Vegan in “Cattle Country”… My Vegan Story

Happy Sunday friends! I hope everyone is having a fantastic day. Have I ever told my vegan story on my blog? Forgive me if I have, for I know many of you have heard bits and pieces before. These past few months I have been studying business, trying to make my fledgling vegan bakery Blue Rose Vegan a reality, and this has caused a lot of reflection and growth along the way. As I think about the ethics of my business and how I really even got started, I keep coming back to why I went vegan. The ethics, the animals, how it all just makes so much sense, and if I can help a few others “get it” too, then this will have all been worth it. So, I’ve paraphrased my vegan story in hopes of hearing some of yours too!

Growing up in rural Alberta for the most part, I learned where food came from at a very early age. While my family technically lived in town, a lot of my friends resided on surrounding farms and I quickly realized the sources of meat, eggs, and dairy by elementary school. There was a moment in first grade when it all started to click… Old McDonald was slaughtering those damn chickens?! CHICKEN COMES FROM AN ACTUAL CHICKEN?! I started to become more and more curious and pry at every adult I could find about where my food came form. When my childhood babysitter taught me that veal came from a baby calf, I’m pretty sure I lost my shit.

As I started to sentimentalize my food, I experimented with vegetarianism, though I didn’t know that then. I would subsist off of side dishes at holiday dinners loading up on mashed potatoes, picking out only the vegetables in my stirfries the rest of the time. By junior high, I had a solid idea of what vegetarianism was, and started subscribing to Vegetarian Times, so I could learn to cook. It was through Vegetarian Times that I learned about the vegan lifestyle, and I made the transition to veganism by high school.

During high school was also the time I became enthralled with my local punk/hardcore music scene, where I began to discover a lot of bands and people with similar ethics to mine. I would travel into Calgary and sometimes Edmonton for punk shows, music festivals, any opportunity I had. It wasn’t weird there, to be an ethical vegan like it was in my small town. I made friends who wanted to go out and gorge on vegan Chinese food, finally. Some of my favourite bands sang songs about how eating animals is wrong, and I felt for the first time I was part of a community. That hasn’t stopped. Since going vegan, I’m always thrilled about feeling part of some bigger picture.

When I first went vegan, I totally took to baking my own bread because I was terrified of trying to find it in my small town!
When I first went vegan, I totally took to baking my own bread because I was terrified of trying to find it in my small town!

Going vegan is really what triggered my passion to cook. Growing up in a small town, gathering ingredients for special recipes became an adventure, and food took on a whole different meaning for me. I no longer ate whatever was placed in front of me, but started placing ethics into the equation, and became extremely conscious of reading ingredients. The day my local grocer started carrying Yves vegetarian products, I was elated and took home every product I could find! Tofu and udon noodles became a staple in my diet, and even lentils and soy milk were an exciting find! However, when special occasions started coming around, I was a little saddened that all I had to eat was my sad, cardboard soy ice cream (there weren’t nearly the amount of options available we have now). That was when I formed a passion for baking.

The first vegan cupcakes I ever made, from VCTOTW when it came out in '06

The first vegan cupcakes I ever made, from VCTOTW when it came out in ’06

The first vegan baked goods I ever ate, were my very own. The first recipe I ever experimented with were vegan brownies, from The Garden of Vegan. I was so proud of turning tofu into brownies, that I started baking them to share with everyone I knew. One afternoon in English class while we were watching Choclat, my favourite teacher asked us all to bring our favourite chocolate bar to enjoy. This was the first time I revealed myself as  vegan to people other than my family, explaining to my peers that I don’t eat milk products, and brought in a batch of chocolate walnut brownies! I brought the extras to the rest of my teachers, and the response was always the same, “What is a vegan again?!” “I can’t believe you made these without milk and eggs! Is chocolate vegan?!” From then on, some of my happiest days were coming home from school and baking cupcakes, or having friends over to try the peanut butter cups I made.

One of my first batches of peanut butter cups. Probably a favourite treat of mine and my brother's to this day!
One of my first batches of peanut butter cups. Probably a favourite treat of mine and my brother’s to this day!

When I moved to Calgary for University, I was over the moon to have access to a variety of ethnic markets, natural grocers, and other places to make WHATEVER I WANTED ALL THE TIME. I was also very thankful to have restaurants like Buddha’s Veggie and The Coup around in Calgary for whenever I wanted to go out and enjoy some vegan food in the presence of others eating only plants. Lots of vegan options in Alberta have popped up since, but these places really helped me set down my roots. At first I really did enjoy being in an academic environment, but what I would really look forward to was heading back to my first apartment each night to try and master the art of vegan perogies, the perfect chocolate cake at 3 am, whatever I could find.

