I am writing 100 How-To essays. It is a big project. Here is why I am doing it. This is essay 1 of 100.
For those of you who are reading this post because you want to know how to substitute eggs, wait no longer:
For the rest of you, I'd like to back up.
On April 6, 2002, I, Sophie Lucido Johnson, age 16*, decided I would try to be a vegan for one week. The week was surprisingly easy; I upped it to a month. The month was easy, too. I decided I’d be a vegan until my birthday on May 17, 2002. On my birthday, my best friend Jessica and I were going to have a sleepover, and we were going to order cheese-crust-stuffed pizza from Pizza Hut while watching “Blazing Saddles.” But after that, I resumed my veganism, and I didn’t let it go for more than 12 years.
I should say a few things before we move on.
- I became a vegetarian at the age of three, when someone — I’m not gonna name names, MOM — told me that chicken came from ACTUAL LIVING CHICKENS. To my knowledge, I’ve never had a hamburger in my life, and my perception of what it would be like to have a hamburger at this point is similar to my perception of what it would be like to have a turd on a bun.
- When I was in seventh grade, I lied that I was vegan. I also lied that I didn’t have a television set, that I had three middle names, and that I had a brother who had disappeared after a barn fire (!???!!?). But I really wished the vegan thing was true. So at 16, this move sort of felt like righting an old wrong from my youth.
- I AM NOT PROUD OF THIS BUT: The marketing campaign in the early aughts that PETA targeted at teens seriously worked on me. You got free stickers with cute little baby chicks on them if you let PETA send you a booklet of horrifying pictures of de-plucked chickens and bloodied cows crammed into crates. I watched all the documentaries on animal rights I could get my hands on. I know it is not cool to be an animal rights activist, but I was very proud about being one in high school. I wore my PETA stickers with pride.
- In high school, I wasn’t altogether healthy about being a vegan. I basically only ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Oriental flavored Top Ramen. I didn’t like vegetables and I though veggie burgers were too much like actual burgers to be trusted. I lost 100 pounds. I was very proud to have lost 100 pounds, and the weight loss fueled my veganism in an ugly sort of way. I should acknowledge that at this point, so it is understood that even things you do for the right reasons can become things you do for the wrong ones.
- In college, I met a boy in the Action for Animals club, where, for a time, I served in a leadership role. (My résumé says I was the president, but I don’t remember if that was true; it’s possible I just put that on my résumé because that’s the kind of thing it’s acceptable to exaggerate on an employment document. It might have been true. I am noticing that this blog post is making me look like a pathological liar, which I am not. Although, that’s exactly what a pathological liar would say, isn’t it? A paradox, indeed.) The boy and I dated for one and a half years and it was my least functional and worst relationship ever. This colored some of my later disdain for veganism, and it’s not veganism’s fault at all.
I let veganism go while living in New Orleans with Derek and Hannah — the two smartest people I’ve ever known. Derek and Hannah were correct in explaining to me that veganism was not the healthiest nor the most ethical diet. Eggs, after all, are just chickens’ periods. (Those are my words, not theirs, FYI.) And chickens have to have their periods. If we treat the chickens kindly, it shouldn’t bother anyone if we eat their periods. I became a “whole foods vegetarian.” It was essentially a paleo diet without the meat — and I sometimes secretly ordered entire pizzas when my roommates weren’t around and ate them alone in my bed.
But that diet didn’t feel right to me. No matter what diet I tried — no sugar! no gluten! just raw foods! no raw foods! only foods that are perishable! anything I wanted! nothing I liked! salads salads salads! — I was unhappy with the food I ate. I constantly found ways to justify bending the rules, until the rules ceased to exist. When Luke and I moved in together two years ago, I released the rules entirely. I just ate whatever I wanted. I felt fine about it. Well, mostly fine.
I felt fine about it, but something was ethically off for me. I started ordering pizza from Domino’s while playing Dungeons and Dragons, and I didn’t feel good about that. (“It’s just so cheap, and I’m so broke, and we’re all so hungry,” I reasoned.) I didn’t feel good about eating 30 cookies at newspaper staff meetings — and I mean that literally; I got very, very sick and would have to just lie on the floor for an hour. “Just eat one cookie!” says every women’s magazine ever. “As long as you watch your portions, you never have to give anything up!” says Oprah and Gayle. “Moderation is lord!” says the bag of cookies itself, with a seductive, evil grin.
And then after the summer, I decided to try veganism again. It was like putting on a perfectly worn-in sweater you thought you’d left at your ex-boyfriend’s house. I knew I wasn’t eating the healthiest possible diet — I got really into making cookies from “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar,” which each contain approximately nine trillion calories and metric tons of white sugar. But I felt better anyway, because at the end of the day and in the bottom of my heart I am an animal rights activist, and that’s something I believe in, and it is easier to live my own truth than it is to try to squeeze myself into someone else’s.
My high school students told me that veganism is on its way back in. There’s a Vegan Club at school; four of my nine students say they are vegan. I SWEAR I WASN’T TRYING TO BE COOL, GUYS. I’M JUST RETURNING TO MY TRUEST SELF. Anyway, aren’t they all calling it a “plant-based diet” now? I don’t want a “plant-based diet” constructed around my health and self-care. I want a “vegan” diet written in ‘90s ransom note letters, with tan-colored pleasantly cardboard-y foods like “Mac and Chreese” (pronounced Mac and Trees) and “yummy mushroom gravy.” I have to tell you: I have never been happier.
And bonus: I still remember all the ways that a person can substitute eggs. Which is why you’re reading this post, right? Because you want to know how to substitute eggs? See above.
*It’s neither here nor there, but I had seriously awesome hair at the age of 16. I offer pictorial evidence below.