Raw Potluck Meetup and Remaining Vegan for the Long Run

Last Saturday, I attended my first event hosted by the Madison Raw Food Meetup Group—a modestly attended yet cheerful potluck at Jewel in the Lotus Yoga. The brightly hued, spiritually rich studio provided a jovial atmosphere in which to meet like-minded Madisonians, discuss vegan issues, learn about individual experiences with raw foodism, and sample an array of delightfully fresh uncooked vittles.


I provided three dishes: Raw Tacos—chili-spiced walnut “meat” topped with pico de gallo, guacamole, and cashew sour cream wrapped in a napa cabbage leaf; Spiced Melon Shooters—a creamy soup of cantaloupe and avocado uniquely spiced with ginger, cumin, and a hint of cayenne, elegantly served in Dixie cups; and Coconut-Lemon Meltaway Cookies, the scrumptiousness of which I’m certain you can gather simply from the title.

Rather blurry (I apologize) Raw Tacos.

Coconut-Lemon Meltaway Cookies

Goodies prepared by my fellow potluck attendees included a tasty mingling of contrasting flavors and textures in a “casserole” of Bragg’s-marinated mushrooms, sweet corn, and alfalfa sprouts; fresh-picked purslane; a pesto of kale, basil, walnuts, garlic, and nutritional yeast; and a superb dessert of rosewater-soaked date halves stuffed with almond butter and sprinkled with cacao nibs.

Mushroom-corn casserole.

My plate of raw fabulousness.

While seated upon tasseled, jewel-toned cushions, our small group of friendly strangers shared a deliciously nourishing meal and engaged in a surprisingly intriguing discourse pertaining to veganism. I chatted primarily with a lovely and fascinating woman named Sonya, who dove into the vegan realm a mere two months ago, yet offers the tremendous insight of an experienced activist. Our conversation flowed in and out of our personal journeys through veganism, my jealousy of her well-stocked raw kitchen (complete with an Excalibur dehydrator and a Blendtec), the vegetarian community in Madison, and the wild success of this year’s Mad City Vegan Fest. However, after touching upon one topic in particular, I couldn’t shake it from my contemplative mind: adopting a vegan diet solely for health reasons, only to backtrack into animal product consumption and repudiate a potentially life-altering shift in consciousness, whether toward animals, the environment, or both.

I’ve unabashedly admitted before that I, like many others, became a vegan out of a borderline obsessive desire to achieve optimal health through my eating habits. Eliminating animal secretions (I had already not eaten their flesh since the 4th grade) from my diet almost overnight, I dove headfirst into the ocean of veganism, immersing myself in the waters of vegan blogs, books, Twitter accounts, magazines, and podcasts. While I did so with the singular intention of stuffing my brain full of plant-based nutritional information (Becoming Vegan played a huge role in my early days), after a couple of months, the compassionate message at the heart of the vegan movement ceased to serve as a mere murmur and transformed into a veritable roar. Yes, these bloggers, authors, Twitter-users, columnists, and podcasters offered wholesome recipes and a wealth of nutritional knowledge, but they also shared an intense desire to rid the world of animal cruelty and environmental degredation—a desire that often crept (and often more-than-crept) into their work and that I could not ignore “once I finally allowed myself to absorb the true magnitude of the utterly inhumane impact a non-vegan lifestyle has on non-human animals” (as quoted from my blog’s Philosophy tab). I soon traded Becoming Vegan for Animal Liberation; cried while listening to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s podcasts on “free-range” egg farms, pigs, and animal mutilation instead of downloading only her nutritionally focused episodes; and expanded my Twitter feed to include PETA, Compassion Over Killing, and Mercy for Animals among the food bloggers.

But what if I hadn’t permitted the reality of egregious animal suffering to permeate my once purely health-conscious psyche? What if I hadn’t surrounded myself with a virtual community of like-minded people? What if I hadn’t continued to educate myself and expand my knowledge of vegan issues on a daily basis? What if I hadn’t shifted my perception of veganism from a rather superficial aspiration of weight management to a selfless urge to cause as little harm as possible to the world and all of its inhabitants? If I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t call myself a vegan today.

