Editor’s note: The following is a guest essay written by Levita Mondie. Mondie writes the blog Vita’s Vegan Ventures to share the joys, benefits, and how-to’s of ethnic vegan cuisine. She also owns Vita’s Eatery, a combination of vegan cooking services, including hands-on cooking lessons, lectures and catering. Through Vita’s Vegan Ventures and Vita’s Eatery, she shares over 15 years of experience veganizing traditional recipes.
To find out how you can make a difference this Earth Day and to get recipes from chefs like Levita Mondie, Barton Seaver, Mario Batali and Alice Waters visit earthday.nature.org.
Fifteen years ago this month I traveled back home to Memphis, Tennessee, to be with my mother in what turned out to be her last days. Her bout with cancer had taken a turn for the worse. Her diagnosis more than a year and a half before and her subsequent battle left me feeling paralyzed with fear, for here was a situation over which I felt I had no control. Only when I began to explore her illness did I feel some measure of power. Along the way, I encountered lots of information about food and how it sets us up for health and longevity or for disease and degeneration. The more I learned the more I sought, and I gradually incorporated alternatives to the unhealthy aspects of my diet.
Within a year of my mother’s passing, I had transitioned to being vegetarian and later vegan. Today I teach hands-on, ethnic vegan cooking lessons, conduct demonstrations, lecture, and maintain a blog about my vegan ventures to share the joys, benefits and breadth of such a lifestyle and to empower others to make healthful, delicious food choices.
While I was drawn to a plant-based diet for health reasons — in general, a vegetarian or vegan diet can prevent or alleviate ailments such as obesity, high pretension, diabetes and some forms of cancer — I have come to appreciate the fact that my daily food choices positively impact other creatures and the planet that I call home. To sustain the demand for meat, animals are genetically engineered, pumped with hormones, crowded together and disfigured for the sake of profits. In contrast, plant-based diets decrease the demand for, and thereby the abuse of, animals. In addition, producing a plant-based diet conserves more fossil fuel than the production of chicken or beef.
At my mother’s funeral in May of 1996, I thanked God for healing, not knowing how I would recover from such a loss. Today I firmly believe that a manifestation of that affirmation of healing is the work that I feel called to do around food. What began as a way to deal with the terminal illness of a loved one morphed into a way to improve my own quality of life and has evolved into recognizing and honoring my connection to other life forms.
And for this journey I am grateful.
Vita’s Veganizing Tip:
In dishes that feature ground beef such as chili or spaghetti sauce, crumble and season extra firm tofu from the bulk bins of a health food store or by Spring Creek or Twin Oaks brands. Season the crumbled tofu as you would the ground beef and marvel at the results.
(Image: Levita Mondie. Image credit: © Levita Mondie)