Whenever I'm out to eat with coworkers or acquaintances, I always seem to get the same question:
"Don't you miss eating meat?"
I've been vegan for over three years, and I have had to explain to many people why I choose to be vegan. And I don't mind. I love explaining why I am passionate about veganism and why I have chosen to adopt its ideology in every aspect of my life.
But what kind of irks me is when people assume that I miss eating animal flesh and secretions.
I ate meat and dairy and eggs for most of my life. I'm Italian, so I practically grew up on meatballs and chicken parm.
Up until my early 20s, I loved eating meat and dairy because I didn't see anything wrong with it. I didn't know then what I know now: that eating animals is cruel and taking their milk without their consent is exploitative.
But besides all of that, I simply don't miss eating meat because there are so many (like, really SO many) completely vegan meat substitutes and brands in existence.
Not only are these substitutes flippin' delicious, but they are becoming more and more accessible. Trader Joe's, Wegman's, Stop & Shop and even Walmart and Target all carry at least some vegan meat substitutes.
This proves that no one has to rely on Whole Foods to get vegan alternatives. Whole Foods is well-loved within the vegan and healthy-living community, but their prices are not.
Most meat-eaters are reluctant to try these meat substitutes because they associate vegan meals with bland unseasoned tofu or tasteless black bean burgers. But trust me, meat alternatives are far from boring.
Gardein, Tofurkey and Beyond Meat are all major vegan brands that offer a wide variety of substitutes from crab cakes to holiday roasts to a scarily-realistic burger that is sold right next to the standard beef burgers in the meat department.
Fortunately, science is on our (vegan) side. Each year dozens of new vegan products are launched that manage to mimic the taste and consistency of meat more and more.
In fact, Beyond Meat just launched their new line of vegan sausages, which come in a variety of flavors and are at the receiving end of some fabulous reviews.
Despite the exciting new vegan products released each year, it can be difficult to understand how these substitutes can truly replace the foods we ate growing up.
But I would be lying if I asserted that vegans don't miss their favorite childhood meals from time to time.
Unless you were born and raised as a vegan it can be extremely hard to give up the foods you associate with your parents' cooking or with certain events such as summer barbecues.
But that doesn't mean vegans truly miss eating these foods. We just miss the taste and feelings associated with them.
One of the ways vegans curb their cravings for "comfort" foods they used to eat before making their transition is by veganizing (yep, I just made that a word) the meals they used to eat before becoming vegan.
And it's so easy to use accessible meat substitutes to do so.
I don't miss out on meals like spaghetti with meatballs or chicken noodle soup because there are ways to make them cruelty-free, like preparing them with meatless meatballs or soy chicken strips.
I don't need to support and exploit the death of innocent animals to enjoy the meals that bring me comfort and nostalgia.
But ultimately, most vegans don't miss eating meat because they don't see meat as food.
Once you educate yourself on the pain, suffering and needless environmental damage that goes into making just one hamburger, it's easy to put things into perspective and realize your love for meat does not justify eating it.
Since becoming vegan I don't see meat as food. I see plants as food. Plants are nutritionally dense, colorful, naturally flavorful, versatile and provide everything that we need to survive.
And to me, meat is not any of those things.