All throughout my childhood I was the pickiest eater I knew. I had a rotation of meals: peanut butter sandwich (no jelly) and cheetos, chicken nuggets and fries, cheerios in milk, pizza (no cheese), and tacos with only beans and cheese. I would eat the occasional fruit, maybe an apple or some grapes. My diet was completely devoid of vegetables and 90% of it was carbohydrates from processed cereals and white bread. From elementary to high school I took the same lunch every day: peanut butter sandwich, cheetos, an apple, and milk. I had no desire to expand my diet in any way, and my parents never pressured me to do so. My mom has a younger brother who grew up with the same limited diet, and he eventually grew out of it come high school and college.
My senior year of high school I went on a mission trip to El Salvador. The trip was a week-long and we would be living in the small community of Rancho Grande. The community was always so grateful to the volunteers that they cooked us breakfast, lunch, and dinner while we were there. In order not to offend the locals for everything they did for us I tried everything they prepared. I ended up eating hamburgers, fish sandwiches, and more beans then I ever had in my life, and I loved it. My parents were shocked and amazed when I came back and began willingly eating the meals they prepared for themselves and my sister.
(right: pulled pork and brisket from dinosaur barbecue, below: spicy dragon role)
This newfound bravery extended to college as well (unfortunately it also led me to gaining the cliché freshman 15). And stayed with me all through my trip abroad to London. In London I was exposed to all sorts of cuisines I hadn’t seen in Central New York, amazing ethnic cuisines alongside traditional british fair.
The following year my sister showed me a documentary called “Vegucated”.
The documentary followed three people who were challenged to become completely vegan for 30 days. The participants wanted to see if they could lose weight and find a healthier way of living. In addition to finding out about all sorts of new foods to eat, the leader of the challenge showed the participants the cruelty of factory farming. During this section I could not stop crying. I had always been an animal lover and had flirted with the idea of being vegetarian, but this documentary really gave me that final push to put my words into actions. Over a year ago I completely cut meat out of my diet and I’ve been trying to eat vegan for most meals. If I visit a friend or go out to dinner and there aren’t any vegan options I try not to be too hard on myself, but I never eat meat anymore. Honestly at this point it sort of grosses me out, plus I don’t ever crave it since its been out of my diet for so long.
Long story short if you had told my childhood self that I would someday be a vegan I would have laughed in your face (most likely after asking what a “vegan” was). But now I feel happier and healthier in my diet than I have in my entire life. Experiencing such a wide variety of foods and diets was something I never thought I could do, but I’m so glad I did things that took me out of my comfort zone, and I’m glad for the person I’ve become.