Hello Everyone,

I am very pleased to bring you Veggin's third guest blogger- Meg Brown!  You can find Meg on Twitter at megvgn and on her blog at thesnarkychickpea.com!  Below is Part I of Meg's post, so be sure you tune back in tomorrow for Part II!  So, let's stop wasting time and get into it!

Meg and Marley
My vegan journey began on July 1, 2010, at age 29. I had been a vegetarian for most of my 20s. What made me make the change from vegetarian to vegan? If I'm totally honest, it was a whim. I just wanted to see if I could do it. I'd never been much of a meat eater, but I was a cheese and milk FANATIC. So, I decided in June 2010 that I was going to start cut out all milk and just see what happened. I wish I could say that it was all about the ethics, but it was an experiment. Then, I watched the "food" portion of Earthlings. And it really did become about the ethics and the animals. I forced myself to watch that entire segment, and I haven't watched one second more of Earthlings...I just can't. I suddenly realized how bad things are for all of the animals, as well as the folks who work in the industry and it made me bawl uncontrollably. The desensitization the humans experience literally made me retch. Crying and retching, what a lovely image, no?

Anyway, while my initial motives were curiosity and experimentation, they quickly turned to concern and love for all living creatures. From there, my journey has also turned to the care of the planet. The animal industry has done irreparable damage to the earth and the climate as well as the health of hundreds of millions (possibly billions) of humans. My stance on veganism has evolved into one of love, health, earth and animals. They're all equally good reasons to start eating and living vegan, and it seems that most of the people I've talked to start with one reason and soon come to grasp most or all of them. Veganism really opened my eyes to what is happening in (and to) the world and its inhabitants, both human and non-human animals.

You're vegan, now what? For me, it was a struggle initially. I don't have any vegetarian friends or family, let alone vegans. I turned to the online community on Twitter and Facebook for support and have been astounded at how many friends I've made and how much help I've received. I live in a pretty veg un-friendly locale where the majority of people simply cannot grasp that vegans eat NO animal-based foods. I have really had to do a lot of explaining over and over when I go out to eat. It gets extremely tiresome. That's why I taught myself to cook. But, if I can say anything good about Oprah, it is that she introduced veganism to the mainstream. Suddenly I don't have to explain to servers that "no animal products" means no butter, eggs, or milk. Apparently people don't realize that butter has milk :) I never watched Oprah, myself, but I now understand how far her reach is/was when my mom-in-law came over and brought be some vegan shampoo and conditioner she happened to stumble across at the salon. Silly, I know, but she finally understood what veganism meant. She now knew that it wasn't just about what I ate, but about what I used and wore everyday. And where did she learn it? Not by asking me, but by watching Oprah. Thanks, Oprah! Haha. Really, I do appreciate her introducing the small town folk to something outside of the Standard American Diet.

As for living in my area as a vegan, it isn't the easiest. But, I am fortunate to have one small diner at the local Farmer's Market that has a small vegetarian section on their menu. Granted, only 3 of those dishes are vegan, but it's a start. I never have to explain my eating habits to them. And I am incredibly thankful for that. It's the only restaurant that makes me feel "normal." I can come in and sit down and not scrutinize the menu or interrogate the servers. For the most part, though, I cook my food myself. It's cheaper and it's typically much healthier. Going vegan was a big part of the reason I learned how to cook. I couldn't really find vegan food at local eateries, so I had to make it myself. Go me! I am so much more adventurous about trying new foods since going veg. It's fun. But, there is one small dark spot...I'm married to an omni. It sounds hard, but he is incredibly supportive. He has no plans to totally cut out meat, but he does eat 90-95% vegan now. He doesn't eat eggs, milk or cheese unless we go out to eat. And, if I think back about it, the last time I saw meat in my fridge was in March. Wow. He absolutely LOVES the Gardein brand crispy chikn tenders and SmartDogs. He also loves tempeh, which is great because I could eat it everyday. The Mr. never complains about the lack of meat in our house because we have so much other, healthier foods he can munch. I know I am incredibly fortunate for that...some folks don't have it so easy.

I'm not one of those people to suddenly hate all meat-eaters just because I'm part of the opposing clan. My eating and living habits have never been an issue for any of my relationships, friends or family. I cook only vegan, so if anyone comes over, they know what to expect. And, they always love my food. I keep it simple and flavorful and rarely use faux meats, though my husband does love them. But, by all means, if they help you transition, go for it! Be forewarned: they are often expensive. I think it is that cost that makes many people think it is really expensive to eat vegan. If you stick to fresh foods, it is much cheaper. I never really liked meat or meaty-textures so I've been fortunate in saving that cash. I do, however, still have a taste for cheese and I do splurge and buy Daiya brand on a semi-regular basis. I can't help it. Mac and cheese is and always will be a comfort food for me. Same with pizza, and believe me, you can make a mean vegan pizza with some Daiya.

I do have some tidbits of advice for new vegans, especially those in smaller towns. Learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others...

....to be continued...

Be sure to check in tomorrow for Meg's tips and her famous Double Chocolate Pecan Cookie recipe! I know you don't wanna miss that!