December 2016 update!
In the spring of 2016, my family decided to make a dedicated switchover from vegetarianism to veganism. It was a well thought out decision, but at the same time, a spontaneous one; sometimes you just need to go with what your heart is telling you, and see where you end up.
The transition was amazingly smooth! We had at that point already eliminated milk from our diets for well over a year, so it was now a matter of dropping cheese, eggs, and yogurt. For one month I waited to feel better. I felt nothing. In fact, I felt kind of out of sorts and uncomfortable. My skin flared a bit, and I didn’t really feel any of the “greatness” that people said came along with a switch to veganism (in retrospect, I believe my system was going through a cleanse). And then all of a sudden… it hit me. I suddenly felt AMAZING. My skin cleared up, and softened. Hair that I had lost, and had never grown back postpartum, started coming back in. I lost weight, and had clean new energy in my system. We became thoughtful eaters. Carefully reading ingredients, rarely eating out, always having lots of healthy options at home.
The best part was doing it as a family. Adam didn’t hesitate for a moment to join me. When I told him I was interested in switching to veganism, he immediately responded with “let’s all do it!” and he never looked back. He is always the biggest supporter in my life, and I am eternally grateful to have him by my side.
The kids willingly came along for the adventure too (we gave them the choice of eating non-vegan outside of the house but they never went for that), adapting their tastebuds as we went along, packing their own treats for birthday parties, giving up chocolates at Halloween, etc. I mean, I might be biased, because they are mine after all, but they are downright incredible.
What I didn’t foresee happening were the great emotional changes that came along with these very welcome physical changes. I suddenly felt a sense of clarity, knowing I was actively choosing not to harm. Choosing love, care, kindness, and compassion over everything else. Adam (whom I have dubbed my Handsome Herbivore) put it to me like this while we chatted one day. He wondered why we choose to see ourselves as superior to the fellow living creatures we share this Earth with, when in fact, we should be seeing ourselves as responsible for the care of the innocent. This resonated within me very deeply. I can now easily say I am so very committed to this care; yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So much so, I decided to commemorate this life change to veganism with a tattoo.
I’ve never been happier! And I’ve never been healthier, inside and out. If you have any questions about my family’s transition to veganism, please feel free to contact me! I would be happy to chat, or answer any questions!
Sandhya of The Two Kitchens
My Childhood kitchen:
I am an almost life long vegetarian. I say almost because when I was a child being vegetarian was often not taken too seriously. My parents (who are both vegetarian) would tell my sitters and other caregivers that I did not eat meat yet I still remember being served bologna and canned beef ravioli at lunchtime on several occasions. A Mom of a childhood friend recently confessed to me that she regularly served me meat sauce on my pasta since it was what she had on hand and what she was serving to everyone else.
I truly became vegetarian in grade three. I can remember eating a hot dog on hot dog day and thinking that I just didn’t want to eat meat anymore. By then I could tell people that I didn’t eat meat and was savvier to what I was being served.
Growing up in a vegetarian household made being one easy. Most days we ate delicious and healthy South Indian meals. We ate a variety of vegetables and fruits. My Mom rarely bought cheese or eggs since she didn’t care for them herself though we did regularly eat butter, yogurt and buttermilk.
I was about 12 years old when my Dad’s doctor put him on an extreme elimination diet in an attempt to find the source of his debilitating migraines. His diet started during one of our family vacations and I’ll never forget it. We were staying in this little motel in what appeared to be a ghost town. My poor Mom had to find a variety of meals to make with the first three items my Dad was allowed to re-introduce into his diet which were carrots, zucchini and sweet potatoes. It was amazing to see my Mom work in that little limited kitchen in this bare bones Motel with those three ingredients. The food looked and smelled appetizing and tasted wonderful.
It was quickly discovered that wheat, dairy, caffeine and chocolate were triggers for my Dad’s migraines. So in an amazingly intuitive way my Mom began to search for healthier options to replace these items. She found a natural food warehouse out in the middle of an industrial area and we would wander the aisles for hours while she figured out what would work to replace the items my Dad could no longer eat. She picked up packages of amaranth, spelt, buckwheat and kamut flours, tetra packs of rice, almond and soy milks, and bags of millet, barley, wild rice and quinoa. With her finds she created melt in your mouth chapathis or rotis, which are traditionally made with whole wheat flour, crispy dosas (a savory crepe) with ground lentils and buckwheat, fluffy quinoa and long stems of wild rice cooked up alongside the traditional white rice for added protein and texture. She was a food artist and it was incredible to watch and inspirational. My Dad became completely migraine free and lost a lot of excess weight to boot. His energy levels picked up and I remember him getting on his bike and going for long rides invigorated by his newfound health.
