I know that a lot of you are vegan already, but I also know that some of the folks who read this site are veg-curious or maybe just looking for yummy recipes. If you’re new to veganism or are wondering what it takes to go vegan, How to Be Vegan by Elizabeth Castoria is a pretty darn good primer!
Disclosure: Artisan Books sent me a free advance copy of this book to review. All opinions are, as always, 100% mine.
Honestly, I think that long-time vegans can even get some good stuff from this book.
Elizabeth Castoria is the former editorial director of VegNews magazine, and her writing style is funny and engaging. She manages to talk about vegan issues from why and how to eat plants and choosing cruelty-free cosmetics with humor and practicality.
For new vegans or folks who are veg-curious, How to Be Vegan has helpful tips, lists, and recipes to help your kick cruelty to the curb. She talks about planning vegan meals, where to find vegan clothing and housewares, and arms you with information to answer questions from other curious people. Because when people find out you’re vegan, you’re going to get questions.
Castoria also touches a little bit on an issue that I think we overlook as new and as long-time vegans: grace.
How to Be Vegan Gracefully
The hard part of being vegan isn’t finding something to eat or a leather-free handbag. Once you know where to look, that stuff is (dairy-free) cake. I think that the thing we lose sight of as vegans is that we are advocates for animals. And the best way to change minds is by being kind.
That’s not always easy, right? The 600th time that someone asks you where you get your protein, you maybe want to snark. Or the 7000th time someone feels the need to tell you that bacon is delicious, it’s tough not to snap at them. I’m as guilty as anyone, and found myself re-examining some of my interactions with meat eaters as I read How to Be Vegan.
This sentiment is peppered throughout the book, and she even has a whole chapter devoted to “Manners, Mildly.” I wanted to share a few of my favorite excerpts about how to be a vegan without alienating the non-vegans, new vegans, and even our fellow vegans:
“There are no merit badges for being the most vegan person in the room, no secret handshakes for people who’ve been vegan the longest.”
Amen, sister! I can’t tell you how shitty it feels to try your best and have someone give you a guilt trip because you ate cookies with palm oil or are wearing leather shoes that you found at the thrift store. We are all doing our best, and we all have the same goal. Let’s act that way!
“It’s very common for people to be curious about your veganism (aka, asking roughly 8.7 zillion questions), and it’s also common for people to say thoughtlessly insensitive things. Figuring out how to navigate social situations…is a lifelong project.”
This is a sticking point for me for sure. Those repetitive questions can wear you down, can’t they? And sometimes it’s hard to tell if people are being curious or rude. I’m working on it, and it was nice to have the reminder!
“It does the animals, the planet, and your health less good to have someone think that all vegans are angst-ridden, argumentative misanthropes than to calmly respond, ‘Ah, well, it’s been working nicely for me,’ and leave it at that.”
Deflect, move on. It’s easier said than done but still solid advice. I like that she keeps bringing it back to the big picture. Because it’s not about what someone thinks of you, right? It’s about the animals and the planet. Now if I could get that tattooed on the back of my hand….
I’ve been vegan for eight years and thought this book was full of good lessons. The manners bit struck me, but I also found concise answers to a few vegan questions that I have trouble answering briefly like:
- What’s wrong with wool?
- Where do you get your protein? (Her answer? Plants.)
- What’s wrong with zoos?
It can be tough to sum these things up elevator-pitch style, and she gives you the info you need in a nutshell.
Have any of you guys checked out How to Be Vegan? I’d love to hear what you thought!