Recently, I’ve encountered a number of former vegans who, after harboring supposedly steadfast ideals, somehow “unlearned” the cruelty to animals, to the environment, and to their health that originally inspired a passionate desire to live in accordance with their values. While I certainly don’t believe that their compassionate morals suddenly morphed into a bloodthirsty lust to harm living beings, I strongly suspect that they allowed themselves to conveniently forget the astronomical impacts of animal consumption, re-blanketing their once liberated true ideals with weak excuses and justifications—”Sometimes I crave a cookie and it’s hard to find a vegan one”; “I had to eat meat after getting pregnant”; “There was nothing else to eat at a party except for steak and I was famished. I just kept eating meat after that because I liked the taste”; “No one else I knew was vegan and I felt isolated”; “I felt tired all the time as a vegan. It just wasn’t right for my blood type.”

Perhaps, though, their true ideals never actually seized the chance to fully manifest themselves. As I discussed before, veganism never enveloped the deepest crevices of my soul until my reasons for maintaining the lifestyle matured from health-based to ethical. They did so because I constantly inhabited the virtual vegan world, which first introduced me to the magnitude of animal cruelty, provided a support group to combat the barrage of non-veganness in my real-world community, and continually enforced my decision to live compassionately. In order to thoroughly cultivate the dedication and unwavering psychology necessary to nuture a permanent vegan lifestyle, I strongly believe one must accomplish two tasks: 1.) Discover and heavily educate oneself about all three intrinsic backbones of the vegan movement—animals, environment, and health—to create a powerful plethora of personal inspiration and a constant reminder of why veganism remains essential in saving the world. 2.) Surround oneself with likeminded people, whether online or in a tangible community, to converse, share experiences, and reinforce each others’ imperative decision.

If these two ongoing missions rest incomplete, perpetuating veganism can seem quite difficult, isolating, hopeless, and finally, unmerited. Persuading oneself to forgo a vegan lifestyle, founded upon any of the excuses listed above or a number of others, becomes infinitely easier without a staunch “why vegan?” knowledge base or encouragement from fellow vegans.

I sincerely hope all of you have already or will soon uncover the motivation to remain vegan for the very very very long run.

Until next time, Ali.

15 thoughts on “Raw Potluck Meetup and Remaining Vegan for the Long Run

  1. Alexia @ NamasteYoga says:

    oh dear i am dying to go to a raw vegan potluck. would probably be only me and my boyfriend going though.. haha.. your plate looks delicious, what a fabulous potluck!

  2. Cadry's Kitchen says:

    This is a great post, Ali! It’s something I’ve thought about many times too. Over the years I’ve had a number of non-vegans ask me about going vegan, generally only interested in the health-aspects of veganism. It wasn’t surprising to me that in those instances, veganism never stuck. (Not that a person can’t be vegan solely for health, but with these particular people it wasn’t enough to convince them for life.) Even with all that I’ve learned, I know when it comes to eating a truly healthy diet, I’m better at it some times than other times. Sometimes I’m all kale salad and green smoothies, but other times I have a week of cravings for seitan and Soy Curls. Even with my good intentions, when it’s health alone, there are ups and downs. But when it comes to the animals? That’s always consistent. A meal of animal parts or secretions most certainly would involve suffering, and I don’t want any part of that. When it comes to my vegan-ness I never waver, because I care more about animals than I do a cookie. When those are my options, it’s very easy to say no.

    • Ali Seiter says:

      Thank you so much, Cadry, both for your kind words and your insight. Sonya, whom I mentioned in this post, commented that after adopting a fully vegan diet, she felt like she owed it to herself to sample the vegan convenience/commodity products such as plant-based meats that aren’t exactly healthful but cause no animal cruelty. Her attitude definitely echos your sentiments (I love your quote about consistency to the animals), since she realized that she would rather eat slightly more indulgently than support animal suffering (though she usually maintains a very wholesome vegan diet). Thanks again, Cadry!

  3. Gabby @ the veggie nook says:

    I think the 2 points you mentioned about staying vegan are so important. I initially went vegan for health an environmental reasons, but had I not learned about animal suffering I don’t think I would have maintained. I spent my first couple years fairly isolated and it was absolutely starting to get to me. You can only go so long before the weird questions and lack of understanding begins to wear you down. But now that I’ve started a blog, I feel more connected and part of a bigger picture, something that is fueling me to continue forwards.

