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Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc.
38 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, New York 12572 USA -  845-876-2626
Vegetarian - Vegan - Animal Rights - Health - Nutrition - Environment

The mission of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc. is to promote the vegetarian ethic in the Mid-Hudson (New York) region, educate the community and aid anyone in the pursuit of a totally vegetarian (vegan) cruelty-free and healthful lifestyle.

Newsletters - Winter 2007 Issue

President's Message

How do you think most people define vegans?

1) Is it as protein-deficient, tofu-tinged beings who have arrived by dead of night from the planet Vega to take over the bodies of earthlings, all the while ranting against consuming meat and dairy foods?

2) Or, is it as earthlings who have given up the joys of burgers, Buffalo Wings and cheese-topped pizza, and want the rest of the planet to suffer along with them [and, moreover, to wear weird shoes]?

In truth, a vegan is very likely an ordinary person of any size and shape who has decided to live with compassion for all life; to walk gentler on the earth; and to eat health-promoting foods our bodies were designed to eat. Presenting ourselves in this way is a challenge because old myths die hard.

Joan Zacharias -- who before she moved to Tampa, Florida, was a staunch member of MHVS -- inspired me to write about this subject because she claims that I interact well with meat eaters. While living in Hudson, Joan and her husband Tom Lyons participated in and organized many MHVS activities. In Tampa, Joan founded “New Tampa Vegans.” At Joan’s suggestion, I started thinking about how I communicate my beliefs.

First, I strongly believe that we can’t just “run off at the mouth"“ the best way to communicate with uninformed people is to give them a taste of our foods. So whenever I am invited to speak, I always bring food along for people to try. This might even mean getting up at 2AM to make hummus or tofu-no-egg salad while still half asleep-- and without taking Ambien. I also frequently invite people who are not vegan to my house for meals and snacks. Currently I am testing recipes for a cookbook containing only vegan foods that I am writing together with Roberta Kalechofsky, who was our speaker in January of 2006. [Check Kalechofsky's website www.micahbooks.com.]

I also have been traveling and use that opportunity to convey the vegan message. In November, I visited friends and family in Northern California; and in December I visited Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City. During these visits I frequently cooked vegan meals or prepared party foods, making sure to explain that the dishes have “no cholesterol and no cruelty.” Rather than pontificating at length, I prefer to deliver short sound bytes, which often elicit questions that I always answer directly.

If you are in a similar situation, I urge you to keep your answers factual and interesting -- but short. By all means, don’t preach.

Here's an example:
“Where do you get your protein?”

A: “From many sources. Tofu, tempeh and beans are very good non-animal sources of concentrated protein. All foods -- except refined sugars -- contain protein. Plants are composed of cells -- and cells must contain proteins. Thus grains, vegetables and fruits have protein too.” You might ask if they know of anyone who has a protein deficiency. Then -- stop. This simple, but powerful, thought is sufficient to convey your message.

Here’s some more advice: When preparing food for meat-eaters, lean towards appetizers and desserts. People are much more willing to try new foods in these formats. When invited to dinner, tell your host that you are vegan and offer to bring a dish to share. Ask what dishes they will be serving, and if appropriate you might suggest that they prepare salads and vegetables without butter or cheese. Say this in advance to save the host the embarrassment of preparing something he or she thinks you may not enjoy -- without knowing that dairy is not used in vegan cooking. You can be fairly certain that the main course will be off limits, so leave that issue alone. You might also bring a quart of Soy Delicious ice “cream” to share. When people ask questions about your food choices at dinner, defer your answers until after the meal.

When dining out, taking your companions to vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly restaurants both ensures there is something you can order, but also introduces your dinner guest to some new foods. A cousin was ready to take me to a steak house until I asked if there was a Thai restaurant nearby. We choose one she liked and she realized for the first time that they had a vegetarian section on their menu.

Many people are still uninformed about the connection between diet and disease. The books on this subject that I recommend include “The China Study” and “The Cancer Prevention Diet.” MHVS has both books and can get any relevant book in print at a good discount, which we resell for about 75% of the cover price. You might also want to carry fliers for our events to distribute to friends and acquaintances as well as copies of “101 Reasons Why I am a Vegetarian,” by Pamela Rice (our speaker in July of 2006) and the pamphlet “Why Vegan?” from Vegan Outreach. Need some copies? Call the office.

I recently bought the book “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Living,” which I find to be well-written and comprehensive. Another unintended advantage -- the book’s title on the cover is very readable from a distance. One day on the subway I had the book with me and a young woman stopped me, told me she is studying to become a registered dietitian, and asked me about the book. Again, on a bus, someone asked me about the book who said her sister was a vegan and she was also making some changes.

Perhaps the most important advice for those of us who are articulate and knowledgeable is to write Letters to the Editor. You might write in response to articles about global warming, hunting, fishing, foie gras -- or the lack of vegan recipes in the food sections of newspapers. If the New York Times doesn’t print your letters, most assuredly the Poughkeepsie Journal, Daily Freeman or other local papers usually will.

Finally, when you are out and about, smile and be an example of a happy, healthy person who enjoys living the vegan lifestyle.

Check the calendar of events on page 3 and join us for upcoming events, bringing friends, neighbors, or family members. If you are a member, offer to help people who are ready to make changes. Don’t hesitate to call the office and ask for our help. If you are a paid member, you may also attend board meeting. When being vegan is an important part of whom you are, it will influence others.

-- Roberta Schiff, President

Go on to Animal and Human Rights
Return to Winter 2007 Issue

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