My First Kitchen
As I got older I replaced my Mom’s traditional Indian foods with “Western” foods like pastas, breads and cheeses. My wonderful teenage metabolism carried me through high school but when I moved in with my then boyfriend now husband Adam in our early twenties, things started to go downhill.
Our first shared home was a ground level illegal suite in an old house, complete with neon orange shag carpets, a lovely avocado green bathroom set and the tiniest of kitchens. In our first little home together we ate quick and easy comfort foods like grilled cheese sandwiches dipped in gobs of ketchup, canned tomato soup with buttery toast and perogies covered in sour cream. This was all washed down with copious amounts of beer of course. Adam, who still ate meat at the time, would sometimes cook chicken wings and use lunchmeats in his sandwiches for work. It was exhausting eating this way; though it was easy, quick and affordable as our budget was limited, it left me with no energy and drive. My body was screaming for nutritious food but I felt stumped. I didn’t know how to tackle being the master chef of my own home. My Mom’s cooking legacy left me more than intimidated and whenever I attempted one of her recipes I was always left disappointed.
My Second Kitchen
Fast-forward a few years and Adam, Uma (our newly acquired puppy) and I moved into our second rental, a much nicer top level of half of a duplex, with a large backyard, big deck and most importantly a much more functional kitchen. Here I began to hone in on my interest in cooking. Though we still relied primarily on pastas and breads for our main meals, I started cooking some Indian dishes and tried my best to include lots of vegetables in all our meals. We started hosting more dinners for our family and friends and I started to feel more relaxed in the kitchen.
Adam and I got married in 2005. We served an exclusively vegetarian menu at our wedding, something I had always dreamed of doing. On our wedding day Adam told me and his much amused groomsmen that he was going to stop eating red meat and poultry from that day. Though it wasn’t believed that this former meat and potatoes kind of guy could stick to this vow he proved everyone wrong!
My Third Kitchen
In 2008, Adam and I welcomed our daughter Ameya into the world. The three of us and Uma now lived in beautiful but small apartment. Though the kitchen was tiny, the appliances were fairly new and nice to work with. Ameya’s arrival forced me to look at food closer than I ever had before. I knew I wanted Ameya to be raised vegetarian but wasn’t exactly sure how. It was scary being responsible for this little person who was depending on me to provide her with all that her small body needed to grow and thrive. I started by making all my own baby foods, pureeing organic vegetables and cooking up lentil concoctions in my pressure cooker. She thrived on her healthy homemade diet and I was elated. I was finally figuring out how to be a half decent vegetarian!
My Kitchen Today
Now it is 2014 and our family has grown to include two more daughters, Saumya and Lhasa. We live in a townhouse with a decent sized kitchen that has a wonderful island where I do most of my food and baking prep work. I also have extra freezer and fridge space in my garage and an extensive pantry, luxuries I never had before. In the last few years my interest in food has peaked. Being responsible for my growing family’s nutrition and well being has shown me how food is our true lifeblood. It is how we fuel and nourish our bodies and our minds. It changes how we feel, how we look, how we act, how we think.
My kitchen philosophy is simple, to serve my vegetarian family dishes that are nutritious, delicious, and simple to prepare. I strive to be a principled vegetarian, I believe that the ethical treatment of animals is the utmost importance and we pay a premium price for free range eggs, organic milk/dairy and local cheeses. I strongly believe in consumer awareness, I want to know where my food comes from and I want to know how it got there. We eat as much local produce as we can and are lucky to live in area where farm markets abound. My favorite local seasonal produce store has the most stunning array of fruits, vegetables, herbs and more, most of which is from their farm that is directly behind the store and much of it is no spray. I will buy organic when possible but would choose something local over something that looks sad and soggy and has been sitting in the organic grocery store for a week and who knows how long in transit before that. Though we strive to eat healthy and well rounded meals for the most part we do like our indulgences once in awhile. I don’t believe that an “all or nothing” attitude with food makes for success, especially with kids.
I have to thank my amazing husband Adam for always being supportive of all my life changing moments and for zestfully enjoying my cooking. Without his encouragement and enthusiasm cooking just wouldn’t be the same.
I am excited to share this blog with my friend Jennifer. She has been a real inspiration to me and I’ve learned a lot from her. I know I’m looking forward to trying all her recipes, she is one amazing cook!
I am not a food expert or professionally trained in culinary arts but I love food and I love to cook. I will be sharing recipes with you that I prepare with care and attention for the people who are the most important in my life in the hopes that you will enjoy them as much as we do!
Co-Author of The Two Kitchens