Turns out that finding enough time for blogging during the schoolyear is a lot harder than during the summer. Who knew, right?
Anyway. The past month has been filled with a lot of personal achievements for me, but one of the most surprisingly easy was almond milk. Wait, you must be saying, what? Almond milk isn’t a personal achievement! No, but it is. For years now, I have been looking to entirely eliminate dairy from my diet, and I think, finally, I have.
A little backstory. I have been vegetarian since before I was born. Everyone in my family is vegetarian. I was raised without the option of eating meat, and I have never had the desire to take it up. People ask me if I feel angry at my parents for “depriving” me of the “choice” by raising me veggie. I’m not quite sure they understand. Growing up veggie, I tell them, didn’t deprive me of anything, except perhaps the air of self-satisfaction that comes with rebellion against the norms of one’s childhood. I think of eating meat as like getting tattooed: If an independent and informed adult decides to do it, well, that’s one thing, but parents have no business tattooing their children, or feeding them meat, before the child can decide for him- or herself.
But, of course, there is one respect in which eating meat is not like getting a tattoo: it is not a purely self-regarding action. If you’re eating meat, then there is an individual person—not a human person, perhaps, but a person nonetheless, with a conscious mind—who had to die to provide you with that meat. For me, it isn’t the eating, per se, that’s the problem: it’s the killing, and the infliction of pain that precedes it. This applies to both humans and nonhumans. If, upon my death, you were to eat my body, I would have no moral problem with that (though you might have a digestive problem with it). However, if you were to walk into my room and torture me to death, I would have a moral objection to that regardless of what happened to my body afterwards. I don’t care how hungry you might be, that would not be acceptable behavior.
The problem, though, for a vegetarian like myself, is that a whole slew of “animal product” foods, though they don’t intrinsically require cruelty and murder, are only available (to those of us living in cities, at any rate) through systems which do intrinsically require these moral atrocities. I have personally milked a cow on a small farm in the middle of nowhere, and while I doubt that I would enjoy the experience if I were a cow, I’m not sure the milking itself qualifies as cruelty. But the milk available to me here in New York City is going to be, for the most part, coming from factory farms, from the kind of places Isaac Bashevis Singer was talking about when he wrote that “in relation to animals, all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka.” And I can’t stand the thought of supporting those places, however indirectly.
Eliminating dairy has been easier for me than for most, I think. I never drank milk or ate cheese in the first place; I’ve always hated them. Ice cream…well, I needed to eliminate that from my diet anyway, dairy or no. So that basically left me with yogurt (which I ate a lot when I was younger, and since then have only really eaten as a way of weaning myself off ice cream) and foods with dairy ingredients. Since I live in a residence hall without a kitchen, eating my food from the communal dining hall, this hasn’t really been an issue, but once I am living elsewhere, and cooking my own food, it could be. In particular, I was worried about the breakfast foods: cereal (a staple of mine growing up) and pancakes (which I would have eaten every single day of my childhood, had it been up to me).
At the beginning of this month, I discovered banana pancakes. Caroliena, from Polyprotic Amory, was the one who taught me how to make them. They are virtually identical to “normal” pancakes, but the butter is replaced with bananas, which holds the batter together in much the same way. It’s also healthier, tastier, and, most importantly, dairy-free.
I was surprised by how easy it was to just strike the offending ingredients from the recipe. Banana pancakes have quickly become one of my favorite foods. But even after this, it came as a shock to me when I tried eating a bowl of cereal with almond milk.
At first, I thought it didn’t taste any different. After a couple of bowls, though, I started to realize that I preferred the taste of almond milk to dairy milk. If only I had known about it a decade and a half ago! I could have been eating much tastier cereal all these years! In fact, if I had been given this milk growing up, maybe I would actually have liked drinking milk, rather than finding it repulsive. It gets better, too: whereas something like soy milk requires quite a bit of processing apparatus to create, making almond milk takes nothing more complex than a bowl of water and some form of strainer. This is the kind of thing you could make without using anything more technologically advanced than pottery! Almond milk is amazing. I am never ever ever going back. And that means, finally, I am entirely dairy-free!
Once you start looking for alternatives to what you’ve been doing all your life, it’s amazing how quickly you can find something better.