Vegan Life talks to Beverly Lynn Bennet, a vegan author, chef, and columnist from Oregon, about her decision to go vegan and advice for people considering adopting the diet
Beverly lives with her vegan husband Ray, and their cat Luna in veg-friendly Eugene, Oregon. She hosts the Vegan Chef website, and is a regular columnist for VegNews magazine. We caught up with Beverly to talk all things vegan.
What made you decide to go vegan?
As a child, while visiting a farm, I witnessed several incidences of animal cruelty and a lack of respect for their lives, and these images have stayed with me and definitely influenced my decision to become a vegetarian as a teenager. While getting my culinary arts degree, I came face to face with a lot of dead animals and became disgusted by the use of animal products in the foodservice industry. Reading John Robbins’ Diet for a New America opened my eyes to many startling and horrific cruelties and abuses that are commonplace in the raising and slaughtering of animals for food. Soon after, my husband Ray and I went vegan together.
I’m a vegan because I truly feel that my life is no more important than the life of any other creature, and therefore, I feel that it is wrong to use, abuse, or take the life of another animal. I’ve also learned through years of educating myself about human nutrition that I can easily and adequately fulfill all of my body’s nutritional needs by eating a vegan diet consisting of a wide variety of plant-based foods and beverages.
I’ve been a vegan for over 20 years, and on a daily basis, I try to make sure that at least half of what I eat is made up of raw foods, such as fresh fruit and veggies, salads, and so forth. I love working in the kitchen, so when it comes to making my vegan meals, I make a lot of things from scratch and limit the amount of overly processed and packaged food products that I use. I only wear vegan clothes, shoes, and accessories, and I make sure that all of the body care and cosmetics that I use are free of animal-based ingredients and were not tested on animals.
Do you consider yourself an advocate, do you try to educate others about veganism and encourage them towards that lifestyle?
Yes, I try to spread the vegan message whenever and wherever I can, from discussing with others about the suffering that animals have to endure as the result of human use and abuse, to how eating an all plant-based diet is better for your health and fulfilling all of your nutritional needs. Through my work as a writer, I try to influence others through my words and encourage them to show their love for animals by not eating them or using them in any way. I’ve authored several books about living and being vegan, as well as shared my vegan recipes with others through my vegan cookbooks, various food articles, and on my veganchef.com website and a few other websites and blogs.
Do you have any favourite artists or albums that you listen to when you’re cooking?
I love playing music while I’m in the kitchen! I often sing and dance along to the music while I’m concocting something yummy to eat. I enjoy listening to a wide variety of music from different eras and genres, and what I listen to in the kitchen is usually influenced by the weather outside, the mood I’m in, and/or what I’m making. Some of my favorite artists to cook to include Otis Redding, The B-52s, The Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys, The Black-Eyed Peas, Indigo Girls, Alanis Morissette, and Michael Franti.
What one ingredient could you not live without?
I couldn’t live without my leafy greens! Leafy greens are such a versatile ingredient, and I’m so glad that more people are embracing them and adding them to more of their food preparations. Greens, like kale or chard, are also the most nutritionally beneficial foods around. Personally, I enjoy having one or more varieties of leafy greens at almost every meal, whether they are raw, blended, baked, steamed, braised, stir-fried or sautéed, and I even add them to baked goods and desserts.
Finally, what advice would you give to anyone wanting to adopt a vegan diet that might have some concerns about nutrition?
When it comes to eating vegan, keep in mind that whole, minimally processed foods are always the best way to fulfill your nutritional needs. Gravitate toward eating a wide variety of whole, plant-based foods, preferably organic, in a rainbow of colors and textures, whether they are fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or dehydrated. Eating this way, you’ll easily get plenty of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and so forth, that your body needs to function properly.
Try to limit your consumption of convenience foods that contain overly processed or refined ingredients, as this is a common trap that many people fall into when transitioning to a vegan diet. While these types of food products may be fine to help you replace the animal-based foods that you may have been used to eating, they are also often high in fat, calories, sodium, and preservatives. Instead, get yourself some vegan cookbooks or search the Internet for inspiration in ‘veganizing’ the foods that you may be missing, like dairy-free milks and cheeses, or meatless meats or burgers, but using wholesome ingredients instead.