Leah’s Story

I’m a lady who is passionate about food, but it’s taken a long time to get to this point in my food journey. Here’s my story if you care to read it:

I grew up in Ontario, in a house where food was central to family bonding. We ate dinner at the table together every night, and family gatherings centered around huge amounts of delicious home-cooked food. I was fortunate to grow up with a mom who went out of her way to try new things in the kitchen and veered away from the template of meat and potatoes every night.  As a kid I always had the coolest lunches, and there was a time when my favourite food was lima beans. Yes, I’m serious.

When I was 15 I went vegetarian, much to my parents’ chagrin. I can’t blame them for their concern; I hardly knew how to look after myself let alone how to stay healthy on a restricted diet. My mother did what any concerned parent ought to do – she brought me to a vegetarian-friendly nutritionist. The nutritionist was helpful, but you just can’t tell a then-16-year-old what to do. The next year I moved away to University to look after myself for the first time.

It was a disaster.

Not that any teen’s first years away from home are ideal health-wise, but my reliance on cheese as sole provider of deliciousness and protein was rather alarming. I went well beyond the “freshman 15,” and although I enjoyed “cooking” almost every night and ate far more vegetable matter than my peers, I knew something wasn’t right

Towards the end of my university experience, I made the transition to veganism. It was part political statement, part experiment, part treatment program for my cheese addiction. This was when I became involved in the local Food Not Bombs and learned a lot about preparing vegan, fresh, locally grown foods to feed 50+ people in a limited time every week. I was surrounded by an amazing community of socially conscious people who seemed so awake and aware and amazing. Shortly thereafter I was accepted to grad school in New York.

I'm moving to NYC!Amidst the craziness of relocating to The Big Apple, I craved the type of community that I left. Not finding it at school, I sought out the local Food Not Bombs and was rather shocked. It was worlds away from the group I left, and consisted primarily of frustrated youth looking for a concrete way to make a difference. My mothering instinct kicked in, and I quickly found myself “bottomlining” the operation, along with a few like-minded friends.

Those years with Food Not Bombs were inspiring, and exhausting. I found myself helping to run a sort of cooking school for disillusioned youth, some of whom were homeless and others concealing trust fund-related embarrassment. We created a queer-Food Not Bombspositive, hands-on initiative to provide food to the people in Tompkin Square Park, but sometimes I think we helped the volunteers more than the thankful people we met in the park. It was amazing, and I learned so much, but once I graduated and found myself working a demanding 9-to-5 I had to step down. What had started off as a small commitment for a few hours most Sundays had turned into an all-encompassing lifestyle, one I no longer had time for.

After leaving Food Not Bombs, I found my food choices veering back towards those of my teen years. Without the support of my friendly vegan community I again became lost. Towards the end my diet became more about what I wasn’t eating than what I was, and jumping through hoops for every meal out with friends had everyone frustrated.

Eventually I had to make a decision: continue calling myself vegan with all the stress that entailed, or take a leap into the unknown. I took that leap.

Being a new omnivore at the age of 26 is rather bizarre. Most days I still find myself eating and cooking primarily vegan foods. Allowing myself to be omnivorous didn’t instantly make me ravenous for steak, nor did it bring back my cheese habit. It simply lifted a weight off my shoulders, and allowed me to confidently get back in control of my diet. Now if only people would stop making googly eyes everytime they see me with dairy…

My reasons for vegetarianism and veganism were diverse and changed significantly over the years I followed an animal-free diet. They ranged from animal rights issues to health concerns to political motivations to environmental impacts. I still believe in those issues, but am seeking out a diet that is sustainable both for me and for the planet.

Food is always a passionate subject, and a highly personal one. With this blog I’m hoping to provide fun, tasty, nutritious food that appeals to a wide variety of people, all in different places along their own food journeys. Bon appetit!

One Response to Leah’s Story

  1. Mom says:

    MaryAnn says she is going to see if Madison likes lima beans for her school snack!

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