Go Vegan: Broaden Your Palate, Join a CSA
Being vegan makes you smart... so do glasses
My biggest tip for someone who wants to go vegan, or new, or bored vegans, who happen to love to eat, is to join a Community Supported Agriculture group (CSA).
The benefits of joining a CSA expand beyond a positive environmental impact. Not only are you supporting locally grown, organic foods, but being a part of a CSA can force you to break out of your salad and sautéed spinach rut, all the while saving you money!
I’ve been vegetarian since before I hit double digits. It was for simple reasons of course: meat just grosses me out! My mom decided to become “vegetarian” (well, a pescetarian who just misuses the term vegetarian), so I jumped right on that bandwagon with her. I would say I had the typical vegetarian upbringing with conventional veggies, meat substitutes bought from the frozen aisle section, and a lot of pasta. As I got older, I educated myself on ways that I should refine my vegetarian diet to live a healthier life: eating more raw food, buying organic as much as possible, staying away from refined grains, etc.
A few years ago, I decided out of nowhere (as my ideas usually come from this place) to see what would happen if I cut out dairy and eggs. I simply wanted to see if being vegan would really make a difference in the way I felt, but more so if I could actually do it. As many vegetarians who have reservations about becoming vegan, I was worried about giving up my glorious, precious cheese. It only took a matter of days for me to conclude that the way I felt being vegan by far trumped a slice of cheddar.
However, removing dairy and eggs from my diet minimized my food choices once again. Additionally, it made me realize the effects that soy products (tofu, soy milk, soy based meat substitutes) were having on my body. This led me to educate myself on over-processed foods and hence removing them from my diet as well. As a result, I found myself often eating the same meals over and over again. At the grocery store, I knew exactly what I was going to buy every week, because it never really changed. I didn’t even own a proper knife, nor did I give my pots-n-pans much to do.
Then, one spring, I decided to join a CSA with a friend. I’d be getting a weekly delivery of fresh, organic produce, supporting a local farmer who I could communicate directly with and have knowledge of exactly where and how my food was being grown. Plus, it was super cheap. For one share it cost about $20 a week (so about $10 each). For the amount of ORGANIC produce we got for that price, I felt like I was robbing this farmer. Did I mention it’s organic? As any New Yorker knows, buying organic here will surely result in the amputation of arms and legs.
What I didn’t expect to get from joining a CSA was the boost of creativity and passion for cooking it gave me. Every Monday I go to pick up my share, excited and surprised at what this week’s bundle will contain. I start researching and brainstorming on recipe ideas right away. Vegancoach.com has truly been my go-to spot for recipes and vegan flavor match ideas (thanks Sassy!). I’m cooking with produce I would have never thought to pick up in the grocery store or Farmer's Market (if they even had it): dandelion greens, garlic scapes, parsnips, rutabagas, mustard greens, and the list goes on. I’ve even started an herb garden on my fire escape for fresh herbs that I use in my recipes.
The CSA gave me a nudge out of my “salad and sautéed spinach” comfort zone and has expanded my food choices. This has ultimately resulted in my intense passion for vegan cooking and a new hobby.
To anyone who is looking to become vegan, is newly vegan, or just plain bored with their routine vegan cuisine, I’d definitely recommend joining a CSA. It’s good for the environment, it’s great for your health, and it’s excellent at getting you off your butt and trying something new. Enjoy!
Contributed By: Michelle