Every January, more people, it seems, try vegan eating for at least the month. You know, a trial period: If you find that you don't like those ways, you can send 'em back in 30 days. The concept may be rooted in antiquity, or perhaps only in 1984, but either way it seems to be gathering steam over the past decade.
When I talked to Cory Booker at the beginning of December and asked what was to become of his end-of 2014 "vegan experiment," he said "One of the ideas I'm debating is going one more month, from Jan. 1 to Feb. 1, and inviting people to do a one-month experiment with me. Maybe do a video and see if we can get a lot of folks."
If you're curious about trying this, there are several options whether or not you want to check in with Cory Booker. Really, the only hard thing about living vegan is the lack of support in our culture, but more and more institutions are springing up to fill in with that support, giving people time to get their bearings in a new pattern.
One of the best here in Philly is the Peace Advocacy Network's Vegan Pledge, which I introduced you to back in 2009, and which has been going strong ever since. The simple idea is that if you pledge to live vegan for a month and show up for free weekly sessions (starting Sunday, Jan. 4) at a space in Merion Station, you will learn not only about the ideas behind veganism but basic strategies for sticking with it in a non-vegan-friendly (so far!) culture.
These sessions are supportive and go beyond finding food more exciting than carrot sticks and granola (oh, did I mention you'll get free food?). Coordinator Dara Lovitz pointed out these features for the 2015 edition in Merion Station:
> Baltimore's Mark Rifkin, RD delivering the talk on vegan nutrition
> Professor Alex Melonas delivering a presentation on ethics
> Lunch catered by Vge and the award-winning C&R Kitchen
> Cooking demo by Miss Rachel from Miss Rachel's Pantry
> Market tour of Mom's Organic in Bryn Mawr
> Social events at HipCityVeg, Memphis Taproom, Vegan Commissary, Su Tao
There are signup links for both pledges and volunteers/mentors, and the main link about the program is here, or you can email Dara here.
There will also be a PAN Phoenixville vegan pledge starting in February - more about that then.
So: Can't commit to being in Merion Station for those weekly events? You could try an online program called Veganuary, which "aims to reduce the suffering of animals by inspiring and supporting people across the globe to go vegan for the month of January."
Nothing can quite replace one-on-one, face-to-face support, but Veganuary may be the next best thing, with motivation, vegan recipes, eating out guides, mythbusting fact sheets, nurtition guidance and vegan news from around the world to help anyone working toward a vegan life.
Or maybe you're interested in trying out vegan living but lean less toward information superhighway and more toward the crunchy gravel of a good physical book. If so, you're in luck. If any one person, in the form of one book, can stand in for a worldwide new-vegan support group, it's Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, an accomplished author and podcaster who's also a New Jersey native and Rutgers alum.
The Jersey connection isn't all Patrick-Goudreau has in common with Senator Booker: She offers her own 30-day vegan plan (so you could still do it in January, but start on the 2nd) in a new 2014 edition of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Healthfully and Living Compassionately (Montali Press), which covers "the best sources of protein, calcium, iron, and fiber to baking without eggs, eating out, and the easy preparation of plant-based foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert," and offers "resources, social strategies, recipes, and meal suggestions for 30 days."
Presented in Patrick Goudreau's compassionate but no-nonsense style, the book "debunks common nutrition myths," gets people "back into the kitchen in a way that makes them feel empowered" and addresses the social aspects of being vegan. In addition, you'll learn how to make Coconut Bacon, Vegetable Pot Pie, Mexican Chocolate Cake and Cowboy Cookies among other vegan goodies. And yes, it is a book, but also boasts plenty of online resources.
However you want to go about it, maybe January 2015 is the time you try animal-free eating. 30 days may sound like a long trial period, but when you've completed it, you might very well be inspired to go much longer than that.