veggie book club: the kind diet

I was going to name this post “Cher Horowitz Turned Me Vegetarian” or something equally cheesy (confession: I go through 9 pun-y or nonsensical post titles that make me snort-laugh, then land on a really dull one at the last minute. True story). But really this isn’t meant to be silly or goofy. I just wanted to explain a little more about my decision to go vegetarian, which I blogged about on Earth Day. I have been doing a lot of reading (books, articles, blogs) and watching (documentaries) on the subject of food, nutrition, animal treatment, the environment. It’s undeniable it’s all linked despite the fact we like to simply pretend they are not (maybe we don’t want to believe we are the problem). But I’ve always been into these subjects (with varying levels of enthusiasm depending on what else is important in my life at the moment), so why now did one book inspire me to finally realize I needed to make a huge change in my life? Life is funny.

I was at the library browsing cook books and came across Alicia Silverstone’s vegan cookbook, The Kind Diet. I’m no stranger to vegan cuisine – I have cooking club comrades who stinted as vegans for a year (and we made awesome stuff), and I try lots of meatless meals all the time. I own lots of vegetarian and vegan cook books. I grabbed it just because (confession #2 here…) I am always curious to see how celebrities fare when they author a book. And Alicia Silverstone is just kind of adorable, right?

I was surprised to find out that the book isn’t really entirely cook book. The first two sections (of three) are more about the the why and how of the matter. Section 1 is devoted to the hard topics at hand. The gruesome details about what you are ingesting (not just meat and animal products, but white sugar), the horrifying truth about how animals-for-food live and die. How it affects your health and well-being in ways you don’t know until you cut it out. And it’s really, really hard to put down, and it’s even harder to refute.

Section 2 outlines the lifestyles of a “kind diet,” that is one that is not only kind to animals, but kind to the planet and to yourself. There are three levels she calls “flirting,” “vegan,” and “superhero.” Flirting is vegetarian. Maybe even pesco-vegetarian. It’s dipping in a toe, cutting back on the bad stuff, experimenting with different meatless meals in a way that’s meant to slowly work you into plant-based. Vegan means cutting out all animal products entirely. Until I read this it didn’t occur to me there could be something more strict. Superhero is hardcore. It’s vegan, but it also eliminates processed foods (think Boca) in favor of organic, natural, and often raw.

Forget the recipes (I’ve tried a few, some GREAT and others kind of… meh). This book was somehow written in a way that made me stop and evaluate more than some of the other (and admittedly “better”) books about vegetarianism and sustainability. I ordered the book on Amazon before my rented copy was due back at the library. Since the night I started reading it I haven’t eaten meat. I don’t know why this book made such an impact. Maybe just because the writing style is so breezy and she’s so darn likable that I didn’t find loopholes in the reasoning, or maybe because she was so nice about it I couldn’t argue. It’s not graphic and abrasive like Skinny Bitch; it’s put in a way that makes sense. It’s polite, honest, sort of emotional, but it’s also well-researched (it’s no Michael Pollan, but she’s done her homework, clearly). It’s also not preachy, or even pleading. It had me from the preface, which said (and I paraphrase liberally): there are a million problems in the world – but what if there was just ONE THING you could do to help solve many of them? That hooked me. That’s exactly me. Overwhelmed by the pressure to want to make a difference but not realizing I can. Wanting to take a step to do what I think is right but fearing I might not be able to succeed at it.

My only criticism is the recipe section makes the assumption we all have a Farmer’s Market around the corner year-round because we all live in LA. It’s a bit out of reach – many of the ingredients are nearly impossible to find in my area and many others are available at a price that’s not reasonable for me to pay. But she is down-to-Earth in that she doesn’t expect complete perfection, even from herself, and that even “baby steps are better than no steps.” For me, that was the eye-opener that made me realize I should do this. I’ve always been overwhelmed by an idea that seemed like something I’d want to do, but so daunting. I’m not a vegan (maybe never will be) but not eating animals is a big step (or several baby ones, haha) to living a life that’s kinder in a lot of ways. It’s a big deal. So this post is jam-packed with embarrassing confessions, not the least of which is that a celebrity swayed me to change my life.

If you are up to it, I recommend the book, her website, and her vegan peanut butter cups (two thumbs up from my husband who requested them again).

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