For the past three years, I have chosen to give up something for Lent. With little to no religious upbringing, the challenge has been more about testing my willpower than anything else. Having mastered the art of going without chocolate in 2007 (and succeeding without so much as a craving), I decided 2008 was time for a real challenge: going vegan.

After spending a little more than a year playing hostess at one of Santa Barbara’s vegan/vegetarian hot spots, I figured the task would be a feasible one-if nothing else, I knew where to turn if I didn’t feel like cooking. Likewise, I always wanted to know what made our regular customers tick. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge advocate for animal rights (I’ve been more or less red-meat-free since my early teens), but I looked at my 40-day stretch more like a social experiment than a complete lifestyle overhaul.

For the uninitiated, the Vegan Society explains veganism as “a philosophy and way of living that seeks to exclude : all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose; and promotes animal-free alternatives. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.” In layman’s terms: no meat, no dairy, no refined sugars, no honey, etc.

But aside from the meal planning, supplement taking, and general lack of comprehension from a large faction of the populace (read: my coworkers hate that I won’t eat their freshly baked cakes, my roommates grumble that we can’t make house dinners without a mind-numbing trip to the grocery store), I’ve found the task to be less than torturous. I feel healthy, moral, like I “get” why all those lentil-loving regulars cherish my workplace so much. Will it stick? Doubtful. But I’ve definitely opened my eyes to the option-and become much more conscious of stuff like the mistreatment of dairy cows. And as soon as the Powers That Be find a way to create milk-free ice cream that doesn’t taste like dirt, I may hop back on the vegan wagon.


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