    The potluck looks lovely too!

    • Ali Seiter says:

      Well, I’m extremely happy you stuck with veganism and started a blog, both for your own benefit and the benefit of many others, myself included. Thanks, Gabby! I always love to hear from you.

  4. Kristy says:

    Another well-voiced, extremely insightful post. I agree with you 100%. When one sees veganism as a diet, it is much harder to stick to it, as we all have moments where we want to indulge in something to please our palates. When one sees veganism as a lifestyle, as a means to eliminate violence and speciesism from their life, pleasing your palate while adhering to this lifestyle is effortless.

    • Ali Seiter says:

      Why, thank you, Kristy! I completely agree that once you see the suffering behind eating animals rather than just the negative health impacts, forgoing their flesh and secretions becomes as natural as breathing.

  5. luminousvegans says:

    The raw food looks yum! I could not agree more with your comments on vegan for the animals vs. vegan for health. Letting down oneself is so much easier than letting down innocents (the animals) which might be why many “health vegans” don’t stick with it. I do think the word vegan should be reserved for those who carry over the compassion in all areas of life (i.e. toiletries, shoes, clothes, etc). Those who just eat a vegan diet should be called “plant strong” or something else. Not because I want to be elitist about it, but I think it cuts down on confusion. There have often been times where I will meet someone who says they are vegan and then I will see them buying leather or using new wool. As commenters said above, it truly is a lifestyle and state of mind, not just a diet.

    • Ali Seiter says:

      While I do agree with you to an extent that health-based vegans differ inherently from ethical vegans, I think including them in the circle of veganism (and thereby calling them “vegans”) allows them to feel more comfortable identifying themselves as such and will perhaps shift their thinking to a more compassionate standpoint. Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  6. aspiringsteph says:

    Wow, I’ve said this before, but Ali you are seriously a great writer.
    Shame on me, but I was pretty ‘pissed’ recently at ex-vegans, even ex raw-vegans now promoting animal foods, grass fed butter and stuff. I noticed veganism based on just the alleged ‘health’ benefits don’t last long.
    As you mention in the post, there needs to be a more conscious connection with the earth and the animals to be dedicated to this lifestyle.
    Back in 2010, I read the Skinny Bitch and stayed vegetarian for only 5 months or so – that’s because I wasn’t too touched by animal welfare, but was selfishly concerned with my own well being. When I found out about B12, and the “dangers of grains&legumes” (which is BS), I turned to the paleo diet. It wasn’t until when I became very ill with digestive issues, and when I read more about the truth about fad diets and the horrible situation the earth is faced in, that I realized what was the right thing to do.
    I no longer care if veganism wasn’t the optimal diet for humans. I simply choose to not support the industries that’s harming many lives and also the planet.

    • Ali Seiter says:

      Thanks very much, Steph!

      I completely understand your frustration with those who turned away from veganism–I, too, felt a twinge of “What the hell were you thinking?” when I heard about those in my own life doing so. This post, for me, also served as a reminder that even people who have become somewhat enlightened can remain the dark about certain issues, simply because those issues are so hidden away from the public eye.

      Funnily enough, one of my friends who recently rejected a vegan lifestyle also originally went vegan after reading Skinny Bitch. While I do think this is a helpful starter book, it needs to be supplemented with other more animal rights-geared books to gain a full understanding.

      Thanks again for the great comment, Steph!

  7. MeShell says:

    Found your post through reddit.

    I agree with you entirely, and while I do think vegan diets are generally quiet healthy, I find myself explaining (quite often) to people that health is not the primary reason why I’m vegan. I don’t mind fat, or sweets, or “bad” foods in moderation, and people don’t always understand that there is a separation between following personal ethics and making less than perfect health choices (like eating a vegan donut for breakfast…)

    I think that’s why the stories from ex-vegans irk me so, I feel as though by deciding to be vegan, and sticking to it, I’ve made a commitment to living a kinder, less harmful life, but I have to remind myself that people don’t always come to it and stick with it for the same reasons.

    • Ali Seiter says:

      Definitely. But once those who don’t become vegan for your similar reasons discover them, they’re much more likely to remain vegan. That’s why it’s so important to never stop educating and exposing the horrors of animal agriculture.

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