In the 8 years I was vegetarian before going vegan, I mostly lived on pasta and jarred red sauce. Yup, I was one of those.
About a year before I went vegan I was visiting a friend in a town a couple hours away. I got there a bit early, and she was running a bit late, so I did one of my favorite things, and browsed through a bookstore to kill time. I was in school full time, which is another way of saying that I had almost no money at all. I certainly had no intention of making any purchases, and perhaps that was why I inexplicably (for me, at the time) found myself in the cookbook section. I didn’t own a single cookbook at the time, had never been interested in cooking anything other than cookies, and it had never occurred to me that a cookbook could be interesting and fun to read.
But somehow I was in the cookbook section, and I picked up a cookbook titled “Recipes From a Vegetarian Goddess”. I loved the way she described her recipes, and the fact that they were arranged in seasons. I bought the cookbook. I have never met anyone else who has this cookbook…aside from my mother, who eventually needed her own copy. When I showed my mom the cookbook, I’m glad she was sitting down, because I think she would have fallen over otherwise, at the shock of me buying a cookbook.
We made something from it that very night. In retrospect, I think my mom wanted to make sure that I actually made something from it. We had a good time, and it became a fairly regular thing for us to try a new recipe from my cookbook. My parents are omnis, but my dad eats whatever my mom puts in front of him, and my mom is happy to cook vegan food for me, though back then it was vegetarian.
This was an extremely valuable set of experiences, in retrospect. It taught me that cooking could be fun, and it also got me past any worries I might have otherwise had about not knowing how to do x, or what was meant by y. My mom is a great cook, and cooking with her meant that I had a cooking mentor.
When I went vegan I started looking for a cookbook that I would like as much as my first cookbook. I later realized that many of the recipes I liked so much from the vegetarian cookbook were actually vegan! That was a bonus. But my cookbook addiction had already begun, and continues to this day.
Because of the combination of circumstances, with my interest in cooking and in cookbooks so new for me at the time I went vegan, as well as the variety that is typically found in vegan cookbooks, going vegan opened up a huge new world of food for me. A lot of the list of new-to-me foods was made up of grains, and I think that’s really typical. In the Standard American Diet we eat pasta, we eat rice, and maybe maybe we eat polenta. Most people we talk to have no idea that there are grains like Millet, Amaranth and Quinoa. Blows my mind to think about now. Though of course I was exactly the same!
I’m the type to see food as fuel a good part of the time, and I’m the type who finds stress, especially emotional stress, to be a complete appetite killer. My sense of taste is hit or miss, and my sense of smell is more miss than hit. I’m definitely not a foodie, for those reasons, and likely more besides. But even that can’t stop me from feeling the wonder of vegan food, and of the incredible variety that became part of my life after going vegan.
And amazingly this is an extremely common experience. Even among foodies. Even authors of the cookbooks I have on my shelves say similar things! There is something about vegan food, it’s magical.