The Vegan Beef: Late Bloom (or – How a 50-Something Woke Up Vegan)

by Erika Stern.

Last July my husband went off to Spain for a business trip. I couldn’t get away from work, so we decided that our 12-yr old son would go along for the adventure. My first impulse was to panic at the prospect of 10 days on my own in a big, empty old house wrapped in the hot and sticky mattress which is Massachusetts in mid-July.

Raw Zucchini Pasta with a Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Pine Nuts on a Paper

Raw Zucchini Pasta with a Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Pine Nuts on a Paper

As I was complaining to a friend about my great misfortune, she suggested that I treat my time alone as a “spa week,” and for some reason that is still (one year later) a complete and utter mystery to me, I interpreted this as a week of eating an exclusively raw vegan diet.

Now just to provide a little background, up until this point I was very happily devouring all kinds of animals and their various by-products. I love to cook. I love to eat. I can’t think of a single food I don’t like. (Well, cucumbers don’t entirely rock my world.)  My mother is French, and I grew up never knowing whether we were going to find a huge boiled beef tongue on the dinner table or a platter of breaded and fried sweetbreads (look ’em up). I happily ate it all. (Ok, so I was a vegetarian for my last two years of high school, but weren’t all girls?  Anyway, that was  35 many years ago.) I had a chicken wing recipe that brought my father-in-law to his knees (no, I will not give it to you). My husband’s steak tips were legendary in the family. I LOVED CHEESE. However, week of raw food sounded interesting to me and I felt a 7-day “detox” certainly couldn’t hurt.

This was definitely not something I could pull off while my family was home. The boys Skyped me nightly from Valencia describing sausage paellas, and a restaurant with only two items on the menu (a 10-meat plate and a 20-meat plate) and oh-my-god the ham! This is a country known for a ham that comes from black pigs who eat only the acorns which grow on one particular hillside. There is a restaurant called “Jamon! Jamon! Jamon!” Anyway, you get the picture…

This, by the way, is not a butcher's shop, it is an aisle in a Valencian department store, like a Walmart.

This, by the way, is not a butcher’s shop, it is an aisle in a Valencian department store, like a Walmart.

So, my boys are off on their European Meat-Fest and I am stuck at home seeing how many meals I can prepare solely with vegetables and nuts, and without actually cooking anything.

And so here’s the thing. Everything was fabulous. I mean heavenly. Other-worldly. I could taste everything. After the first few days I felt incredible–cleaner and lighter and connected to the planet in a strange way that I’m still a little embarrassed to talk about. I was hooked, and ravenous for more clean food and information. I watched “Forks Over Knives,” I started scouring the web for vegan recipes, and in what was the final deathblow to my carnivorous life, I watched a few videos about the factory farming of meat. (Do not click on this unless you are ready to really take a graphic look at where your food comes from.) After a week I began cooking again (I couldn’t begin to imagine how I could sustain a raw diet through a New England winter) but realized that I could no more eat meat again than I could eat one of my dogs.


I certainly wasn’t looking for this lifestyle; I’m undoubtably an offbeat enough woman without adding “vegan” to my bio.  But it seems to have found me.  I have a pattern of being late for things:  I went back to college for a second BA at the age of 30, I didn’t have a baby until I was 40, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. But I wish I’d started a plant-based diet 20 years ago.

Please follow my journey by subscribing to the eSS blog. More to come.


About eSS&SC

The South Shore and South Coast has been home to hunting, gathering, fishing, farming––and great eating––for over 10,000 years. We are committed to identifying, devouring, and sharing all that Southeastern Massachusetts has to offer today and preserving local options for future generations.
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9 Responses to The Vegan Beef: Late Bloom (or – How a 50-Something Woke Up Vegan)

  1. Pingback: What's Cooking on the edible South Shore blog? |

  2. dave purpura says:

    Great post, and good luck! My story is just the opposite – after fifteen years of strict vegetarianism, I am rediscovering meat. Meat from animals and birds that have seen the light of day, and been raised on pasture with fresh air and organic feed and had the life that they’re meant to have. The horrors of factory farming aren’t limited to meat, most people would be horrified with how their supermarket vegetables came to be. The good news is that with a little effort you can seek out food that has been raised properly – know your farmer, don’t take food from strangers!

    • Erika Stern says:

      No, I do hear you. I was at a farmers’ market in the Adirondacks earlier this summer, admiring some mega-cute little felted wool animal ornaments, when the husband of the woman whose wife made them came up and asked if I’d like to try a sample of the pasture-raised lamb he was selling in the next booth. I laughed and told him I was a new vegan, and we started chatting (cuz that’s what I do.) He clearly loved his animals, and described to me how bucolic their days were until they had, as he put it, “one really bad day.”
      You’re 15 years ahead of me with this, and I definitely haven’t worked all the details out in my head yet, but at the moment it’s just that One Bad Day that’s keeping me from eating animals now, no matter how blissful their lives were up to that day. Maybe if that farmer had offered me some lamb stew made from a really, really, really old sheep that passed away quietly in a sunny, green field while he was petting its ears… then I would’ve tried a spoonful. But I don’t know…

  3. Tam Lin Neville says:

    Lucky for me, I already know the rest of the story — up to now anyway.

    Really fun to read. Do you have a length limit for these posts?


    • eSS says:

      Our current bloggers are all writing on a theme. We have requested 6 installments around 500 words each. Erika’s post was so engaging I wanted it to be longer. We’ll all have to wait for the next installment.

  4. agflower says:

    So well said, I want to know the rest of the story, please tell more!

  5. Anonymous says:

    more please!!

  6. Pam says:

    Great post! Can’t wait to read more . . .

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