Photo by Kate S.I am vegan.

I think that the above statement is a very strange and foreign to many people. Not only am I Russian, and our national cuisine’s biggest staples are meat and dairy, but I am a total metal head and a lover of rock and roll. I am usually seen wearing leather jackets and boots (or what most people think is leather, while it is all faux) and I am a smoker.

However, the word “vegan” is very vulgar to some people, and with that I get incredibly ignorant questions in regards to my diet, like “Where do you get your protein?” or “How do you eat pizza every week, doesn’t that have DAIRRRYYY?!” or “You are fucking insane get away from me you freak!”

In this post I’d like to clear the air in the regards to the LIFE STYLE that is VEGAN.

Vegan Soba Noodle Soup at Wild Ginger Vegan Pan Asian in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s talk cruelty.

Ever since I was a kid I never liked meat. In fact, I was the opposite of your normal child. When your parents would force you to eat your broccoli and carrots when all you wanted was a chicken nugget, I would house all of my vegetables before I would go anywhere near the meat.

Feeding me was a day-to-day struggle for my mother and grandmother. Each time soup would be served, I would take out all the meat and place it on the rims of the soup dish, eating all the broth and vegetables, leaving the plate with nothing but, at this point already cold, beef. After about three hours of struggling to get me to finish what I left, my mother would give up and leave the kitchen, leaving me alone with the cat, who was more than excited to get his food dish filled with all of my unwanted soup ingredients.

If, however, my mother did monitor my eating, she would have to think up with creative ways to make me consume my meal. She’d come up with games, fun stories, or would dress up the food in the most deceiving way possible as so I would not know or think of the fact that I was eating meat.

Finally, when we arrived in America, I was able to put my foot down. The reason I was able to finally declare myself a vegetarian is because everything in this country is so readily available and it is, more so than not, all very close. So, if my parents were serving chicken legs for dinner, I was able to say, “I don’t want this, I can just walk over to the plaza and get a salad there!”

The problem with this is that because everything in America is at close reach, it is very easy to get lost in the plethora of food that is available, and thus, it is very easy to pack on the pounds. And unfortunately that is exactly what happened.

Upon my graduation from high school and entering the world of pretension and high fashion, also known as college in the middle of Manhattan, I decided to take control of my weight problem.

I started reading labels, counting carbs and calories, learning about what fruits and vegetables were better for a healthy weight loss.

A proper diet is like a game of Tetris. Some things may be higher in carbs, but they are also high in fiber, which is crucial to proper eating habits and of course, a healthy digestion. A HEALTHY diet is not starving yourself, or eating like a hamster, but it is knowing your body, knowing the numbers, and allowing yourself to cheat here and there (come on, who here doesn’t spend an entire day at home eating nothing but doritos and Chinese food and watching Law and Order: SVU all day from time to time?!?!).

And then I finally moved to Brooklyn.

Photo by Kate S.

Vegan Bloody Mary. Pine Box Rock Stop Bushwick, Brooklyn

I will not lie. At first, just like most of you, I thought that vegans were fucking insane. As a vegetarian I was struggling with finding where to eat, especially a vegetarian on a diet, thus, I thought, a VEGAN on a diet would just be an equivalent of me going to Central Park and nibbling on the grass.

Until I decided to educate myself.

First and foremost what people do not realize is that a vegan diet is not one that is designed for weight loss, per say. What you must understand is that sometimes, eating a salad will cost you more natural sugars and carbohydrates than just indulging in a bloody fucking steak.

Soy is one of those tricky things that you think is good for you, but in reality, it is just as fattening and artery clogging as any other non vegan product. (soy cheese is just as bad for you as regular cheese, AND it is twice as expensive!)

Vegan is not just a diet. It is a way of life. Vegans don’t just say no to meat and dairy, but we say no to leather, suede, cashmere, feather blankets and pillows, we do not use hygiene or beauty products that contain animal products or that were tested on animals. Such guidelines are not obstacles, as some may view them, but they are a way of life, just like straight edge individuals do not indulge in alcohol, drugs, or nicotine.

We all put guidelines on our lives, whether we admit to this fact or we don’t. Some people restrict themselves to harsh diets, some don’t use certain products because they boycott the brand, some don’t use make up because of whatever the fuck… Christians live their lives differently than Buddhists, and Atheists…Well we are just awesome, enough said.

We are all different, and we all live our lives differently, so then why should vegans be looked at as the crazy ones, when there are people, like those portrayed in Jesus Camp, who sit there and bang their heads against the floor because the Bible said they were born sinners?!

Photo by Kate S.

Vegan tofu scramble with vegan sausage Williamsburg, Brooklyn

For me turning into the direction of veganism was a natural escalation of events. Seeing how I was already almost a life long vegetarian, and I was already reading labels, what was just another line on the back of a box?!

There is a vegan substitution for just about anything you can think of. There is fake ham, fake salami, fake shrimp (oh man, fake shrimp is so damn good, especially in vegan dim sum!) There is substitution for cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, beef, chicken, you name it! If there is anything I am craving, within guidelines, there is a substitution for that. Especially living in New York, vegan culture is so evolved, that I feel almost spoiled by having all the vegan food and desserts that I want readily available to me.

But what most people do not realize is that becoming vegan for health of weight loss reasons may not always give you the results that you seek.

Dieting is all about moderation. No matter if you are a meat eater or vegan, if you house 10 cheeseburgers or 10 VEGAN cheeseburgers, the outcome will be the same — you are going to be a fat fucking piece of shit, the only difference is that in one instance you are a murdering fat fucking shit, and in the second instance you are a humane shit, but still you will require two seats for your fat ass on the subway.

So next time you ask a vegan, “Where do you get your protein from?!” Think to yourself, do YOU concern yourself with that? Do most meat eaters stop and think, “Is what I am about to consume going to provide me with all the essential nutrients?” Do most of you stop and think about what it is we are putting in our bodies? Let us not kid ourselves, majority of us don’t think about nutrition, we just huff our meals down because they are delicious!

If you cannot answer the above question, perhaps you should stop and think before annoying a vegan. Because at the end of the day, we don’t harass you about the A1 sauce stains on your shirt, so don’t annoy us with your questions about our damn tofu. Photos by Kate S.

Vegan Donuts at Dun Well Donuts in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

(Editor’s note: This essay originally appeared on Kate S.’s personal blog, Society as we know it).

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