Eventually, times did get a little rougher on a personal level. I won’t talk about it here, because this is a place for positivity and high fives and awesome vegan food. But, I was going through a lot personally, staying in school full-time to give myself something to focus on, and working more than I should have been to make ends kinda meet. That’s when I really started to take solace in keeping a blog (a mixture of personal for my own sanity, as well as sharing pictures of food), and spending the little spare time I had in the kitchen. I am by no means an advocate of emotional eating, but I seriously don’t know what I would have done sometimes. I would come home, take all of my confusion and anxiety, and turn that ball of energy into something positive as I played my records as loud as I could, came up with new recipes, and warmed up wherever was home at the time with the oven and smells of compassionately made food. I would stay positive by thinking about how I would share my recipes and all the vegan treats I made somehow, and how I could create a better life for the voiceless.

As I reached completion of my English degree, I no longer had the notion of wanting to either write the LSATS or move to Korea and teach or something. I started to reflect on what was really making me happy, and that’s how I came to realize how badly I wanted to instead spend my time making awesome food, blogging about it, and sharing it. Here I am now, and, I am starting to put together some really important puzzle pieces as this continues to be a goal of mine. I am currently putting together my business plan, and look forward to making this a reality, but perhaps that will require a whole other storytime soon.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. janecleanfourteen says:

    Congratulations on this beautiful journey in self-realization! Way to step back and evaluate what makes your days on this planet the most fulfilling, the happiest, the best for your spirit – and going for it!

    1. thecozyvegan says:

      Thank you Jane! That means so much! I hope you are having a great Sunday 🙂

  2. Ben Campbell says:

    Good luck, I will for sure look for your business when you get started!

    1. thecozyvegan says:

      Thanks for the support Ben! I look forward to sharing the vegan baking-ness around Alberta!

  3. Laura says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story – vegan food has definitely been a path to a holistic level of health for me too!

  4. Provoked says:

    Hooray for you that you found the threads to your compassionate fabric at an early age! I suppose I sort of “knew” as a young child and had my bouts of refusing to eat what (who) was on my plate. Eventually as in all tug-of-war with adults they won and I managed to “forget”.

    I started to make new connections as I got into my fifties and that was ten years ago… First I returned to my vegetarian leanings with the belief that no harm came to anyone if I ate eggs and dairy. Then I saw an ad exposing “factory farming” – A word I never heard of before. One click lead me to the inner workings of these industries and I vowed never to support them after that.

    After that I got involved with my local animal rights/rescue group. Watched Earthlings… And became educated to the things I was indoctrinated not to know or see. The internet has lead many people to make these connections and to make new friends with the same thirst for justice and kindness.

    Thanks for writing your story and sharing all your delicious looking “animal-friendly” foods. Peace to you as you continue your journey to make a better world. ❤

  5. uglicoyote says:

    Reblogged this on Vegan Coyote.

  6. Wow, the story of how you went vegan is SO different from my story. I grew up in the city, and never saw farm animals as a child. I must have known on some level that hamburgers came from cows, but there was also a disconnect. I think the first time I really made the connection was when I was in high school and my mom made me cook chicken for dinner because she had to work late. My mom told me how to cut the chicken up, but when I looked at the whole chicken on the counter I felt sick to my stomach. It looked like a dead animal without a head and I couldn’t cut it up. I made my brother do it for me. Somehow I continued to eat meat after this by burying the thought of the chicken back in my brain and pretended it never happened.

    Many years later, I adopted a plant-based diet for health reasons. As I was learning about this diet, one night I watched the movie, Vegucated. This is the movie that really woke me up to the plight of animals. I instantly adopted a vegan lifestyle after watching this movie and started my blog to encourage others to do the same.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story here – I appreciate it! Celeste 🙂

  7. Oh man, I love your little journey!
    All the more reason to hook up for coffee and learn more! 😉

    1. thecozyvegan says:

      How does this weekend sometime or next week look for you Brittany?!

  8. I’m so excited for you and your journey as a entrepreneur!! Your first cupcakes look amazing! Talent from day one! You’ve heard my vegan story already…probably more than one time too LOL But I’ll post it here anyway:

  9. Michelle says:

    I am so happy I found your blog! I live just outside of Edmonton (but work in the city) and am on a mission to try all the great vegan places! Thankfully more and more are opening… I just need to find a vegan friend who wants to join me.

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