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Adventures of a Vegan: More Than 'Meats' the Eye

What happens when the girl next door stops eating meat? You're about to find out.

When you hear the word "vegan," what comes to mind? For most of us, at least in Somerset County, vegan is not exactly normal. We think of hippies or celebrities; people who want nothing to do with regular society or who can afford personal chefs. We don't think of the girl next door.

When I told my mom I was going vegan, she just sort of stared at me. My little cousins thought I had a disease. My friends thought I'd never drink another beer. They all agreed that being vegan is not for a typical girl from New Jersey who loves the Yankees, beer and summer BBQs. After three years, I still don't always think it's normal.

Despite the social stigma, it's hard to deny the vegan trend happening across the country. It's all over the news, with celebrities jumping on board faster than a runaway train. But it's still not considered "normal"—or easy—in the suburbs. Until now!

This weekly column will track my adventures as a normal girl attempting to stick to my normal life, despite shirking the normal American diet. I'm 26 and a 2003 graduate of Parsippany High School. I played three varsity sports in high school, went to the University of Maryland and spend most summer weekends down the shore.

I didn't know any vegans or vegetarians growing up—although I've since found out that a few of my friends' parents are vegan. I do it for myself, my health, rather than animal rights. I love that my lifestyle saves hundreds of animals a year, but that wasn't my motivation.

As you'll see through my adventures, when I decided to stop eating meat, I never planned on changing my lifestyle or my social circle. Yes, I was changing my eating habits, but I still wanted to go to my favorite local restaurants and fit in with my friends from home. 

I'll be reviewing restaurants—normal ones, not just vegan spots—throughout Somerset County. I'll offer advice on what to do if a vegan is coming to dinner or you're a vegan going to a dinner party; how to handle your family's confusion when you don't eat turkey on Thanksgiving and a look inside a million other situations. The column is a general humor and wellness column, with a vegan bent.

Whether you've thought about going vegan, are vegan, have a gluten or lactose allergy, have friends who recently stopped eating steak, or are just looking for a good laugh, I hope this column provides a little insight into the life of a vegan in the 'burbs.

Laura Madsen July 18, 2011 at 11:34 AM
What's the difference between vegan an vegetarian?
Marion Rollings July 18, 2011 at 01:07 PM
A vegan does not eat any animal products while vegetarians may eat dairy and/or eggs. I am a vegan and it is an easy, healthy, and very enjoyable way of life. Check out the book "Vegan for Life" by Jack Norris, RD.
Alisa Kuker Ugalde July 19, 2011 at 01:31 PM
Check out Spoon and Sprout Cafe in Hillsborough, NJ.
J Sena July 19, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Looking forward to reading your articles! My spouse and I have been vegeterian for years and now recently we are considering becoming vegan secondary to health issues and reading supportive literature.
Danielle Elliot July 19, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions - I will definitely check it out Alisa! J. Sena, i hope some of my stories provide insight!
spokey July 20, 2011 at 10:00 PM
No vegetarian here, but I and some of the rest of the family have yummy tofu turkey at Thanksgiving. The roast not the thing that looks like it was made with a large cookie cutter. Of course the rest of the family eats turkey. Been doing it for years.
Jayne Mochnacz July 21, 2011 at 11:51 AM
If you are looking for Dessert, try Super Sundaes, 435 Amwell Road @ Amwell Center, Hillsborough. Along with Ice Cream we also serve Tofutti Non Dairy Frozen Dessert in Vanilla, Chocolate or Vanilla Almond Bark Flavors. There are many toppings that are dairy free as well. We can even make non-dairy cakes! At Super Sundaes we are responsive and strive to accommodate the needs of customers with food allergies and dietary restrictions.
Marion Rollings Phd July 21, 2011 at 12:31 PM
I had no idea Super Sundaea served Tofutti. Will spread the word! This is great :)
Danielle Elliot July 26, 2011 at 02:23 PM
Thanks for answering this for me, Marion! Laura, I'll expand on the health reasons to choose vegan or vegetarian in next week's column.
Danielle Elliot July 26, 2011 at 02:25 PM
I wish my family was willing to try a Thanksgiving tofu turkey. I'll have to remember to ask you for a recipe this year come November!
Danielle Elliot July 26, 2011 at 02:26 PM
Thanks Jayne - I'm planning on stopping in today after grabbing lunch.

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