The Vegan-ish journey behind EcoPetites

When we tell a story, we have to leave things out. That which didn’t make the cut can become it’s own story and that’s what I’ve got here.

I’ve been posting recently about the “why” and “how” of EcoPetites and this is part of that theme. I’ve been telling the part of my journey to form EcoPetites in which a lecture by Rigoberta Menchú Tum led to (with lots of steps and decisions along the way) starting EcoPetites. You can refer to that blog post here.

But the truth is more complex. I was primed for that moment with another catalyst. That story started one night when I was babysitting a dear friend’s son.

Her little boy was asleep, house quiet, cozy and darkened. I found a comfy spot to cuddle up on the coach with their big dog, his giant head on my lap. I set down my herbal tea on the coaster my friend set out for me, all set to relax until she and her husband returned. Right next to this coaster, directly in front of me was the book, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. So, of course I was curious, picked it up and started reading.

By this point in my life I was already a co-op shopper, learning more about the impact of agriculture and the solutions within organic farming. I had some vague idea about what organic meats meant. But I really had very little idea about what factory farming has done to animal husbandry.

It turned out that my friend left that book there intentionally. She knew I would sit in that spot. She knew when given the choice between TV and a book, I would read. She also knew I would read the whole darn thing and care. (I felt so seen! And kind of…predictable, shall we say?)

You would think that this book is all about going vegan, but it is not. It is this author’s journey of discovery, traveling the country and doing investigative journalism into the current state of farming animals. He lets you draw your own conclusions and shares that he decided to go imperfectly vegan—he has a dog who receives a carnivorous diet. But he does implore the reader to change something. He is an advocate for both veganism and small family farm raised animal products. And once you know, once you have read that book, it’s pretty hard to look the other way again. The result for my family? A commitment to only buying animal products from well-vetted sources, volunteering to bring the meat dish to potlucks and careful ordering in restaurants. That was just a start.

My curiosity took me down a parallel path—what about the wool in my hands that I was knitting with? Are the problems in agriculture for food also the same issues in farming for fiber? Oh, of course. The animal husbandry behind that wool is just as problematic. And how could I forget our own oppressive history in this country with cotton?

So now, imagine these wanderings, this curiosity and this research all in my background when I entered the lecture hall presided over by a native Mayan, like my son, who we adopted. She was dressed in traditional Mayan textiles and possessed the similar look and skin color as my son. Then she shared her story of how she watched her little brother die in a cotton field when he was 2 years old, not much older than my son was at that time. His death was the result of starvation, colonialism, genocide and cultural oppression, which, to her point, is a history towards native people all throughout the Americas that continues and repeats in the present. Image, how would you feel?

So, as I said earlier, I was primed to feel something powerful and take some action. My passion for EcoPetites is rooted in this.

Over a decade later, my son announces he wants to go vegan. That was last week. We’ve come full circle. I’m embracing this change along with the challenges. Apparently, there is such a thing as a reduce-itarian—and that is where I fall. I made an imperfect gluten-free and plant-based meal plan for the first time this week. (I’m not throwing away things like left-overs and half-full jars of condiments, hence the exceptions.) I will still eat meat every now and then, and I don’t think I can quite let go of gluten-free baked goods without the texture that eggs give. But for the most part, I’m planning on joining him as I support his choice.

As parents, we try to exert a positive influence on our kids. But isn’t it lovely when they are the ones to push us in a positive direction?

P. S. That's my son in this photo, as you may have guessed.