I met Staci when I moved to Alaska in 2006. During my two years in Alaska her friendship helped keep me sane and feeling right at home. I like to think of Staci as a seasoned vet in the world of vegetarianism as she's taken on many different levels of this lifestyle. I'm excited to say that she's going to discuss what it's like to be deployed on a vegan diet, as well as being the parent of two boys in this world of picky eaters. I hope y'all enjoy what she has to share!
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[Interviewed via e-mail August 14, 2011]Jasmine: First off, thank you for taking the time to do this interview! Tell our readers how you came across Vegging for Health.
Staci: I, of course, came across your blog because you are one of my bestest and coolest friends...like EVER :)
(She is so sweet and so right!)
Jasmine: How did you get interested in vegetarianism/veganism?
Staci: I became seriously interested in the whole vegetarian/vegan thing when I was in middle school (so about 15 years ago). My parents had raised a cow they named Dinner Bell, so whenever we had steak my mom would laugh and say “you’re eating dinner” (har, har, har).
Jasmine: When did you adopt this lifestyle and how long have you been vegetarian/vegan?
Staci: I adopted the lifestyle officially when I was 19 and did it for a few years, then started eating meat again, then stopped eating meat, then started...it was a whole vicious cycle. Most recently I was a pure vegetarian (no ovo-lacto) for about 2 years, until I got deployed to Iraq. Eating nothing but beans, rice, and salsa can get rather boring. Slowly I started eating eggs, sour cream (to eat over those delicious beans and rice), and butter. I did the whole vegetarian thing for a few months while deployed before I became a pescatarian. Every Friday night was seafood/sushi night and I LOVE seafood. Eventually it became too much for me and I gave in to temptation, thinking I would give up seafood again when I got home. I didn’t and about 6 months or so down the road, I was convinced to start eating poultry again.
So there I was, on a strictly no mammal diet. About a month ago I stopped eating poultry again thanks to a video I was made to watch in one of our Self-Aid and Buddy Care classes. They cut open the artery of a live pig to demonstrate how blood spurts out of the body and how something called “Quick-Clot” works. That was all it took to stop eating chicken again. My plight has always been more so because of animal rights than because I don’t like meat, or even because of my health.
Jasmine: Were your loved ones supportive of you becoming a vegetarian/vegan?
Staci: Not when I was still living at home. I wouldn’t say that they were completely unsupportive, but I got the usual “where does your protein come from” speech and the “we’re supposed to eat meat, that’s why God put it on Earth” speech. That’s when I had to remind myself of the Alice Walker quote:
“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”It’s hard for people to support you when they 1) don’t necessarily agree with what you’re doing and 2) don’t understand it. A lot of people think they know things about the vegetarian diet, when they have never done the research to substantiate their claims.
Jasmine: Do you think it is easy to adopt vegetarianism/veganism/pescatarianism as a way of life or does one require a lot of changes in their lifestyle? How did you make the change?
Staci: I don’t, by any means, think it is easy to adopt this kind of lifestyle, especially long term. You have to really want it. I was never a big meat eater, so it was a little bit easier of a lifestyle for me to adopt. It’s still hard though. I can easily give up red meat and pork, but chicken is a little harder and seafood is damn near impossible. That’s the reason I am a pescatarian now. I know that fish, crustaceans, and mollusks (etc) don’t have the complex nervous systems that land animals do. So, it’s easier for me to convince myself that eating them is okay. :)
Jasmine: As the mother of twin boys, are your kids vegetarian too? If not, do they eat veg meals with you or do you make them separate meals?
Staci: My children are not vegetarians. First is because they go to daycare on base. Unless they have a food allergy, you don’t really have a huge say in what they eat. Their father (my ex) is also a meat eater. When they’re with me they eat what I eat and have no problem with it. They love vegetables.
Jasmine: Do you have any tips to share on raising children in our fast food world?
Staci: Start them early. When they finally started eating baby food, it was nothing but vegetables at first, even before fruit. When you start babies off on fruit, they tend not to want to eat the vegetables (can you blame them really?). As they moved on to solid food, I always had the Steamables vegetables at every meal. I also made them try a variety of things (like chickpea curry - which they loved) because there are a lot of really good vegetarian meals in other cultures.
(Parents like this warm my heart.)
Jasmine: Are there difficulties with being a vegetarian/vegan/pescatarian?
Staci: I think the biggest thing is going out to eat. While restaurants are finally realizing that there is a market for, at least, vegetarian dishes, it’s still really hard to find a good meal when eating out. I think you’ll notice that a lot of dishes that tout “vegetarian” are usually covered in cheese.
Jasmine: Describe yourself as a vegetarian/vegan/pescatarian today.
Staci: It’s somewhat of an involved lifestyle for me, but I choose it for myself. I say myself because I’m not, and never have been, one of those people that spew their convictions on to others. I am completely fine with other people eating meat if that is what they want to do. If they have questions about vegetarianism/veganism, I will gladly answer what I can, but I refuse to expect people to change.
(I agree with Staci. Some of us are super nice and willing to answer your questions with a smile on our face. I respect the choices of others and all I ask is that you respect my choice to be the vegetarian/pescatarian I am today.)
Jasmine: Do you feel you have influenced the rest of your family?
Staci: Not really, although I was told by my boyfriend that he started eating more vegetables after he began dating me.
Jasmine: Some people seem to think that vegetarian food means breads, boiled veggies, and salads. What would you like to tell them?
Staci: Most food people eat can be considered vegetarian. I think the problem is they see meat as the entree and vegetarian type food as the side dish. People also tend not to think outside of the box. There are many cultures that have plant based meals, like Indian food. When you start exploring, an entire world of meat free dishes will appear.
Jasmine: Do you think vegetarianism/veganism/pescatarianism is a passing fad or is it here to gain more strength?
Staci: It’s actually starting to become much more mainstream. Take the “Meat Free Monday” campaign for example. It all started out back in WWII when they were rationing meat and wheat. Now it is a global phenomenon. More and more people are touting vegetarian/vegan lifestyles, especially celebrities. You’d be surprised how many people there are that don’t eat meat.
(She's right! Some of my favorite celebs are vegan/vegetarian.)
Jasmine: What is your favorite meal/dish? (Homemade, store bought, restaurant.)
Staci: My absolute favorite is a vegetarian combo platter I get at this Greek restaurant. It has hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouli, stuffed grape leaves, falafel, tzatziki, and of course pita bread. It’s amazing.
Jasmine: Would you like to share your favorite vegetarianism/veganism/pescatarianism recipe?
Staci: I have a few recipes on my blog (that I have a hard time keeping up with sometimes), with the newer ones also have nutritional info. awesome-ends-in-me.blogspot.com
* * * * *I hope you enjoyed reading about Staci's journey into becoming the pescatarian she is today. See what I mean about seasoned vet? Over the years that I have known Staci, her decisions to go from vegetarian to vegan to pescatarian (and everything in between) is something that helped me decide to make the change for myself.
(I haven't seen Staci since 2008. We are extremely overdue for a reunion (along with my other EAFB ladies)!)
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A huge thanks to Staci for being part of Vegging for Health! If you enjoyed this interview, look forward to more interviews coming soon. If you, or anyone you know, would like to be featured in a VfH interview please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.