June 07, 2014

How To Be Vegan


If you've been vegan for any length of time, there have probably been moments when you wished you could pull a book like Elizabeth Castoria's How To Be Vegan out of your pocket and say, "Here, just read this." Times when someone has said, "Eating a vegan diet seems like a great idea but it's just too hard, and I wouldn't know where to begin." Or, "I'd love to invite you to dinner but I have no idea what to cook." Or maybe, "But why would you want to give up so much good food to be vegan?" Or even, that most favorite of all questions, "Where do you get your protein?" Perhaps you just really wish you could politely and helpfully answer these questions better yourself. I say, "politely," because throughout the book, Castoria maintains that it helps the vegan cause more when vegans are nice, than when we puff up and turn into the vegan police. Chapter five is entitled Manners: Don't be a jerk, and that is an ongoing theme of Castoria's book. Be vegan, be healthy, be positive, be nice. I like that.

Another idea that surfaces often is that it's easy to be vegan. Easy doesn't mean you must do it in a day or even a week. It may take some people years to make the switch, but that's okay. She says, "To be vegan you don't have to do anything; you just have to not do one thing. ... stop buying animal products." And encouraging people to not buy animal products, no matter how long it takes, is better than chastising them for not doing it immediately, or for slipping up now and then. To help make being vegan as easy as possible, there's lots of helpful advice about how to shop, where to shop, what to buy, what to eat — how to find plant-based versions of virtually everything you need from shoes and clothing to cleaning products to personal care items to food. There's even a chapter on how to find what you need while traveling.

Eventually, all this vegan stuff comes down to eating good food. Castoria says, "...even if you use the word artisanal frequently enough in conversations about food to be a character on Portlandia — even then, discovering the dizzying depth and delectability of plant-based cuisine will curl your toes." And she is right by your side to help. From sharing a list of the 10 most popular accidentally vegan foods to providing 50 real-food recipes by Robin Robertson so you can put your new knowledge about being vegan to practical use, she is your guide to a wonderful, compassionate lifestyle.

I've been a vegan for a long time, but I enjoyed reading How To Be Vegan, and even picked up a tip or two. The book covers all the basics with clarity and humor, and without ever being condescending. I recommend it.

Elizabeth Castoria is a freelance writer and the former editorial director of VegNews.

full disclosure: A free copy of the book was sent to me for review. I wasn't paid. All opinions are my own.

18 comments:

  1. Hi, Andrea!
    Your review of this book made me think of Joanne Stepaniak's "The Vegan Sourcebook," which helped us (and to which I still find myself referring for helpful info) when we were vegan newbies. It sounds like they have similar approaches - assuming you've also read Vegan Sourcebook, how would you say they compare in tone and content?

    As for being polite when we find ourselves in the role of Vegan Ambassadors (which is pretty much always), I loved this quote I found a while back on Twitter: "Always be the vegan that you would've wanted to meet before you were vegan yourself."

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    1. I have to admit I've not read Joanne's book so I can't compare. Elizabeth uses humor and a light touch while including all the hard facts about the animal industry's impact on health, environment and animals. I like your quote. There's a quote in the book from Abraham Lincoln that I wanted to share with you but I lent the book to Ken and now I can't find it!

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    2. I have a feeling Elizabeth makes more use of humor, but Joanne shares the very compassionate approach.

      Bad Ken! :-) Well, when you find it, you know where to find me! :-)

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    3. Compassion isn't lacking in Elizabeth's book! I thought it was very well balanced and made a strong case for being a compassionate vegan. I think you would like it.

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    4. I was just trying to think of what Joanne's book was called and saw your comment, Laurie. :) I LOVED that book and it helped me so much. I also love that quote, which I think I saw on Pinterest, or maybe Twitter like you did? Such words of wisdom.

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    5. I couldn't seem to find it when I searched. I'll try again.

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  2. Now just to decide how to give the book as a gift in the most mannerly way possible!

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    1. Try to give it only to someone who you think really wants it and would appreciate it. For example, it's probably best not to go door-to-door. :-)

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    2. I just bought a white shirt and tie, I'm going door to door.

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  3. It sounds like a really great book. I love the advice about being nice because it can make such a huge difference. It took me a very long time to go completely vegan (over 8 years, which baffles me now) and I remember being made to feel awful by a few vegans. IMO, it did more harm than good so I always try to keep that in mind.

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    1. I thought it was really well done. And thanks for the confirmation about being kind based on personal experience. People have a tendency to lump others into groups, and an angry, chastising vegan can make vegans in general look bad.

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  4. It's always nice to be nice. I recently gave a vegan coloring book to my friend who was not pleased with me, maybe she wanted crayons too.

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    1. Maybe she wanted food instead of pictures that she had to color herself. Or crayons, like you said. Vegan crayons. Some people are so needy.

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  5. Sounds like a great book! Even though I've been vegan for a long time, I could always use helpful tips. I like the being nice part too, sorta like the golden rule. :-)

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    1. I thought it was a great guide for beginner vegans, and a nice refresher of all the important points for experienced vegans. And being nice is great advice for anyone!

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