreciated food. I ate to satisfy an instant impulse. I never thought about what I was eating or where it came from. Now rather than eating to live we were living to eat.
Eventially I got a second job and things calmed down and I no longer used the church food bank. My mom got healthier and volunteered at the church helping families plan out healthy meals. Now I find myself walking past the meat and dairy isle knowing I could buy it, but what would be the fun in that. I think in the end I did stumble upon some purpose and meaning to my life where I wouldnt have normally found it. I can say now that it was a happy accident.