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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Going Vegan = A Feminist Act...Who Knew?

By Ann Taintor
Who knew that me becoming a vegan was actually challenging societal gender norms?  I am bemused by the responses of some younger women and a few older women to me when they heard I have become vegan. They all said similar things along the lines of, "What is your husband going to eat?"  The body language that accompanies this question is a look of concern which leaves me wondering if what they are really asking is, "Will you have time to cook two meals?" And "Are you sure that's really wise in terms of caring for your family and keeping your husband happy?"

Receiving these questions just floored me - is it not 2013 versus 1813?


By Ann Taintor
My mother decided to be vegetarian when I was about 12 (at the same time I read Diet for a Small Planet and decided to become a vegan). What this meant for her however was cooking one meal for she and I and another meal for my father and two sisters. As you can guess - this was a lot of extra work. The jeering and criticisms of her alternative diet from the carnivores did not make for a harmonious home either. So it was short lived for her but not for me. I was a vegan until my mid twenties when I had a iron deficiency and then went vegetarian.  When Ellie was born as I have written about, I started eating meat again and did so until this January 2013.  To those of you who may have thought "See!" when I shared the iron deficiency - remember that I didn't say I was a very good vegan.  There were not the resources online (actually there was no  online other than email) available today.  And at that time I was a very, very poor artist living in Western Mass trying to figure out my life.  It was often a choice between should I buy this apple or this tube of paint? But that's another story.

Zooming back to the matter at hand, I am grateful to have found a mate who had no interest in a traditional, feminine mystique type, of marriage set up, where, as in the houses we were both raised in, the woman does all the cooking and cleaning and everyone sits down for meals together at the same time every evening. My experience with that growing up was to see how stressful all that cooking was on my mother. As a result she often over cooked the food and meals were a source of tension which only fed the fire of our family dysfunction.

Stemming from this, I never, ever wanted to have us all sit down at 5pm and have dinner. Ever. I rather not be married if this was the expectation. In fact, getting married at all was a stretch for me. I only did it to make sure Ellie was protected in all the ways children of married people are.  That, and to be totally truthful, I got tired of them stopping me in the emergency room as Ellie and Dave (she has his last name) would get ushered in and because I had a different last name they would stop me and say ask, "Who are you?" My exasperated reply was always, "I'm the mother!!!".  Seconds count when your kid has hydrocephalus - for crying out loud.  That had to end.

Orange Cashew Cream Dressing that Dave made
 when I was away on business.
Atop those strong sentiments, things with Ellie have also taken a non traditional path that meant differences in eating times etc. She only eats purees and does so about 5 times per day and before that was eating around the clock via drip feeds and had/has oral aversions.  So though we do sit down together regularly as a family usually on weekends, there is a lot of working with Ellie one to one around food and making it safe.  Additionally, Dave is not your traditional guy in that growing up he regularly cooked for his younger siblings.  He had a working mother and being the oldest he understood how hard she worked for both her job and the family - he didn't take it for granted.  As a result of all that cooking as a teenager, he knows how to fend for himself and others in the kitchen very well and did so before we met. Lucky me.

For the record - I do not cook meals every day for anyone but Ellie.  Dave and I cook for each other when we are already making something for ourselves.   We coordinate and both cook larger dishes like a soup or a casserole but again not every day.  He more often then not will make me dinner because he eats it regularly, whereas I do not. And he makes the best big salads that are filled with nuts and tons of veg and hummus for example.  I have been into making new vegan concoctions like lentil and rice chard rolls with cashew cream and smothered in tomato sauce and tons of green tonics and juices and cold soups - basically going 80% raw and 20% cooked. And he eats what I make when he wants and vice versa. But it's casual and 50/50.   Other than Ellie's diet which I made up all the recipes for and watch over very closely, we both do the cooking.

To answer the question directly, "What does your husband think (of me going vegan)", here is a list of his responses:
Life Alive inspired Buddha Bowl that Dave made

  • He bought us a half farm share at the local organic farm
  • He and Ellie planted a ton of seedlings that he purchased the seeds for by mail order and all the soil and pots etc., that he waters and tends to daily with Ellie when she can be torn away from her fijits who are a little more exciting than seedlings - though when they first popped out of the soil she was very excited! ;-)
  • He drinks green juices with me every day of his own volition
  • He solicits the choice and regularly encourages us to go to vegan restaurants.
  • He cut back on eating so much meat and increased his veggie intake and has lost 25 pounds doing so (that's been a really great side effect of me going vegan)
  • One night I came in and he was about to watch Vegecate on Netflix and asked me to join him. Since watching that he is researching how to get protein and iron out of plant based foods.

In sum, his reaction has been very supportive and he is still reacting in a way that is making me very happy in that he sees the positive changes in me and wants to come along down this path - in his own way but near enough to me just the same. He has lost weight and is feeling better. There is a lightness between us.  So that is what he thinks of it and how he responded to me going vegan for the 2013 record.

I think there are all different ways to structure a life and a marriage. The more creativity that is worked into that structuring the more room for individual expression and bliss. I am always alarmed and saddened to see that the legacy of hundreds of years of gender inequality is still with us. I lecture on this topic in my graduate courses so I know the stats. But in this question, "What is your husband going to eat?" there is found all that inequality as a societal norm - like DNA coding that seems very hard to change.

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