The Gratitude List

So, the holidays are just around the corner, and I am so full of joy. See, I am a total Thanksgiving/Christmas fiend (due to being a Christmas baby- yep, that's right- 2:45 AM on Christmas Day), so I always try to maximize the celebration time as much as possible. I am actually listening to holiday music right now as I type. I consider the season to begin November 1st (which drives my fiance crazy), which includes listening to music, getting gifts ready, and beginning to work on my Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes. Love it, love it, love it.

I don't want to steal Thanksgiving's thunder by concentrating on Christmas at this time, so I decided to spend this post devising a list of things I've learned/discovered/just plain love about being vegan. Basically, it's a gratitude list- which I think goes with that whole being thankful thing on Thanksgiving.

So, here goes. Below you will find the things this year that I have been most grateful for:


1) My fiance Steve

Now, I type this because before I go into a list of dorky vegan things I love, I had to acknowledge the loving being in my home who happens to not be vegan, but who eats vegan with me all the time, supports me in every vegan endeavor, and is just plain amazing. Steve is my number one recipe taste tester, and any time I have a vegan dilemma, he is right there listening and doing what he does best- being my best friend.

2) Agave Nectar

Oh my Gosh... Agave Nectar. The honey replacement that has taken a hold of my life and won't let me go. This powerful little syrup has sweetened so many dishes, drinks, breakfast bowls that I can't even count the ways I love it! It's just awesome!!! And the best part about it? It's got a low glycemic index, which makes it healthy to boot. Man oh man, I love you, Agave Nectar.

3) Skinny Bitches Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

These are the authors of that little diet book that took the world by storm- Skinny Bitch. If you haven't heard of it before, you need to get your butt to a bookstore or library and read it. It not only makes a justified argument for a vegan diet, it's also hilarious to read. Their tough love talking helps you feel like you have a friend on your side as you read some crazy stuff about the food industry and what goes into our chow. Rory Freedman also won a Veggie Award this year for "Person of the Year". Love it.

3) Seitan, Tofu, and other awesome natural protein sources

So, I have to address these two gifts one at a time. Seitan- where do I begin?? When I first learned about seitan, I was like, what the heck? Wheat gluten? The protein from wheat?? How is that going to taste good at all?? And then I got past my judgments and tried it for myself. And it has changed my life for the better. It's one of the most versatile and wonderful meat replacements (and a great source of protein). My absolute favorite seitan dish was served at the restaurant I am about to list as my #4: Blossom, which is in Chelsea. I had pan-seared seitan in a port-wine reduction with mashed potatoes. I even had to cut it with a knife! So gourmet and yummy. Seitan also tastes great fried up as a Parmigiana or cut up in big chunks in a winter stew. I love it so much.

My mom tells me when I was little, I would only eat blocks of plain tofu, rice cakes, and cheerios. Fast forward to college, where I'm a happy meat eater who thinks tofu is nasty stuff- I would never replace my meat with that! And fast forward again to now... and boy has life changed for me. See, the thing about tofu is that it's an acquired taste- much like beer or wine. You have to get to know it, work with it many different ways, make mistakes, and then finally one day, you realize you love it. Much like a friendship that develops slowly over time, my love for tofu is now a life-long one. Thank you tofu for being so loyal and dependable and waiting for me- I'm sorry it took me another 20 years to re-discover how in love with you I am.

4) Blossom Restaurant (and for that matter- Candle Cafe, Candle 79, Counter, Gobo, Atlas, Zen Palate, Dao Palate, and every other awesome vegan restaurant in this great city)

Whether you're vegetarian, vegan, or an omnivore with veggie friends, go to this place. It's this beautiful little restaurant in Chelsea with food that is rich and delightful. My seitan was perfectly cooked, the bread was great (always a plus for me), the ambiance was peaceful, and the staff was lovely. It's a great place to take a date, have an anniversary/birthday dinner, or just have a great vegan experience. If you are curious about what a good vegan meal might taste like, go here.

5) PETA, The Humane Society, and The Farm Animal Sanctuary

These organizations and their awesome websites have been tremendously helpful for me. When I first got started eating vegetarian, PETA was the place I explored- I needed more and more reasons to continue being a supporter of animal rights and an advocate for a vegetarian diet. I have become an online activist of sorts because of these three places- I even raised $400 for the Proposition 2 Campaign ( because PETA and HSUS inspired me so much. If you've ever wanted to know what goes into factory farming, why you should become vegetarian/vegan and why animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or abuse, go to PETA. If you want to know more about puppy mills and why we should always neuter/spay our pets, check out HSUS. And if you need a reason to fall in love with farm animals, visit the Farm Animal Sanctuary's website, and check out all of the animals' biographies- all of them have either escaped or been rescued from slaughterhouses, and their rescue stories are quite moving to read. Did you know a pig is smarter than a 3 year old child? Or that chickens can comprehend cause-and-effect relationships? Or that cows have the emotional complexity to worry about the future? There are endless reasons to be vegetarian/vegan, but these sites can get you started on your journey.

6) The Animals

Animals have always been a great love of mine, but it hasn't been till I adopted a vegetarian and vegan diet that I have found so many reasons to fight for their livelihood. I fell in love with a cow named Aggie at the Prospect Park Zoo two years ago, and that was it for me. She was so kind and sweet, so laid back when I pet her and talked to her. It began to connect for me- animals are sentient beings, with the ability to feel pain and pleasure, to love and be loved. I have never looked back since meeting Aggie. I only move forward on this cruelty-free journey, and it will continue to shape my life as I learn even more reasons to support these amazing animals.


So, I'm sure I will think of more stuff, but for now, I feel good about what I got. I will of course be posting soon about my vegan Thanksgiving dinner adventures, but for now, I wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday. May you be thankful for the people, experiences, and animals who have blessed your life this year. I certainly will.


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